Following the heartbreaking news that Kortne Ford suffered a season ending Achilles injury during a preseason game against Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City is down to three centerbacks on their roster: Andreu Fontas, Robert Voloder, and newly signed rookie Chris Rindov. The transfer window slammed shut in Europe for most leagues on January 31st, but MLS and a few other leagues still have their windows open.
Before getting too far along, it is worth noting that even though the window for most teams in Europe is closed, teams can transfer players out, but they won’t be able to bring in replacements.
As a result, Sporting Kansas City can 1) look to European players who might be surplus to their team; 2) players out of contract; 3) trades in MLS; or 4) European players who play in a league that still has incoming and outgoing transactions. Each of these presents interesting options for Peter Vermes and Brian Bliss.
Players who are under contract in Europe but may be free to leave
As we’ve covered in some of the rumor roundups, Francisco Ferreira, aka Ferro, may have his loan from Vitesse terminated and is free to leave Benfica. Sporting Kansas City has already been linked to him and Vermes suggested the other day that reinforcements may be coming. There may be some fire with this smoke, but if not, it’s tough to imagine many players being available.
Players out of contract
An interesting name is Eddie Segura. You may know him from his time with LAFC, where he showed a tremendous amount of promise before season ending injuries in 2021 and late in the 2022 playoffs. Segura is a free agent and is having talks with LAFC about a new deal, but his current injury has complicated things. Segura may be an interesting pickup for the long term, but in the short term, he’s injured and will provide no cover to Fontas, Voloder, and Rindov.
Nikola Maksimovic is a 31-year-old Serbian international who is currently out of contract after playing 14 matches for Genoa in Serie A. A veteran of the Italian top flight, Maksimovic has played for Napoli, Genoa, and Torino, along with Spartak Moscow and Red Star Belgrade. He’s got a solid pedigree and is valued by Transfermarkt at $2 million. He’s had a series of small knocks over the years and isn’t the ideal age profile for me (though I’m not the GM), but if Sporting KC are looking for an immediate contributor, he fits the profile.
Another intriguing option is Eliaquim Mangala. The 31-year-old Frenchman was once the most expensive defender in the world. His pedigree is incredible. After getting his start with Standard Liege in Belgium, Mangala transferred to Porto where he won two championships. In 2014, Mangala signed with Manchester City for approximately $42 million. He spent time on loan with Valencia and Everton before a permanent transfer to Valencia. Finally, he ended up at Ligue 1 club Saint-Etienne for six months before they were relegated. Mangala has had some small muscle injuries here and there but has largely stayed healthy. He is currently valued at $1.2 million by Transfermarkt. Much like Maksimovic, Mangala has a ton of experience against elite players. Without a transfer fee, he may be affordable for the club.
Lastly, if Vermes and Bliss are looking for someone who already has MLS experience, the Brazilian centerback, Bressan is currently out of contract. Bressan has largely plied his trade in Brazil but was transferred to FC Dallas in 2019 on a free. He left Dallas in 2021 to go back to Brazil where he played for Avai before becoming a free agent. Bressan represents a much lower ceiling than the players listed above, but he’s got MLS experience and is a right sided centerback. Transfermarkt currently values him at $750,000.
Trades within MLS
The transfer window for MLS is still open (and will remain open until April 24). Instead of calling them transfers, MLS refers to the transactions as trades. Regardless of what we call it, this may be the most feasible option for Sporting Kansas City. Sporting would either be able to leverage a player and some Genreal Allocation Money (GAM) for a defender or could trade GAM straight up. Recently, CF Montreal acquired George Campbell from Atlanta United for up to $900k in GAM.
Houston traded Adam Lundkvist to Austin FC for $500k in GAM, split between two seasons.
Finding a trade partner may be challenging. I don’t follow the other teams in the league as closely as some, so I’m going to rely on *gulp* Matt Doyle’s depth chart projections. Looking around the league, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of centerback depth. However, one specific name stuck out as I was looking. Doyle’s projected starters for DC United are Steve Birnbaum and Derrick Williams. That leaves Donovan Pines as a rotation/squad player. Pines has 65 caps for DC United and two for the USMNT. He is reportedly in the final year of his contract, so DC may want to get something out of him before they have to renegotiate or let him go for free. Pines is massive, listed at 6’5” 200 lbs. He would provide a physical presence and aerial threat that the team has missed for years.
Looking at his underlying stats, Pines is in the 95th percentile for tackles (2.3 per 90), interceptions (2.11 per 90), and 96th percentile for blocks (1.74 per 90). He is a worse passer than Sporting typically prefers, but there’s a chance that is more system based than skill or talent. Regardless, given DC’s depth and his contract status, Sporting KC could potentially make this trade for a reasonable price.
Another potential trade target is Lalas Abubakar from the Colorado Rapids. The 28-year-old centerback is projected to be a rotation player this year after making 29 starts last year. He’s in the 80th percentile in interceptions (1.75 per 90) and 91st in blocks (1.64 per 90). Additionally, Abubakar scored four goals for the Rapids in 2022. He hasn’t traditionally been a goal threat, but it’s possible that he’s growing into a more dangerous player.
Acquisition of a player from a league whose window is still open
Before we get any further, I feel obligated to tell you that I’m not going into a deep dive of potential acquisitions for a bunch of random leagues in Europe. However, you’ll still get a little bit out of this (or you won’t. But I appreciate you reading!)
The transfer window is still open in: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden, and Ukraine. Certainly, some of these leagues are much better than others and some have a track record of putting players in MLS. Specifically, MLS teams have a history of pulling players from Norway and Sweden. Switzerland’s domestic league is relatively strong with some talented players getting experience there before moving on to bigger European leagues.
Ukraine presents a potential area of recruitment as Russia’s unnecessary, immoral, and unprovoked war in Ukraine has thrown their domestic league into chaos. Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv are frequently competing in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and the Europa Conference League. They’re undoubtedly the two strongest teams in the Ukrainian Premier League. As a symptom of the war, transfers out of the league have been more common and one of these teams may has centerbacks available for transfer. Serhiy Kryvtsov recently signed with Inter Miami after spending his whole career with Shakhtar and cited the violence and danger to his family as one of the major factors in his move to the United States.
No injury is ever timely, but losing Kortne Ford this close to the start of the season is especially devastating. However, the team has some options and mechanisms available to bring in new players. What do you all think they should do? Talk amongst yourselves in the comments.