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Vermes on the New Striker, More Signings and the Freeman/Barber Releases

Plus new players fitting in, the new TV deal for Sporting Kansas City and a jersey sneak peek.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, as Sporting Kansas City wraps up preseason in Arizona before heading to Austin for one final friendly, Peter Vermes did his weekly sit down with the media over Zoom. He hit a range of topics, including Daniel Salloi’s contract which we discussed yesterday, so let’s get to the rest of them.

New Striker Nikola Vujnovic’s Fit

The first questions had to be about Sporting KC’s newest signing, Nikola Vujnovic. “He’s got good pace,” started Vermes. “[He] can make chances for himself with both his left and right foot. [He’s] good between the lines and good buildup.”

This definitely sounds a lot more like an affordable Alan Pulido than a Khiry Shelton clone. However, don’t expect to see him in the opener against Atlanta United. “The likelihood of [Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis] being here and being available for our next game is a difficult one,” stated Vermes.

Not the Only Striker Target

We all know there were rampant rumors of striker signings. From Robert Beric back in December, Jose Juan Macias more recently, that unknown Swiss league striker and even Jozy Altidore, there were no shortage of players being linked to filling in for the injured Alan Pulido.

It’s worth noting, they weren’t the only ones being targeted. He mentioned some deals fell apart over “financials,” (like most of the above moves probably), but he also said they had another target but the “rules” got in the way.

“I believe we could have gotten a deal done but we weren’t in a place to do it because of some of the rules and things like that,” said Vermes.

It is worth nothing that Peter Vermes said they ideal situation was always a one year loan, like they landed with Vujnovic. “With finding out as late as we did knowing about Alan’s situation,” began Vermes, “we didn’t want to be in a situation there we were rushed to confirm a player for a multiple year contract.”

I’m excited about his potential fit, but it’s Khiry Shelton’s job to lose right now.

Barber and Freeman’s Departure

On Monday, Sporting KC Homegrowns Tyler Freeman and Grayson Barber were abruptly released with just one preseason game to go before the start of the 2022 season. When asked about it, Vermes said, “I’m not going to get into the details of it.” He continued with a common stance that he simply doesn’t talk about these things. However, it’s what he said after that stuck with me.

“I wish them the best,” continued Vermes. “They don’t fit with us going forward. That’s why it’s best for those guys to see if they can latch on with another team, so they can get the playing time they need going forward, if that’s what they want to do.” (emphasis mine)

If that’s what they want to do... That feels like it means something more. I’ll let you all speculate.

Are More Signings Coming?

With Barber and Freeman gone, the forward line went from having eight players quickly down to six healthy bodies. That’s Khiry Shelton, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Marinos Tzionis, Nikoa Vujnovic and Ozzie Cisneros. Ozzie played the false 9 and wing in preseason and spent some time in the center forward spot with SKC II last year too. But that’s suddenly a real lack of depth considering two of the players aren’t in camp yet and three of them have zero MLS minutes.

When asked if signings were coming, Vermes went back to a common answer from seasons past. “We’re always looking to add more players.”

That’s the answer he gives, at least in recent years, when nothing is imminent. They’ll always look to improve the team, but it’s a marked difference from the recent answers about “signings coming” and being “very, very close.”

In my estimation, the team needs at least one more winger. If nothing, to deal with international absences. New signings Tzionis and Vujnovic have represented their national teams, as have Salloi and Russell. If all four were gone, you’d have two left for three forward spots. Sure Gadi Kinda, when healthy can move forward, but he’s become a regular for Israel too. Then that leaves midfielders and fullbacks like Cam Duke or Graham Zusi to come forward, which has happened, but is less than ideal.

All of this doesn’t even account for inevitable injuries.

Quick Hits

  • Vermes talked about new players getting integrated and it usually takes time, but he specifically mentioned Logan Ndenbe, Ben Sweat and Uri Rosell were ahead of schedule and more are coming along.
  • PV also commended Jake Reid and the front office on the new streaming/over-the-air TV deal the team got done, noting even his wife struggled to get away games. However, he didn’t specifically know how they got out of the deal with Bally Sports, which was believed to have run through 2022.
  • This isn’t from PV, but this is a State Line kit tease, right?!? The “Swiss Dots” secondary kit is out and we’ll know the new one on Friday.