On Tuesday morning, Sporting Kansas City Head Coach and Sporting Director, Peter Vermes, gave his first interview of the 2021 MLS preseason. It was wide ranging as many members of the media were on the call. Probably enough information for a few stories, but let’s at least hit some high points.
Graham Zusi Recovery Timeline
In an interview last week, Zusi gave an update on his recovery timeline, as we detailed for you yesterday. Today, Vermes confirmed Zusi won’t be ready for the start of preseason.
Vermes: Graham Zusi won't be ready for the start of the season as he recovers from his injury. He's not running yet and he'll have to work up his fitness. #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) March 2, 2021
Vermes talked about a screw being taken out of Zusi’s foot (which was planned) and he now has to work his way back from that follow-up procedure. Once he gets back to running, he can work on his fitness and complete a mini-offseason plan the coaches lay out for him. He stressed not rushing Zusi back, “Once he’s in,” Vermes started, “I want him to be available on a regular basis.”
It sounds like it’s Jaylin Lindsey’s job for now and he’ll get a chance to prove he shouldn’t have to give it up.
Are there New Signings Coming?
Probably the number one question on anyone’s mind is about adding more talent. Sporting KC have lost Matt Besler, Winston Reid, Gerso Fernandes, Erik Hurtado, Felipe Gutierrez and others this offseason.
During the press conference, Vermes was asked specifically about adding depth at the forward position with the loss of Gerso and Hurtado. He responded that he’ll be using the preseason to evaluate the roster. “Preseason is a place to impress,” said Vermes. “I always go into preseason with a completely open mind.” He went on to state, he wants to be positively surprised and that with the transfer window being pushed back, there is extra time to evaluate the roster but making a signing “remains to be seen.”
When he was asked a follow-up question about there being so many Homegrown players filling roster spots, he responded, “It’s a plan that’s been in effect for many years.” He also hoped that some of the “really high quality veteran players” can mentor the younger players. It definitely feels like the ‘play the kids’ mantra has the potential to be in full effect in 2021.
Isimat-Mirin Not with the Team
The only player that Vermes indicated had yet to join the team during the first week of preseason was new French center back signing, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. He stressed not to be concerned as it was simply harder to get new players into the country (French midfielder Remi Walter is with the team). It was simply an “immigration issue” and once he arrives he’ll go through protocol and ultimately join the team in Arizona.
Vermes: Nicolas Isimat-Mirin isn't currently with the team because of an immigration issue. He'll go through protocol and join the team in AZ as that's worked out. #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) March 2, 2021
More Preseason Details
When the initial preseason schedule was unveiled, it was just four dates and no opponents or times. A little more detail has been announced, including a fifth “game,” though times, locations and attendance policies remain TBD.
- Saturday, March 13 — Phoenix Rising FC
- Saturday, March 20 — Colorado Rapids
- Wednesday, March 24 — Portland Timbers
- Tuesday, March 30 — Intra-squad Scrimmage
- Saturday, April 3 — LA Galaxy
U-22 Initiative and SKC
When The Blue Testament asked PV about Sporting KC’s plans for the U-22 Initiative (#YoungMoney), a few new details emerged. First, Vermes referred to it as the Young Designated Player initiative (MLS has yet to officially unveil this, but they do have a young DP designation already). Second, he said the teams have known about this for “years” even though it just was tentatively announced in the 2020 CBA.
Third, and most importantly, Sporting Kansas City have been scouting players for this designation for a while. Vermes believes the team already has several guys who fit this profile on their roster, but they are Homegrown and came through their system. He didn’t give the indication that a signing was imminent, but he did want to make sure they get it right. That makes sense, because it’s essentially extra DP slots for young players. Big investments could be required and you don’t want to miss on those (though teams certainly will).
Any Trialists for 2021 Preseason?
My Blue Testament colleague, Thad Bell, got in a good question about the possibility of trialists coming to preseason in 2021 but it doesn’t sound likely. Due to the COVID-19 protocols, testing, quarantine period, etc., Vermes indicated the objective is to stay with the players they brought with them (with an interesting caveat about goalkeepers). He did confirm that players from SKC II will be joining and a couple Academy guys may come along as well.
Having seen b-roll practice footage from Monday, players like Jake Davis, Kaveh Rad (or was it his twin Jahon?), Travian Sousa, Danny Barbir and of course all the SKC guys, were visible.
A Few Other Points
- SKC will run a 4-3-3 (be shocked!), “I don’t think my formation is going to change all that much,” said Vermes.
- PV did talk about being flexible within the formation. He has ideas about uses of wingers and that they are “going to change a few things we’ve done defensively.”
- Also he added that “there will be players like [Gianluca Busio] who will move around a little bit.” Though he then said he may not move around, so who knows. (Left wing anyone?)
The video of this press conference is now available for your viewing pleasure.