The MLS Western Conference leaders won’t stand pat this summer.
Sporting Kansas City has agreed to a deal with Spanish attacking player Cristian Lobato on a transfer that was made official Thursday. Lobato will be eligible to join the club when the transfer window opens next month.
Lobato, 28, most recently played for Spanish club Gimnastic de Tarragona, where he scored twice in 45 games. He will be asked to bolster an offense that ranks sixth in the West with 22 goals. He is an offensive-driven player capable of playing any of the three spots on the front line or in the midfield, per Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes.
“He is a versatile player,” Vermes said. ““We weren’t sure if we would be able to add Cristian in this coming window, but our player personnel department did a fantastic job to solidify this acquisition.”
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While the club believes Lobato has the potential to make an immediate impact — and perhaps enter the starting lineup at some point in 2017 — he will not make a designated player salary, a source told The Star.
Lobato, who is 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, is unfamiliar to MLS, but a recognizable face awaits in the Sporting KC locker room. Lobato and Sporting KC defensive midfielder Ilie Sanchez were teammates for the Barcelona B team for two seasons from 2011-2013. Lobato has played more than 150 professional matches since 2008.
“I’ve followed MLS more closely since Ilie joined, and I’m excited to get started with Sporting KC,” Lobato said. “I really like the way the team plays, and I think I can adapt quickie because of my characteristics as a player.”
He will be eligible to join the Sporting KC roster on July 10, when the secondary transfer window opens in MLS. But he is expected to arrive in Kansas City beforehand. Sporting Kansas City’s first MLS match after the transfer window opens is July 22 at Real Salt Lake.He will be eligible to join the Sporting KC roster on July 10, when the secondary transfer window opens in MLS. But he is expected to arrive in Kansas City beforehand. Sporting Kansas City’s first MLS match after the transfer window opens is July 22 at Real Salt Lake.
Lobato is most likely to see time on the wing for Sporting KC, though injuries and international absences could alter that. Currently, striker Dom Dwyer and wingers Gerso Fernandes and Jimmy Medranda make up the starting front line for Sporting KC. Medranda is also capable of playing in the midfield, which has recently pushed Latif Blessing into the lineup as a starting winger.
Sporting KC leads the Western Conference by a five-point cushion heading into Saturday’s home match against the Portland Timbers.