The late-season slumps weren’t exactly mirror images of each other, but there was enough correlation over the past two Sporting Kansas City campaigns to demand change.
After the team endured a myriad of injuries in 2014-15, manager Peter Vermes turned his attention this offseason toward formulating a Plan B. He added depth on the back line, in the midfield and on the wings. But one gap remained — protection behind forward Dom Dwyer.
Sporting KC agreed to a contract with 22-year-old Chilean striker Diego Rubio Köstner, sources told The Star on Thursday.
Rubio will join the roster as a young designated player. In other words, per MLS rules, he will count $200,000 toward the salary cap, even if his salary exceeds that figure.
The signing comes only days before Sporting KC travels to Seattle for its season opener at 6 p.m. Sunday. The club held its season-launch party on Thursday at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.
“I think when you look at our roster this season, we have incredible depth across all three lines,” Vermes said. “That means we have a lot of competition at each position, and that’s going to be a great thing for us in the long run.”
Rubio will open his MLS career as a backup but could become an immediate candidate for playing time. His addition became more of a necessity after the offseason departure of Krisztian Nemeth, who was transferred to Al-Gharafa SC in Qatar. Nemeth was second on the team in scoring last season.
At 5-foot-10, Rubio possesses a similar build to Dwyer and replicates his playing style as well. Although only 22, Rubio has an extensive professional career that began in his teenage years.
He has played for six clubs and joined Sporting Clube de Portugal when he was 17, though he spent much of his time on loan. While playing for Sporting Clube de Portugal’s reserve team, he scored 22 goals across 52 total appearances.