If you are like many fans, the offseason can be a bit of a blur and tough to keep up with. There are so many transactions and rumors it’ll leave your head spinning. Sporting Kansas City are on the edge of kicking off their 2021 preseason so it’s worth looking back at the roster changes that have taken place, so you can recognize who will (and won’t) be on the field in 2021.
Let’s start with the bad news. There has been a fair amount of turnover since the season ended, including some pretty huge names.
Matt Besler - Future Sporting Legend Matt Besler was out of contract following the season and the club has moved on. Besler has as well. He has joined Austin FC but he leaves SKC fans with lots of memories.
All salary numbers are from 2019 because 2020 salary data was never released.
Felipe Gutierrez - This was maybe the saga of the offseason. Following the 2020 season, SKC held a team option to keep him around for 2021, but they declined that option. They would go on to try and renegotiate a better deal since he didn’t play in 2020 at all, but cost a Designated Player spot (aka lots of money). The team even drafted him in the Re-Entry Draft to maintain his rights. The situation isn’t fully resolved, but the current rumor is he’s joining the club of his youth, Deportivo Catolica (Chile). While that rumor still has to be confirmed, the final nail may be giving Gianluca Busio Guti’s number. (Update: Guti confirmed he’s gone from KC.)
Budget Savings: $1,650,000 (2019) - though the max budget charge is $612,500 for a DP
Gerso Fernandes - After the season Gerso was out of contract but Sporting were trying to reach a new deal. The club made him a bona fide offer (approximately 105 percent of his 2020 salary) and by doing so they retain his rights. However, he chose to sign with Jeju United in South Korea.
Budget Savings: $550,008 (2019)
Erik Hurtado - Hurtado, like Gerso and Besler, was out of contract. Like Gerso, the club also made him an offer, but apparently it wasn’t enough. He has since signed with CF Montreal (formerly the Montreal Impact). He’s coming off his best pro season in very limited minutes, so hopefully he cashed in.
Budget Savings: $181,250 (2019)
Winston Reid - Sporting KC declined Reid’s purchase option from his 2020 loan following the season. With a rumored salary of around $4.6 million with West Ham United, this was no surprise. Reid would return to England and be loaned to Brentford, a mere 26 miles away. So he still gets paid a ton and isn’t across the ocean from his family during a pandemic any longer. This was beyond obvious since it would have been a huge expense to make his move to KC permanent.
Budget Savings: $700,000 (rumored) - could’ve been bought down by GAM or TAM
Wan Kuzain, Erik Dick, Richard Sanchez - Sorry to lump these fellas together, but their options were all declined, as was somewhat to be expected. (Update: Kuzain has since signed with Rio Grande Valley FC.)
Budget Savings: Approx. $305,000 - though Homegrowns (Kuzain) are off budget and Dick likely was too as a reserve roster player.
Who could have been gone, but Sporting KC chose to keep around? Heavy-hitters first.
Johnny Russell - His 2021 option was picked up, though he’ll be out of contract after the season. Extension time?
Amadou Dia - The starter late in the year at left back was a no-brainer to pick up for 2021 on a likely cheap deal.
Felipe Hernandez - Another simple choice was to bring back off-budget Homegrown Felipe Hernandez to push for even more minutes in 2021.
Graham Smith - He can’t seem to get on the field, but he’s darn cheap and he had his option picked up for 2021.
Daniel Salloi / Gianluca Busio - It was thought they both had options but it turns out Salloi’s had been picked up following the amazing 2018 season and Busio must have had his triggered at some point too. It just wasn’t reported at the time.
Also Under Contract: Graham Zusi, Tim Melia, Ilie, Jaylin Lindsey, Andreu Fontas, Tyler Freeman, Cameron Duke, Luis Martins, Roberto Puncec, Khiry Shelton, John Pulskamp and Wilson Harris.
Remi Walter - The first signing of the offseason was French midfielder Walter who had previously played for such big clubs as Nice in France. It’s rumored he is going to make $800,000 and was signed primarily to play defensive midfielder (Ilie Sanchez’s position). It’s said he can also play box-to-box (the other two midfield spots). He’s just 25-years-old.
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin - Don’t ask anyone to pronounce it but the other “big” signing of the offseason is French center back Mirin. The PSV (Netherlands) and Besiktas (Turkey) CB is 29-years-old and seems to be more athletic and less of a ball playing CB like Besler or Fontas. It’s likely he’ll compete for a starting spot with just four CBs currently on the roster.
Kendall McIntosh - This likely backup goalkeeper was taken in the Re-Entry Draft but didn’t sign a contract until later in the offseason. He likely clears the way for Pulskamp and Thompson (below) to go to SKC II on loan.
Brooks Thompson - The 18-year-old keeper was signed to SKC II when he was just 16 and now he moves to the first team. That said, he’s a good candidate for a season long loan back to SKC II to free up a spot on the roster.
Osvaldo Cisneros - Ozzie is just 16-years-old and has signed his first professional contract after joining the SKC Academy out of Nebraska. He’s an intriguing prospect and likely has a very high ceiling. The attacking player should spend a lot of time with the second team but he has to be on the Busio progression over the next few years with Europe on the horizon.
Grayson Barber - Despite going to college, he’s probably the player I know the least about. Barber was an attacking midfielder for Clemson but there is some talk of him playing on the wing in MLS. I’m sure we’ll see more of him in the USL Championship, at least at first. He is still just 20-years-old.
Other Offseason Happenings
- Sporting KC unveiled new kit numbers for the new signings (and Busio).
- We don’t know the 2021 jerseys yet, but we have some insight on 2022.
- Sporting KC II have added numerous players, including a few who may end up on other MLS rosters.
- We took a stab at an early 2021 Depth Chart.
- MLS and the MLSPA reached an agreement on a CBA through 2027 (or maybe just 2021).
- Details emerged on the new MLS U-22 Initiative (#YoungMoney).
- Plus, there are plenty of rumors of other signings out there.