The Full 90

January 26, 2012

Sporting KC CEO has high expectations for his team

Days after President Obama gave his State of the Union address, Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman stated his hopes and expectations for the team in 2012.

The Full 90

Covering Sporting Kansas City and soccer throughout the Midwest and the world

Days after President Obama gave his State of the Union address, Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman stated his hopes and expectations for the team in 2012.

And he made no bones that he might seem greedy.

“On the field, we have one goal, and that is to win a championship,” Heineman said Thursday after returning from a 24-hour business trip to London. “I’m not sure if the team likes to hear it, but, in my mind, if we don’t win, it’s disappointing.”

Dating back to last season when Sporting KC unveiled Livestrong Sporting Park and went on a worst-to-first romp to the regular-season Eastern Conference crown, Heineman hasn’t been shy about trumpeting his desire to collect multiple championships.

And he doesn’t worry about how others in the organization react to such pronouncements, even the potential target it puts on Sporting KC’s players.

“They are pro athletes and professional coaches, and winning championships is what the whole business is about,” Heineman said. “That is the expectation we have always said we have as an organization, and that is the expectation we need to have as an organization.”

Spearheaded by manager Peter Vermes, the club focused on adding depth throughout the roster during the offseason, and Heineman is thrilled with the results so far.

“It was Peter’s stated desire that he would like the ones and twos to be closer to one another, which is basically how we built the roster,” Heineman said. “I think we’ve improved depth throughout the team dramatically. I wouldn’t say it’s been a rebuilding as much as a retooling. We retained a solid core of players who are still the foundation of the team.”

Of course, the roster remake is never complete. Sporting KC continues to scour the earth for a designated player to add, though no such addition seems likely during the current transfer window, Heineman said.

“There are six to eight guys we’re following — a couple in Europe, a couple in South America and a couple in Africa,” Heineman said. “We know the guys we want to bring in, but it’s a matter of coming to the right financial agreement and ironing out a few things. But there is no urgency. We feel good about the roster we have in place.”

There are pratfalls to the process, as the July addition of disappointing Brazilian player Jeferson made clear.

“The Jeferson situation was a little different,” Heineman said.

“With Jeferson, I’m not sure we did a great job with our evaluation of that guy.”

Still, Sporting KC has the cap room to maneuver if the right player — “We’re talking about No. 10s or skilled attacking players,” Heineman said — becomes available, leaving the possibilities nearly limitless.

Capitalizing on the momentum and buzz generated last season was as important of a priority as retooling the roster during the offseason, and once again, Heineman is thrilled with the gains the club made.

“Looking at our season-over-season sales, we’ve already sold 1,000 more season tickets,” he said. “We feel good about that, but we still need to deliver at a different level. We always need to be thinking about how to make the in-stadium experience better from the way to treat people to the quality of food.”

Perhaps the only piece that hasn’t fallen into place yet this offseason is a jersey sponsor despite persistent speculation that a deal is imminent.

“We’ll announce it when it’s done,” Heineman said. “But I can’t really comment right now, because we are not in the position as sole decision-maker.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber declared that he thought every team would have a jersey sponsor “within a year” during a State of the League address in November 2010, but Heineman insists that there is no pressure from the league to hammer out a deal as soon as possible.

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