In an offseason starting to resemble the most lucrative roster overhaul in Sporting Kansas City history, the club is nearing another significant addition.
Sporting KC is progressing toward a multi-year contract with Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez, sources told The Star.
The offer presented to Gutiérrez — which has not yet been completed — would pay him in the range of a designated player, the sources said. The two sides are optimistic about a conclusion being reached by the end of the week.
Although that deal is not yet finalized, Sporting KC announced Wednesday that its pact with winger Johnny Russell has been made official. Russell, acquired in a transfer deal from Derby County FC of the English Football League Championship, will join the team for preseason next week.
Gutiérrez, 27, is a player who Sporting KC initially targeted years earlier. He is a regular for the Chilean men’s national team, with 35 career appearances, and represented his home country in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, playing in four matches. He also was a member of the Chile team that won the 2015 Copa America championship.
Although Gutiérrez primarily occupies the central midfield, he is considered capable of playing any of the three midfield spots in Sporting KC’s 4-3-3 system. Earlier this offseason, Sporting KC inked midfielder Yohan Croizet to a designated-player contract. If a deal is completed with Gutiérrez, the addition could push Croizet to the wing.
It’s not yet clear if Sporting KC would attempt to buy down Gutiérrez’s contract under the salary cap.
Gutiérrez does not necessarily fit a glaring need in Kansas City — the club continues its search for a striker — but he has long been coveted by Sporting KC’s front office. He would arrive in Kansas City with a resume that includes stops in the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, in addition to his home Chile.
Most recently, Gutiérrez, who is listed at 5-7, was owned by Real Betis, a Spanish club playing in La Liga. But he had been loaned to Internacional in Brazil. Upon returning from the loan earlier this month, he and Betis agreed to break his contract, according to a report from international publication AS Chile.
Gutiérrez possesses a similar trait as Sporting KC’s previous acquisitions this winter — versatility.
Russell, 27, can play on both wings and as an underneath forward. Sporting KC had been eyeing him for two months, after receiving a tip from former Wizards player Mo Johnston that Russell might be interested in a move to MLS and Kansas City specifically.
“I think that (Russell) has really good attacking qualities that can obviously provide us with something that our team needs, (and) that is we need to be better in the attacking third,” coach Peter Vermes said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to help with that.”
Sporting KC has spent the offseason beefing up its offense, and even with those two late-January additions, it is continuing its search for a striker. The team has extended offers to multiple players and remains optimistic it will add a forward — and potentially another designated player — before the season opener on March 4.