On Friday, Sporting Kansas City head coach and sporting director, Peter Vermes, had a chat with the media giving an update on the first week of preseason. Not much was of note of the actual play on the field, saying guys were reintroducing themselves. However, lots of new information came out that’s worth knowing.
Don’t Worry about International Spots
The Blue Testament had a chance to ask about green cards since Sporting KC appear to be over the limit of their eight international spots. Vermes said, “we’ll have quite a few guys that’ll have green cards.”
Vermes on being "out" of international spots: "We'll have quite a few guys that'll have green cards."— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2023
"The process has been much improved in the last six months."
"International slots won't be a problem." #SportingKC
That’s big news for KC and an announcement will likely come closer to the roster compliance date just before the season starts. In recent years, any green cards not acquired before that date didn’t count until the following season, so it’s likely some of these have been done deals for a long time.
Until those announcements are made, the following players are listed as internationals: Andreu Fontas, Gadi Kinda, Logan Ndenbe, Robert Voloder, Marinos Tzionis, Willy Agada, Erik Thommy, Nemanja Radoja and Tim Leibold.
Since “international slots won’t be a problem,” more than a few will probably have this squared away and KC can look to remain active for outside signings. The only things holding them back would be senior roster spots and budgetary concerns. With the two moves this week (Leibold and Flores), there are only two open roster spots left.
Are More Signings Coming?
Speaking of outside signings, everyone wants to know what’s going on at center back. The team only has three under contract (Fontas, Voloder and Kortne Ford). Last year they carried five (those three plus Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Kaveh Rad). Isi has signed in the Netherlands and K. Rad said his goodbyes on Instagram.
The team does have three players in camp who could look to fill that role. Trialists Mo Abualnadi, Nassim Mekideche and second round pick Chris Rindov. But Vermes hinted at more being in the works saying, “we’re looking at other players in that position.”
Vermes on only three signed center backs: "We're looking at other players in that position."— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2023
He also commented that there are several guys on trial as well as Rindov, the 2nd round pick. #SportingKC
With the ability for Radoja to play center back, maybe they only sign one more. But I definitely think they need at least one. There is a rumor for Norbert Gyomber coming over from Serie A in Italy. Maybe that’s the move?
Whether it’s CB or something else, Vermes said, “we’re not set” in all the positions on the roster.
New Left Back Tim Leibold
On Thursday, Sporting KC announced the signing that had been rumored for a bit when German left back Tim Leibold was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year in 2026. Lots of concern had been raised about signing a third left back, who takes up an international spot and is 29 years old and closer to the end than the beginning of his career. While asked about it by Daniel Sperry, he just focused on the positives, saying they’d been keeping track of him for a while.
Vermes on Leibold: "We've followed him for quite some time... comes in with some really good qualities as a left back going forward." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2023
When pressed further by The Blue Testament’s Thad Bell, PV declined to get specific.
Vermes on Leibold's ability to hit long crosses, short passes, etc.: "He's good at all those things. He's a very well rounded soccer player." #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 13, 2023
It’s hard to tell if this is coach speak or just avoiding the confusion around there being three players that seemingly are primarily (only?) left backs on the team. Plus, they all three take senior roster spots and two of them are internationals (or were, maybe Ndenbe is getting his green card).
Speaking of Ndenbe
I threw out a crackpot idea on my podcast that maybe him being stuck overseas with “visa issues” was cover for a transfer. But Vermes confirmed he was in camp on Friday. It could be he was off getting his green card too. It usually requires a trip to get it done.
We have more articles coming in the next few days trying to understand this ‘three left back roster’ situation. David Greenwald and I are going to have a debate.
First Round Pick Stephen Afrifa Update
We previously reported that Afrifa would be returning to college for the spring semester. We got a little more insight into what that looks like with Peter confirming he’ll join the team on breaks and look to fully join the team be late April/early May.
Pulido and Kinda Updates
Peter Vermes did confirm that they are both “not in training.” He was very adament he didn’t want to risk bringing them along too quickly and risking an injury and then their timeline is delayed. Vermes also said, “both guys are moving forward. Neither of them have had any setbacks.”
Plus, hopefully you all saw Pulido at MLS Media Day in San Jose. He was rocking a new Sporting Blue track jacket and under the jacket he’s definitely wearing the new 2023-24 primary kit. It’s Sporting Blue with an indigo collar from the picture and you can see a button at the top, but that’s all we’ve got (also, check the photoshop job at the zipper/right collar). We’re just grasping at straws here!
Those vaguely argyle SKC diamonds behind Pulido’s left hand are also showing up on their new signing’s graphics on their social media posts. Probably nothing to it... but you never know.
Hopefully we can look forward to frequent updates from preseason since the games will be behind closed doors and not streamed. Any news is a little something we can hold onto.