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Sporting KC’s Pulido “Likely” Out for Season, News on a Replacement and Robert Beric

The first Peter Vermes press conference of 2022 went about as bad as you can imagine. There is always darkness before the dawn.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting Kansas City Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Update (1/16/21): This story states that a Designated Player position is opened up but The Blue Testament have since confirmed with the league that is not the case. Alan Pulido’s international spot is available now, but not his DP slot, even with all the MLS Salary Budget math laid out below.

2020 and 2021 got you down? Well 2022 is here to kick you in the teeth. While those prior years were relatively successful Sporting Kansas City seasons and it was more global pandemic related sadness, the sporting side of Kansas City soccer has taken a few big blows to start the year.

In Peter Vermes’ first press conference of the near year he started it off with a list of updates. The first, and worst, being that Alan Pulido is set to undergo surgery on January 17th. That surgery will “more than likely” keep him out the entire year.

The official press release says he is “expected to be sidelined for 9 to 12 months.” That explains the Robert Beric Re-Entry Draft pick (more on that in a bit). In the press conference, Vermes seemed to indicate they knew about the injury for a long time and had hoped that the minor surgery they did late in the 2021 season would resolve it, but issues persisted. The Beric pick and the transfers they’ve been looking to make indicate they’ve known the surgery didn’t work for at least a little while.

For those upset SKC didn’t go ahead and do this surgery when they did the more minor surgery, he still would have missed all of the 2022 season since MLS will end early this year to accommodate the 2022 World Cup. Vermes also confirmed that this is the same injury he picked up while in camp with the Mexican National team around the beginning of the 2021 season. It’s all the more remarkable Pulido somehow played through this injury and still managed the production he did. That said, maybe it wasn’t ideal to play him if his knee was swelling and having to be drained after each practice and game and he was in consistent pain.

Who Replaces Pulido?

Right now, it’s almost certainly Khiry Shelton, as he’s the only center forward on the roster, but PV says they are on the hunt to sign someone.

Vermes did confirm that the new signing will not be a Designated Player, saying, “We have all three DPs already accounted for, so it won’t be be a DP.” That means any signing has to fall into the Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) designation (or less), meaning they cannot be paid more than $1,612,500 per season.

What about Robert Beric?

As The Blue Testament confirmed last week, Beric will not be joining Kansas City. Vermes confirmed that in his opening comments of the presser but elaborated as questions kept coming. He stated that the team made him a “very good offer” but I confirmed with him it wasn’t as a Designated Player. In 2021, Beric made $2,703,164, so he was being asked to take a pay cut of over a million dollars.

Now, if I’m reading the Roster Rules right, SKC can technically add another DP. Since Pulido could go on the season ending injury list, they would have an open slot. However, a bunch of other stuff has to happen. They have to have the room to sign the new player in their budget (they only get $250,000 in salary relief but a DP counts for $612,500 against the “cap”). And they have to find a player willing to come be that DP.

The problem there is, KC go right back to having four DPs in 2023 and either Pulido, Kinda, Russell or the new person has to go. All three current players are signed through at least 2023. There is basically no way you can sign a DP level player on a one year deal unless you trade for an existing one inside the league (I hear Jozy Altidore is available). Vermes basically ruled out that they’d add a DP.

Is there any Silver Lining?

Right now this hurts. The 2022 season feels like it’s not going to go as well. The most expensive player in SKC history, who has been terrifically productive when he’s on the field, is looking like a bust because he can’t stay on the field. Hopefully he’s back and amazing in 2023 and gives SKC a huge discount on any new contract since he didn’t perform for about two-thirds of his original contract (up through the end of this year, not counting 2023 production).

While he’s out, SKC are still a very capable scoring team. My colleague, Mike Kuhn, quickly threw this together. SKC were actually better at scoring goals without Pulido in 2021. Weird.

Also, this could be a huge opportunity to go get someone, maybe a U-22 Initiative player, to come in and not have the pressure to start. Khiry Shelton can start and if this young player (whomever they may be) can break through, maybe they can be the striker of the future. It seems Sporting KC are at least looking for someone (though no mention of the U-22 initiative). Manuel Veth is reporting they are actively shopping in Europe and “made a bid for at least one player playing in the Swiss Super League.”

The fact that they are offering a transfer fee means either it’s a U-22 player and the fee doesn’t matter (unlimited fees on them) or it’s a player who’s combined salary and pro-rated transfer fee won’t break the aforementioned $1,612,500 per season to be under the TAM designation.

For what it’s worth, Vermes did confirm they are looking to add players on all three lines (excluding goalkeeper) and that “there will be some announcements coming.” They are working on paperwork and finalizing some deals.

Right now, everything seems bad. But there is always hope it could be turned around.