Sporting KC

Source: Sporting KC agrees to deals with wingers Latif Blessing and Gerso Fernandes

Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes.
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes.

Sporting Kansas City is renovating — or at least supplementing — the front line of its offense in 2017.

Sporting KC has agreed to deals in principle with wingers Latif Blessing and Gerso Fernandes, a source told The Star. The agreements will bring both players to MLS for the first time.

Fernandes, 25, has played professionally in Portugal for six seasons. Blessing, 19, was recently named the most valuable player of the Ghana Premier League after leading the league with 17 goals.

While Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer has scored 50 goals over the past three years — including 16 in 2016, despite relinquishing penalty-kick duties — Sporting KC has endured a dip in production from those surrounding him on the front line.

In 2016, Jacob Peterson led all wide attacking players with six goals for Sporting KC, but he departed for Atlanta United in a free-agency agreement announced last week. Graham Zusi and Brad Davis were next on that list with two goals each. Comparatively, when Sporting KC won the MLS Cup in 2013, it had four players who scored at least four goals from the position — Kei Kamara (seven), Zusi (six), Soony Saad (four) and C.J. Sapong (four).

The qualities of Fernandes and Blessing fit the profile of Sporting Kansas City’s offseason wish list. In an interview with The Star earlier this month, coach Peter Vermes expressed a desire to increase the pace of the team’s attack.

Blessing is a proven goal scorer who could perhaps lighten the load for Dwyer, who remained in the lineup late last season as the team’s top goal-scoring option despite battling an ankle injury that required surgery in November. Dwyer is expected to be ready for the preseason in late January.

According to a report by Football Ghana, Blessing has been included on the Ghanaian national team’s 30-player provision roster for the Africa Cup of Nations. Ghana has qualified for the last three World Cups, advancing past the group stage in two of them.

Blessing played on the wing for his club team, Liberty Professional. He told reporters last January that he turned down transfer opportunities to stay home for one more year.

Fernandes, who primarily occupies the left side of the offense, is the higher profile addition of the two. As recently as last week, he appeared in a match for the Portuguese club Belenenses, which plays in the first division in Portugal. He has made 14 appearances this season for Belenenses, including nine starts, contributing one goal.