Last Friday, Sporting Kansas City and (nearly) all of their players arrived in KC for the start of preseason for the 2023 MLS season. They had meetings, fitness tests, probably physicals and other formalities, but it also meant a chance to talk to Peter Vermes, Johnny Russell and new signing Nemanja Radoja. While this story will focus on the Vermes quotes, they are all worth a listen.
Here are the interviews (with their durations) if you want to listen for yourself:
If you don’t have time, I’ll try to condense and hit some high points for you.
PV on Signings
The question that Peter is probably sick of but is on the top of everyone’s mind, especially at this stage in preseason, will there be more signings?
Vermes on signings: "We do have one more acquisition. I'm not going to talk about what position right now... we probably have some other announcement that'll come down the pipe that are close to being done... We've got a couple more there." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Vermes. “We do have one more acquisition. I’m not going to talk about what position right now. We have one more acquisition that we’ll be making. We probably have some other announcements that’ll come down the pike here of some other players already that are close to being done. I’ll just wait until they’re done because I’ve been in a position where there’s some that pull out at the last minute. We’ve got a couple more there and then there’s one other position that we’re working on.”
This announcement could be the rumored signing of German left back Tim Liebold, which picked up steam today when Hamburger SV officially parted ways with him and confirmed he’s coming to MLS. Manuel Veth is still saying he’s coming to Sporting Kansas City.
We’ve already talked through several of the possibilities surrounding Liebold, but let’s shift back to the rest of what Vermes said. He said there are “announcements,” plural. And a “couple more.” A couple more... signings? I still can’t get it through my head that Sporting KC could possibly enter the season with only three CBs.
As we covered earlier in the week, there are a bunch of CBs on trial. I still think you probably want a fourth starting caliber guy. Maybe they are good with Voloder, Ford and Fontas as the guys and others will step in as needed. Which brings us to another quote.
Radoja can play multiple spots
Peter says new signing Nemanja Radoja is a 6 (defensive midfielder) but he can play as a central defender as well as an 8 (box-to-box midfielder).
Vermes on Radoja: "He knows the [#6] position from a tactical perspective on a really good level. He has very good physical qualities in the position... he's got bite, which you need in that part of the field. He can also play as a central defender as well." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
Vermes continued on Radoja: "He's a 6... he's a defensive midfielder. He can also play as an 8... and again, he can also play central defender." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
I think we all saw him as a 6 when he was first announced. It made sense since Peter constantly talks about Remi Walter is really an 8 but they had to use him at the 6. The news that Nemanja can play as an 8 isn’t surprising. Most d-mids can move forward, though it doesn’t mean they are nearly as effective. However, going back to center back is another story. Sure, Ilie Sanchez had to do it because of a string of injuries during the 2021 season and he handled it pretty dang well. Not perfect, but he was playing over rostered CBs (Roberto Puncec and Graham Smith).
The news that Radoja can play there too is hopefully an emergency plan. But back to the previous topic about new signings, I really hope that the plan isn’t to ride with three CBs (or maybe even a fourth from all these trialists) and then move in Radoja or Ben Sweat (he played some CB in a back three previously) as needed. If that’s the plan, I don’t care for it. Especially with the injuries that hampered previous seasons for Andreu Fontas and Kortne Ford, the presumed starters at this point.
Pulido and Kinda Updates
To start preseason back in 2022, Vermes kicked off the opening press conference (this same one, but a year ago) with the news that Alan Pulido would likely be out for the season. He also later dropped a bombshell that Gadi Kinda had surgery, but should be back. He never came back. And Pulido did miss the whole year. Inevitably, that left fans thinking they should be good to go from the jump in 2023. Not so fast.
“Those guys are still building towards getting on the field but they’re both close.” - #SKC manager Peter Vermes on Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda— Aly Trost Martin (@AlyTrostMartin) January 6, 2023
“They’re both close.” I understand the desire not to rush and potentially cause a setback. And it’s been reported this is the same type of injury that Felipe Gutierrez and Jimmy Medranda were dealing with, and they took a long time to bounce back (and it could be argued they’ve never been the same). Vermes continued, “I know those guys are going to play a lot this year. I’m not in a big rush to get them back on the field.”
Daniel Sperry finishes us off with one last quote from PV saying they both could be ready for game one.
Vermes says they are in no rush to get Gadi Kinda and Alan Pulido involved. Says maybe one or both could be ready for first game, but he won't be too quick to put them in. Expects both to play in a lot of games this season. #SportingKC— Daniel Sperry (@sperrydaniel94) January 6, 2023
Everything I’ve seen shows Pulido further along. There were talks that he could have played last year if he was needed, but the team was out of it. If his workout videos on Instagram are in any indication, he’s already in great shape. His legs look like tree trunks. Let’s just hope all the muscle fibers, tendons and whatnot are doing good too.
We’ve Heard These Before
Peter busted out some of his old favorites too, but with some new nuggets of information. He gave some insight into the offseason training program and basically said if guys show up out of shape, they’ll get worked extra hard to get them into shape and it’s going to put them behind (quote edited for length to fit into tweets).
“I was very clear at all the exit interviews... we always provide an offseason training program, and it is imperative that they all follow it to a T and if they don’t... they better make sure they are fit as a fiddle because if they are not, two things,” began Vermes. “One they put themselves in a bad position coming into the preseason when it comes to getting on the field. Number two... if there are any of those players, I’m hoping there are none, and if there are, they will be doing extra work throughout the weeks so that we can build that foundation for them before they actually get a lot of real playing time. You have to remember; you have players coming in new. For them, it’s a little bit of a different story because they don’t know what to expect... My experience tells me there will be a few players that will come in that maybe aren’t up to the level where they need to be. It’s not a punishment, just trying to make sure they are prepared for an MLS season.”
And an oldie but a goodie, every spot is up for grabs.
Vermes on starters: "When I come into preseason I come in with my mind wide open. If somebody steps up and starts playing really well... they win a spot. I don't go in with preconceived notions... it's up to them to now show they are the best guy for that position." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
A Few Clips
- Johnny Russell with a humorous take on playing multiple spots.
.@AlyTrostMartin asking Johnny about playing other positions in 2022 due to injury/tactical adjustments.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
Full answer below, but Russell with the quip, "I'm actually pretty good at both" about playing on RW and in the middle. #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/WeOMhoryZg
- Vermes on the Legend Pele.
Vermes on Pele and his memories of him since he grew up in New Jersey near the New York Cosmos.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 7, 2023
"He was my idol growing up."
"His legacy will live on forever." #SportingKC #Pele pic.twitter.com/2qs84VUZRJ
- Vermes on struggling to take a vacation.
- Russell on Ronaldo certainly wanting his number and the price he’d have to pay.
- Peter talking through the process on attempting to bring Ronaldo to KC.
What stood out to you from the three interviews? Let’s talk about it in the comments!