Hours after Sporting Kansas City was eliminated from last year’s playoffs, one of its owners promised to invest in a striker. Days later, coach Peter Vermes pinpointed his team’s inability to finish scoring chances as a primary point of concern, and he candidly added that the solution to the problem was not currently on the roster.
Less than a week before the club departs for preseason camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., an alternative solution still isn’t on the roster.
Although Sporting Kansas City’s longstanding search for a striker has spanned leagues across the globe, it’s yet to bear results.
Operative word: Yet.
Members of the Sporting Kansas City front office remain convinced they will add a forward sometime this month, perhaps even in the coming days. They describe the search as exhaustive, but frustrating would be applicable, too.
On at least two occasions, Sporting KC has agreed to a multi-year deal with a forward, but the player’s club has nixed the transfer, deciding it does not want to sell one of its starters in the middle of the European season. While not addressing those situations specifically, Vermes said, “There are some things you can’t do anything about, but we’re ready for that. That’s what we go through. We’re prepared for stuff like that.”
On to the next one.
Sporting KC is shopping in the same marketplace it entered this offseason — high-dollar designated players — along with those falling into a less expensive tier. The outcome of the club’s attempt to land someone in the former category will dictate the search for a player in the latter.
Sporting KC has financial flexibility, both in terms of ownership commitment and space within the salary cap, to add designated players. It signed one earlier this winter in attacking midfielder Yohan Croizet, who projects as the starter on opening day in March.
But the top of the wish list from the outset of winter was a goal-scoring forward. And that remains true today. Asked if he anticipated accomplishing that goal before the transfer window closes on Jan. 31, Vermes said, “We do.”
Pressed for why it hasn’t happened yet, he added, “We’re not the reactionary type. We’re not going to all of a sudden abandon all of our philosophies. We know exactly what we want to do here. It still has to be the right person that fits what we want to do.”
If there is concern about the length of the process, Vermes didn’t indicate it during his answers.
The marketplace has changed within MLS. Teams are spending more with each passing offseason, and Sporting KC plans to be one of them. There is always an emphasis to sign the right players, but perhaps even more so when the stakes grow.
Even if an addition comes quickly, which is a possibility but not a certainty, it’s unlikely that player would be present for the start of preseason on Jan. 23. Paperwork for international transfers takes time.
For Sporting KC, getting a player for the first wave of preseason is more ideal than necessary, Vermes said. The vision is a long-term solution rather than a quick fix. Add to that, the players Sporting KC are scouting are in the midst of their seasons overseas, so the club would expect them to be in form upon arrival.
“It would be great to start preseason with all the guys that we want for the entire season, but unfortunately, that’s not realistic,” Vermes said. “... but that’s OK. We’re prepared for that.”