It’s the end of “The Silly Season,” a nickname for the European soccer transfer window when professional players can be swapped to teams, leagues and continents as a new year gears up across the Atlantic .
By TOD PALME R
The Kansas City Star
In Major League Soccer, the hottest name who might be in line for a last-minute move — the transfer window closes today — is Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza.
Espinoza, 25, became a hot commodity with a sterling performance during the 2012 London Olympics that helped Honduras reach the quarterfinals. Rumors of an imminent transfer ran rampant after Espinoza scored a goal and added an assist against Brazil and then returned to Kansas City to help Sporting KC win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but nothing materialized .
As reports surfaced this week that English Premier League side Wigan Athletic had interest in Espinoza, the rumor mill went into hyperdrive again.
“We’ve talked,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said during the club’s news conference Wednesday, “but I only know what his conversations are with me. He hasn’t signed anything. What I can tell you is that no one’s ever contacted Sporting Kansas City and no one’s ever contacted the league.”
Espinoza’s agent, Mike Gartlan, told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday that the interest is genuine and that talks were taking place.
“The player is usually the last player to know at the end of the day,” said Espinoza, who joked that he’d love to be linked to transfer rumors involving La Liga powerhouse Barcelona.
Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman tweeted that the club “will do everything we can to keep Roger here and happy.”
One avenue for making that a reality might be to convince the MLS to make Espinoza a Designated Player, giving him a hefty pay bump.
“If you’re asking if I deserve (a Designated Player tag), yeah, I think I do just like many other guys on the team,” Espinoza said. “Too bad that’s the way it goes in the league, that three guys should be the ones making all the money. .”
Espinoza has never been shy about his desire to play in one of the world’s top leagues, which are mostly in Europe.
But he’s also never ruled out remaining with Sporting KC.
“I’m here and I like it here,” Espinoza said. “I’ve never had any problem with any of you guys, anybody on this team, anybody in the city. It’s pretty relaxed here.
“Obviously, my family is close here, and I live with my girlfriend here. I grew up in the United States, but it’s also the English Premier League.”
Espinoza’s contract with Sporting KC ends after the season, so even if no move happens, odds are good he’ll move on before the 2013 season.
“Sporting KC also announced Thursday that Espinoza, who plays internationally for Honduras, and Haitian native Peterson Joseph had been selected by their respective national teams to play in upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Both players will be available for Sporting KC’s next match Saturday against Toronto FC at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Bunbury refuses to sulk
Forward Teal Bunbury, who tore his ACL in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls, spoke with reporters Wednesday about his season-ending right knee injury after Sporting KC’s training session.
“I’m feeling good,” said Bunbury, who was scheduled for surgery today. “Hearing all the support has really been keeping my spirits up.”
Bunbury, 23, was injured in the fourth minute while popping a ball into the Red Bulls’ box for an assist on Kei Kamara’s team-leading 10th goal. He’s likely to be sidelined for six months or more.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.