Earlier today, Sporting Kansas City head coach and sporting director, Peter Vermes, sat down with the media for the first update from preseason. He was joined by Kortne Ford, who got his first chance to talk with the media since signing in the last week.
He covered a wide range of topics including new information on Tyler Freeman’s time in Germany (apparently, it wasn’t great), how all the new players will fit into the team and the Jaylin Lindsey trade. But let’s start with an injury update.
Injury Updates: Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda
Alan Pulido underwent successful surgery on Monday in California and has already joined the team in Arizona to do his rehab. According to Vermes, “the doctors said everything went well.” As far as the nature of Pulido’s injury, Vermes was struggling with coming up with the name of the operation. He said it was similar to a microfracture bone surgery, but it’s something newer than that. He finished with a grin on his face saying, “I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn and I’m not a doctor,” which elicited a chuckle from PR. I didn’t have the hear to tell him it’s a Holiday Inn Express.
Vermes indicated he’d have someone reach out with that full information. We will make it available when we have it.
Gadi Kinda is also with the team in AZ and “he’s doing therapy everyday,” added Vermes. “He’s moving along really quickly.” He continued, “he won’t be out for an extended period of time, but we won’t rush him.” Pulido on the other hand, is expected to miss the whole season.
If you missed it earlier, The Blue Testament also confirmed with the league that if Pulido is placed on the season ending injury list the team does recover his international roster spot, but not his Designated Player spot. As of today, they have no open international spots unless they make this move, or receive a green card for someone else before the roster compliance date.
A New Forward Signing
PV was quick to point out that, “we’re not going to replace Alan. We’re going to continue to try and add players that are going to help us be successful,” but that “the team was never built around one player.”
Before you worry that no signing is coming, the team isn’t done making moves. “We are obviously down a forward, so we are going to have to add a forward to the team,” said Vermes. Peter finished by asking himself a question to which he had an answer. “Do we have any [forward] announced yet? No. But we are close.”
A source close to Cyprus attacking player Marinos Tzionis confirmed to me directly that he is coming to Kansas City. We should expect an announcement in the next couple days if that source is accurate.
PV on Jaylin Lindsey/Kayden Pierre/Cam Duke
One thing that hadn’t come up in the prior press conferences was the trade of Jaylin Lindsey to MLS expansion club Charlotte FC. Peter confirmed Charlotte had interest. Since Lindsey is from North Carolina, that appealed to them. He continued, “it wound up being a good move for us from different point of view.”
Sporting KC received or will receive up to $350,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) as a part of the Lindsey trade. When we asked if his confidence in Kayden Pierre allowed for the move, Vermes said, “Kayden Pierre has upside, has potential... I hope to see a big jump.” Then unprompted he said, “Cam Duke played a couple games last year and played really well. He also played in our academy in that position. So I think we have some different options.”
It’s hard not to read that as Cam Duke is playing right back and is probably ahead of Pierre on the depth chart until KP proves otherwise. I don’t think that excludes him from the midfield, but he should be getting lots more minutes. Vermes added he hasn’t had enough time to see the progress the players have made since it’s only been four days.
Tyler Freeman’s Bad Trip
19-year-old SKC Homegrown Tyler Freeman was announced last week as returning early from his loan in Germany from Karlsruher SC in 2. Bundesliga. As of this writing, the team only has five forwards on the roster (Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton, Grayson Barber and Freeman), so it could have just been about depth. However, when asked about how Freeman’s time went in German, Vermes responded, “I think he had a tough go. He got injured, he was out for a little while.” He added that he’s “never been out of Kansas City” and he was in a country where he didn’t speak the language.
PV continued, “I think it’s great to understand you don’t cherish or value what you have because you think it’s better for you somewhere else.” Maybe struggling is what Freeman needs. He’s often been a player who the game looks easy for, but he can’t seem to stay on the field. I’m not sure if that’s based on what is going on in practice or players simply beating him out or if it has something to do with his attitude.
But it sounds like Vermes is looking for Freeman to prove himself this year (he has still not logged a single first team minute). His contract is in it’s final guaranteed year. He does have an option for 2023 held by the team. The offseason cuts have shown KC will move on from players if they don’t perform. Even if that performing is just in practice.
New Signings Ndenbe and Voloder
Sporting KC have said previously the U-22 designations will be figured out by the roster compliance deadline (February 25th), but Logan Ndenbe and Robert Voloder most likely fall into this category. However, Peter Vermes described them both as young, but as having lots of professional experience under their belts.
He added that Voloder “had a lot of opportunities to go to a lot of different places,” but he ultimately chose Kansas City because he believes in what they are doing. He hasn’t had a chance to see much of them, but we’ll undoubtedly learn more in the coming days and weeks. SKC play their first scrimmage on Friday against the USMNT behind closed doors.
The media got to talk to PV and Ford on Kortne joining the team. Peter seemed excited for Ford and sees a lot of potential in him and fellow new signing Robert Voloder. On the additions at center back in general, he said, “having played there, I know what an important position that is within the structure of a team. I wouldn’t say we added a lot of people, I’d say we added a lot of quality there.” He also indicated with the compressed schedule he will need to rotate (though he didn’t say sub, which is pretty standard).
Personally, this feels like a position that went from minimal depth to one that is very deep. Andreu Fontas and Nicolas-Isimat Mirin are almost certainly the starters and potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates, but Ford and Robert Voloder seem like-for-like, plus Kaveh Rad should keep developing.
Vermes continued about Ford, “There is a level of athleticism you need. I tell foreign players, the first thing I’m going to tell you is [MLS] is a difficult league to play in. It’s hard, it’s athletics, it’s fast and you have to be able to withstand it. I think [Ford] has the ability.”
Kortne Ford also talked to the media and he’s going to be a fan favorite. He said all the right things, like him wanting to play for Vermes, seeing himself as a fit in SKC’s system and on what a great culture the team has both on and off the field. He also talked about it being a homecoming. “I was born and raised in Kansas City,” said Ford. Having recently lost his mother, returning to KC also brings a lot of family and support.
As for coming back from injuries that have hampered his career, Ford said, “there is a lot of lost time I need to make up for.” Adding, “I have a huge chip on my shoulder.” He seemed a bit disappointed in the way the Colorado Rapids handled his injury which cost him the better part of two years. He also knows, coming to KC means he’s not a starter and he has to prove himself, even if he needs to ride the bench for “one, two, three months.” It’ll be about “being ready” when it’s his time.
Personally, I’ve been saying Ford reminds me of Ike Opara. He’s an incredible talent who has been held back by injuries at times. Before I could ask him about that, Nate Bukaty had the same thought. Ford confirmed that “[he] and Ike have a great relationship” that apparently goes back years. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact Opara, now a coach on Benny Feilhaber’s SKC II staff, has on Ford on and off the field.
The Blue Testament will continue to bring you coverage of Sporting KC throughout preseason. For the full preseason schedule, head over here.