While the nature of the offseason targets remained publicly vague, a thread within the turnover on Sporting Kansas City’s roster offered insight into the team’s pursuits.
Youth and speed.
The four most notable offseason acquisitions — winger Gerso Fernandes, midfielder Ilie Sanchez, forward Latif Blessing and defender Igor Juliao — average 23.3 years in age. And at least according to Sporting KC brass, they possess a similar quality of speed.
“Is it SKC 2.0?” manager Peter Vermes said. “I think we’ve added some really interesting pieces that could provide us with some really good qualities that maybe we haven’t had here recently.”
In a few days, Sporting KC will begin to find a more precise answer. The club is scheduled to begin the first wave of its preseason camp Monday in Tucson, Ariz. Vermes met with media Friday for the final time before the trip to the Southwest, and select players will speak with media Sunday.
Their arrival in Arizona will be greeted with a bit of departure from the past two preseasons, given the changes to the roster — and the fact the club hopes the newcomers are able to make an impact from the get-go.
Sporting KC opens its season March 4 at D.C. United.
“Obviously it’s going to take a little time to bring everything together,” Vermes said. “That’s the beauty of this profession — no matter how well or how poorly you did one (season), you gotta start all over and rebuild. I love that challenge of it.”
The core group remained largely in place, even if other options were briefly considered. That includes Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber, a group that has been largely responsible for Sporting KC reaching six straight postseasons. But the team has not won a playoff game since it lifted the 2013 MLS Cup trophy.
With the preseason on the horizon, Vermes classified his roster as “really, really close” to complete for the start of the 2017 season.
It’s a reasonable to assume that all of the aforementioned additions will at least compete for a spot in the lineup, particularly Fernandes, who arrives from Portugal as a designated player. He will be tasked with adding a playmaking dimension to the offense, with Ghanian-born Blessing potentially offering a secondary scoring option.
Both will infuse the formation with much needed pace.
“I think it’s going to be a hungry group,” Vermes said. “We got a lot of youth on the team. We feel that we needed to make a little bit of a turn within the group.”
Some other items from Vermes’ press conference Friday:
▪ Zusi and Feilhaber are with the U.S. national team and will not be present for the initial leg of Sporting Kansas City’s preseason camp.
Zusi is playing right back under new national team coach Bruce Arena. He played the position a couple of times for Sporting KC in 2016.
“He’s in our plans,” Vermes said of Zusi’s future position with Sporting KC. “That’s why he’s here. We’ll figure out over the course of the season where his skills will lend themselves best for our team.”
▪ Forward Diego Rubio will miss at least the first half of the season while he recovers from knee surgery. Rubio torn his anterior cruciate ligament in practice late last season.
▪ After Besler and Espinoza each took their turns in the captaincy role in 2016, Vermes said he will wait until closer to the season opener before naming a captain.