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Vermes on a Striker Signing, Homegrown Changes, Quality Depth and Leagues Cup

Plus his thoughts on the USMNT and who will win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The season isn’t over for Sporting Kansas City, but we are in full offseason mode here at The Blue Testament. Hopefully you read our story earlier in the week about Peter Vermes confirming that the team has the ability to add another Designated Player (DP) in 2023 without losing Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido or Gadi Kinda. However, that interview that Vermes gave Soren Petro on The Program was full of all kinds of interesting nuggets. Here are a few more that stood out.

Sporting KC Looking to Sign Another Striker

“When we talk about the center forward position, the number 9, I want to get another forward at the end of this year,” said Vermes. “That’ll give us at least three guys in that position that can outright play the #9 position.”

I find this interesting because Sporting KC hold an option on Khiry Shelton for 2023 but this sure makes it look like they are looking to add someone else. Now, Shelton can play winger, so maybe there is nothing to see here, but it’s hard not to notice his desire to add another #9.

I’ve made my thoughts clear that I think it’s time for the team and Shelton to go their separate ways, but I have a theory I’d like to throw out. When I was listening to the Sporting KC Show last week they had Shelton on to talk about all his contributions in the community and winning the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarians of the Year award alongside Johnny Russell. While he sounds very active in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, everything else they were talking about sounded like it was mostly done in the past. It felt like a last way to honor Khiry before he and the club part ways. No inside information, just a gut feeling I had listening to that interview.

Incoming Homegrown Territory Changes

One of the big rules that Peter Vermes has long wanted to change was the way Homegrown players were added to teams around the country. Earlier in the summer The Athletic reported that those changes were finally coming. Vermes seemed to confirm it’s on the way.

“Some rules have changed on the Academy level that are going to go into effect here sooner or later,” said Vermes. “We need to take advantage of that because it’s going to give us opportunities to scout and recruit players from other MLS territories which we didn’t have the ability to do that in the past.”

While there are still restrictions (up to 54 protected players), teams can only exert so much control over their own territories and many players will have opportunities they were previously shut out from.

Adding Quality Depth for the Leagues Cup

In 2023 the Leagues Cup format will change drastically. All of MLS will pause play for a month and enter a competition with Liga MX teams. There aren’t a lot of details yet known, but PV is already planning for it going back to the last offseason.

“Everything is intensifying,” started Vermes. “Meaning the number of games. The Leagues Cup is going to take on a new format next year which is going to be very heavy on the team. We just need a much, much deeper team moving forward. That has been a big part of this massive plan. I was already thinking about that last year going into 23. Meaning, knowing that at the end of 22 we were going to have to increase our roster in a certain way (inaudible) knew all the contracts were going to be ending or just different changes I was going to have to make with the team. We’re going to have to be able to really add depth, but at high quality because of the different competitions that we’re going to be a part of starting in 23.”

Because Sporting KC didn’t win the US Open Cup (sorry to remind you) they’ll have one less competition since they won’t be in the CONCACAF Champions League, but they’ll still have league play and the 2023 edition of the US Open to deal with on top of the aforementioned Leagues Cup.

On Ending the MLS SuperDraft

Soren Petro: “Would you be in favor of eliminating the draft?”

Peter Vermes: “No, I wouldn’t be. I think it still has relevance still. I think there are still a lot of players that go to college and still can be a part of the professional structure of the United States. MLS, USL, MLS Next Pro. We have a lot of different leagues in which those guys can go play in. I think it still has it’s relevance in the landscape of professional soccer in this country.”

I would argue it should still end and those players should get the freedom to go where they are most likely to be used, compensated the best, etc. That probably wouldn’t be Kansas City who haven’t had a meaningful draft pick who contributed to the first team in over a decade.

Other Notable Quotes

Vermes had a lot to say and if you don’t want to listen to it all, here are some quotes that I felt were worth typing out.

  • When talking about the attempts to cover for Pulido and Kinda being out, he brought up Nikola Vunjovic, but not by name. “We brought a player in on loan and that who just didn’t work out.” Poor Niko, we barely knew you.
  • On getting Erik Thommy/William Agada at the start of the season: “We wouldn’t have been able to do it, at that time, from a financial perspective. We just wouldn’t have been able to do it. Some things were able to happen as we grew into the season.”
  • More on Agada/Thommy: “It’s easier to do acquisitions [in the summer window]. (inaudible) if we are going to get a player from another team, teams are more apt to part or purchase at that time in the summer than they are in the winter. We were able to get better deals on those two players at that time which could also fit into our cap.”
  • On goalkeeping depth: “We’re in a great place in that part [of the roster]. Even in our Academy we also have a couple good kids coming up. We’re in a really good place. We have three guys right now on the first team that can all play in MLS and also the way that we want to play. It’s been great to see how those guys stepped up, John Pulskamp and Kendall McIntosh. They’ve done a really good job. I also like the way they’ve responded. John had a situation where he gave up a poor goal against Austin and I was really interested to see how he was going to react the next game. He was great!”
  • Specifically on Kendall McIntosh: “Kendall coming in the way that he did. I just wasn’t sure. I knew what he had in him, but I wasn’t sure how he was going to play in a Major League Soccer game... It was interesting to see how well Kendall dealt with that game [against D.C. United]. And he made some great saves! There was a save he made in the second half, if he doesn’t make that save, all the sudden the other team is starting to gain confidence. He did what you expect your goalkeeper to do in that time of the game and in that situation and he did it really well and kept his composure.”
  • PV has Argentina winning the World Cup, but he’s still hopeful and high on the USMNT despite their down window of friendlies.