Sporting Kansas City is a team that likes to get business done in time for holidays.
The Kansas City Star
This offseason, just two weeks removed from winning the 2013 MLS Cup, is no different. Already, technical director Peter Vermes has snapped up two Major League Soccer players: Sal Zizzo and Andy Gruenebaum.
Neither player is a blockbuster signing, but fresh off the cup victory with a squad that has, mostly, been together since 2011, a blockbuster signing inside the league was probably not likely anyway.
But both transactions follow a trend over the last two years of identifying a need and trying to fill it early. In this case, Zizzo provides Kansas City with a true wing presence while Gruenebaum will provide competition for Eric Kronberg in the battle to replace Jimmy Nielsen. Zizzo is a guy that Vermes has been tracking for a long time; Gruenebaum is an Overland Park-native coming home.
In exchange for both, Kansas City let go of an undisclosed portion of its mountain of allocation money* and a second round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. (Also: KC waived defenders Kyle Miller and Brendan Ruiz.)
*Allocation money is closely guarded by the league and the team. But clubs can gain allocation funds by qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League (which KC did in 2013 and 2014) and for the transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value (which KC did with Kei Kamara). Teams can also get funds from purchased third designated player roster spots. I don't know for sure if KC did this, but they certainly didn't use its third DP slot. Sporting KC only had one designated player, Claudio Bieler.
That has also been Kansas City's modus operandi the last two seasons.
While re-stocking his team after the 2011 loss to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference finals, Vermes dealt for midfielder Paulo Nagamura (sending Chivas a Supplemental Draft pick), Bobby Convey (sending San Jose a temporary international slot) and Seth Sinovic (KC sent Davy Arnaud and allocation money to return Sinovic to KC after Montreal selected him in the expansion draft).
The notable outflow included: Ryan Smith (traded to Chivas for two supplemental draft picks -- including the one sent back to Chivas for Nagamura), Jeferson (waived), Craig Rocastle (waived), Milos Stojcev (waived) and Omar Bravo (free transfer).
Last year, Kansas City made three moves in December, adding Josh Gardner (giving Montreal its 2nd round SuperDraft pick in '13), Benny Feilhaber (giving New England KC's 1st pick in the '14 draft and its 2nd pick in the '15) and Ike Opara (for a 2nd round pick in the '13 draft). Kansas City also signed Claudio Bieler last December.
The notable outflow: Julio Cesar (option declined) and Michael Harrington (traded to Portland for allocation money).
With SKC's traded "picks," Chivas selected R.J. Allen (no longer in the league), Montreal took goalkeeper Brad Stuver (now with Columbus) and San Jose picked up Dan Delgado (didn't make the Quakes roster). Basically, KC traded Chivas USA Ryan Smith for two draft picks AND Nagamura. That's kind of amazing. Even if the draft pick KC kept meant nothing (defender Stefan Antonijevic never made the team).
What's more, Kansas City essentially dealt Stephane Auvray to New York for the draft pick it traded to Montreal for Gardner. If you're keeping score at home, Vermes won all of those moves.
The rest of the MLS offseason has been bonkers thus far: Seattle parted ways with several big-name players (Mauro Rosales to Chivas, Eddie Johnson to D.C. United and Adam Moffatt to Dallas) while adding defender Chad Marshall, forwards Tristan Bowen and Kenny Cooper, and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
D.C. United have been just as busy, trading for Davy Arnaud and selecting defenders Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell in the Re-Entry Draft Stage 1. Toronto has been busy too, trading for San Jose's Justin Morrow and Dallas midfielder Jackson.
Kansas City might not be done making moves either.
The next stage is Wednesday at 2 p.m. with the Re-Entry Draft Stage 2. The second stage includes players who had options declined or are out of contract. (See the full list of players here.)
There are a few interesting/useful names on the list (Dwayne De Rosario, David Ferreira, Joel Lindpere, Fabian Espindola, Brandon McDonald and Justin Braun), but for a team like Sporting KC, with very few openings as of right now, none are that likely to be drafted by Vermes.
If I had to put my finger on one player KC could find a use for: Brandon Barklage. He's a versatile, experienced and relatively inexpensive ($65,000 base salary in 2013) player for a team that likes versatile, experienced and relatively inexpensive players. He's been a midfielder and a right back during his MLS career. (Quite a few of KC's transactions the last few years have been disregarded MLS journeymen in need of a new home: Nagamura, Gardner, Opara. Two of those have worked out pretty well.)
Kansas City has selected one player in the last three Re-Entry drafts: Frankie Hejduk during the second-stage of the 2012 draft. His rights were traded to Los Angeles for Luke Sassano.