For the second time this week, Sporting Kansas City Head Coach and Sporting Director, Peter Vermes, sat down with the media before he and his team head to Arizona for preseason on Monday, January 17th. The press availability seemed to be specifically setup to coincide with the announcement of the re-signings of Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi. But as always, we can’t help ourselves but try to pull other information out of Vermes.
The Return of Felipe Hernandez
In the middle of the 2021 MLS regular season, Felipe Hernandez, who was having a quite good year, suddenly disappeared from the roster. He was out for “personal reasons,” which were later disclosed to be problems related to gambling that led to a suspension for the remainder of the 2021 season and the playoffs.
When asked about Hernandez’s status, Vermes confirmed that he has “applied for reinstatement” and the team is just waiting to hear from the league.
Vermes: Felipe Hernandez has applied for reinstatement (from his gambling suspension).— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2022
SKC are just waiting now on the league. #SportingKC
The Return of Tyler Freeman
An unexpected bit of news also came out for Sporting KC during Thursday’s press availability. Peter Vermes announced that Homegrown signing Tyler Freeman, who had been on loan Karlsruher SC in Germany, was ending his loan early and returning to the team and would be joining everyone in Arizona for preseason. Freeman was originally scheduled to remain in Germany until the end of their season in the late spring/summer.
Vermes: Tyler Freeman has returned from loan in Germany. He will be with the team in preseason. #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2022
Freeman adds some depth in all the attacking positions on the team as he’s played both wings, center forward and the more attacking of the dual #8 midfielders. He has yet to make his MLS debut, but he was starting to really put it together with SKC II and with only five healthy forwards on the roster (Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton, Grayson Barber and Freeman), there should be a chance to finally break through. That said, expect some signings in the attack.
The Signings are Coming... No Really!
It feels cliche when PV will answer questions with generic tropes like, ‘we need to get better all over the field.’ I believe that it’s true and he believes that, but the problem with being specific is you simply don’t want to talk about a specific player until the deal is done. Echoing his comments from Tuesday, Vermes indicated the signings are absolutely coming.
Vermes said, “one of the biggest hurdles is immigration.” COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into just about every aspect of life, including getting players into the country.
More International Roster Spots
Speaking of players coming in from overseas, there is an update on international roster spots. In MLS, teams get eight spots, unless they trade to acquire more. As the roster stands now, Kansas City have six of them filled (Andreu Fontas, Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, Remi Walter, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Jose Mauri) — though there is some indication Pulido’s spot could technically be available if he’s on the season ending injury list all year.
The way to get more spots, outside of trading, is to acquire green cards for your players. Guys like Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi and Roger Espinoza all used to be in international slots until they got their green cards. The good news is, more green cards are coming.
PV stated there are players “in the queue” to get green cards and that they are “very far along.” The key is they need to get them in before February 25th, the roster compliance date. If not, they will take an international spot for the entire 2022 season. Based on immigration slowing down signings, at least some of them are coming from overseas.
SKC Have Three U-22 Spots Available
If Int. Roster spots weren’t in the weeds, this surely is, but it’s important for roster building. MLS’ U-22 Initiative, in the simplest terms, is a roster designation that allows teams to spend an unlimited amount of money to acquire a player (e.g. transfer fee) as long as they a) don’t turn 23 during their first year of the contract and b) don’t make more than the MLS max budget charge ($612,500 in 2022).
The complicating factor is, teams can have one of them, or up to three of them, depending on the number and types of Designated Players they have on their roster. If they have three “true” DPs, meaning they make over the Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) max of $1,612,500 in 2022, they can only sign one. If they don’t have three DPs or one of their three is paid a low enough amount (under that $1,612,500 amount in 2022), then they can sign three U-22 players.
There has long been some debate if SKC could sign one or three. Quotes from Vermes on Tuesday had some believing the team couldn’t buy down any of their DPs. The Blue Testament was able to confirm today that they can in fact buy one down. There was no confirmation given as to who it is (I believe it’s Johnny Russell, but Gadi Kinda could be in this designation too — Alan Pulido definitely isn’t, as he makes too much).
Not only that, but Vermes confirmed that Sporting KC are planning to make U-22 signings this offseason. The reason they didn’t in 2021 is because they didn’t want to sign and bring in a player, only for the league to delay the initiative and their budget would get all screwed up. It’ll be interesting if some of the rumored signings come through.
So signings are coming. Some of them will be U-22 players. And SKC get up to three of those.
The week started out with some bad news, but it’s gotten progressively better as it went on. When signing out of the press conference today, public relations also said to look out for news tomorrow. Hopefully it’s a signing (or signings!) that will be coming to the start of preseason on Monday.