Sporting KC

Sporting KC signs Chilean national team midfielder as ‘designated player’

Felipe Gutiérrez 'definitely an impact player' for Sporting KC

Sporting Kansas City signed Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez to a multi-year contract Tuesday.
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Sporting Kansas City signed Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez to a multi-year contract Tuesday.

When Sporting Kansas City departs Friday for its second wave of preseason camp in Tucson, Ariz., it will have a few additions on the travel list.

Sporting KC officially signed Chilean national team midfielder Felipe Gutierrez to a designated player contract Tuesday. The deal spans three seasons with a club option for a fourth.

Gutiérrez, 27, arrived in Kansas City late last week and joined the team for a workout at Pinnacle, its new training home, on Tuesday morning.

“There’s many aspects why I came here,” Gutiérrez said, using new teammate Roger Espinoza as a translator. “It’s a good step in my career. I hope I can continue farther in the club.”

Newly signed winger Johnny Russell, inked to a deal last week, is scheduled to join the team for the first time early next week in Tucson. And former Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans, an MLS free agent, will also practice with the team in Tucson in search of a contract.

The front office envisions both confirmed signings — Russell and Gutierrez — as potential significant additions capable of seeing plenty of playing time at their respective positions. Gutierrez has played 35 matches with the Chile men’s national team, four of them at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“If there’s a player that fits into our system, he’s one of those guys,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s relentless in the way that he goes after the ball. He’s got a great engine (and) can go up and down the field. Really, really street smart on the field. Definitely a player that’s going to have an impact on our team.”

Exactly where that will be remains to be determined.

Gutierrez most frequently inhabits the central midfield and therefore doesn’t fit a prominent need for Sporting KC, which has Ilie Sanchez and Roger Espinoza in the midfield and signed Yohan Croizet to a designated player contract earlier this offseason. Croizet is most noted for playing atop the midfield. Thus, Gutiérrez will either place one of those three on the bench or push Croizet to the wing.

Gutiérrez has played in the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, along with his native Chile. He was most recently playing on loan with Internacional in Brazil, with his rights owned by Real Betis in Spain.

Between those stops, he has started at all three midfield positions.

“He can play anywhere in the midfield, which is great. We need a player like that,” Vermes said.

Gutiérrez will be one of three allowed designated players on Sporting Kansas City’s roster. The threshold for a designated player in 2017 was those who earned at least $480,625 per season. That number will increase in 2018.

Evans, who had been with Seattle since 2009, is attempting to prolong his career. A back injury ended his 2017 season in August. He will turn 33 in April.

“We’re going to see if he can get back to full strength. If he can, I think he can be really useful for our club,” Vermes said. “One thing I know about him (is that) he’s an incredible competitor, and he’s a great team guy, which it doesn’t hurt to add those things. But he and us both want to make sure he’s able to give what he can based on health. And so far, so good.”

Take a look inside Pinnacle, the new training center for Sporting KC. The $75-million facility in Kansas City, Kan., will also be used by U.S. Soccer and will include the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center.