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Sporting KC potentially pursuing summer reinforcements

A Welsh international forward but not Gareth Bale.

Derby County v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship - John Smith’s Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

In January 2018, Sporting Kansas City signed Derby County forward, Johnathon Simpson Snedden Russell aka Johnny F’n Russell. Four years later, Sporting Kansas City is again linked to a Derby County forward, this time Welsh international, Tom Lawrence.

In an article from FootballInsider247, Lawrence is being pursued by Sporting Kansas City, Fulham, Burnley, and Norwich. Additionally, Bournemouth, Everton, Leeds United, and Belgian club, Anderlecht, are all keeping an eye on the forward as he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Lawrence began his career at Manchester United but never succeeded in breaking through. After a series of loans, he moved to Leicester City but again was immediately loaned out and only made three appearances for Leicester’s first team. However, after moving down a level to the EFL Championship, the Welshman hit his stride and won 180 caps for Derby County, scoring 36 goals along the way. He was named captain in July 2021 and scored nine times in 30 matches for Derby in the most recent campaign.

Those contributions were not enough to prevent Derby from being relegated to EFL League One and Lawrence declined a new contract. Transfermarkt values Lawrence at $5.2 million but he will be available on a free. Salary information is not particularly accurate or transparent for the EFL Championship but it looks like Lawrence earns between $1.2 and $1.9 million a year on his current salary. It’s unclear whether Sporting Kansas City has the roster space or cap flexibility to take on his contract.

[Editiors Note: The above was written by David and the below by Chad.]

How Does He Fit with Sporting KC?

According to Transfermarkt, Lawrence primarily lines up as a left winger. However, it’s also listed that he can play center forward, second striker and attacking midfielder. His 11 goals for the 2021-22 season for Derby are spread across all those positions (and he added five assists). He did that across 38 appearances and 3,232 minutes, so he’s an iron man out there with no major injury history.

His 2021-22 highlights seem to show him all over the place too, even adding coming from the right wing to that list of goals scored. And it’s a mix of goals. There are counter attacks, receiving the ball in the box, cutting in like Daniel Salloi from the left wing and even flashes of some center forward style hold up play.

Perhaps the most impactful video package I found on him is from 2020 when an account, “Derby Analytics,” broke down Lawrence’s play. They say he plays at LW, but he’d be better suited for attacking mid or center forward (positions of need). Though they do complain he shoots too much, something Sporting KC’s current striker does not do.

As for salary concerns, the free transfer alleviates many of those. If Sporting KC can sign him in the summer and keep his first year salary under $1,612,500, then he can be bought down with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).

Sporting KC do have the international spot required to make the move and could also free up another spot by placing Alan Pulido on the injury list. Plus, that positional flexibility would allow him to maybe play as a 9 or 10 this year as the team desperately needs and move to another forward spot next year, depending on who sticks around, and what future needs on the team are.

However, there are lots of teams pursuing Lawrence and in bigger leagues than MLS. It will probably come down to what he wants from his career and how much money he is offered. There is the possibility of the Johnny Russell connection as the two players overlapped briefly at Derby, but I wouldn’t hold your breathe. It would be a heck of a reinforcement to try to make things happen down the stretch.

The secondary transfer window opens on July 7th.