Major League Soccer held another one of their weird “drafts” today. Oh, I mean processes. The Re-Entry
Draft Process: Stage 2 saw Sporting Kansas City made a pick for the third consecutive year and seventh time overall (between stages one and two). This is how Kendall McIntosh, who recently re-signed, joined the club ahead of the 2021 season.
Today, Sporting KC selected the biggest player they’ve ever tried to get (if you don’t count selected Felipe Gutierrez last year) in the club’s history. They drafted Robert Beric, a former Designated Player (DP) striker, from the Chicago Fire.
Beric has been the Fire’s leading scorer the last two years, scoring a combined 20 goals over 56 total appearances (plus another four assists). He was second in all of MLS in scoring in 2020 with 12 goals (a COVID shortened season) but dipped heavily only getting eight goals in 2021. That’s a combined 0.44 goals per 90 minutes played in MLS.
However, just because he was selected, doesn’t make him automatically a member of SKC. Instead, the team has seven days to make him a “genuine offer.” If he declines, Sporting would retain his MLS rights but he could go play in another league or they could trade those rights.
Beric is a 30-year-old Slovenian international striker with 150 career goals to his name. He scored 27 goals in the Austrian league the year before joining MLS.
What Does it Mean for Sporting KC?
He has a green card, so he wouldn’t occupy one of two remaining international spots on Sporting KC’s roster. In 2021, he made $2,703,164, which is probably part of the reason Chicago declined his contract option. His original contract was through 2021 with an option for 2022, but that will have no bearing since Sporting picked him in Stage 2, they aren’t forced to pick up his option like they would in Stage 1.
That means, the team can offer him a lesser deal. Currently they already have all three Designated Player spots filled with Alan Pulido (due to his fee and salary), Gadi Kinda (due to his transfer fee) and Johnny Russell.
Russell is a DP in name only as he makes under the $1,612,5000 maximum that can be paid to a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) player. So technically they could pay Beric a DP wage and buy down Russell’s deal. However, I would assume that will not happen. Instead, it seems likely that they’d try to get Beric to agree to a lower number. Then again, he could take a pay cut and still be a DP.
Because they are (presumably) asking him to take a pay cut, there is no guarantee he signs. Strikers, even ones over 30, get paid better than most positions if they can score goals and Beric can. But Pulido only made $2.2 million, so you can’t give (what would assumingly) be your backup striker more than your starter. It’ll be interesting to see if he signs at all.
Where Does Beric Fit with SKC?
Beric has been the starter both years in Chicago. Unless Alan Pulido is going somewhere or Peter Vermes is planning a formation change (HA!) that won’t be the case in Kansas City. In 2020 he started 22 of 23 appearances for 1,931 minutes in a COVID shortened season. In 2021 he started 26 of 33 for 2,204 minutes (of a possible 34 games).
He is a tried and true number 9, so that would mean he could step in for Pulido when he’s hurt, gone on national team duty or simply to give him a break. Maybe in every game he could sub off instead of being run into the ground.
That also moves Khiry Shelton to the first winger off the bench, which is a better role for him than being the center forward (unless you are killing off a late lead). Instantly the forward line is better, even if the starters don’t change (they were awfully good in 2021 after all).
What this all screams to me is that Sporting KC are going for it in 2022. They are bringing in quality depth across the board to presumably sub them into games instead of having a bench Vermes wouldn’t use.
Of course, Beric needs to sign for any of this to apply. While I like the aggressiveness of the move, it feels more like a flier on a quality player than something that will actually play out. I hope I’m wrong because this would definitely qualify as a ‘game changing’ attacking player off the bench. And he has a lot more talent around him in Kansas City than he ever did in Chicago.