The fluctuation of coaches is what prompted midfielder Ilie Sanchez to first consider a change. His initial season with 1860 Munich in Germany had just concluded, a year in which the club fired three head coaches, when Sporting KC expressed interest in a transfer.
Among Sanchez’s top questions for his agent: How long has the coach been there? And how much longer does he plan to stay?
“When a team plays one way or another, it’s always because of the mentality of the coach,” Sanchez said. “You don’t have enough time, even in one season, to put all those ideas together for everybody. If you have a coach who has stayed, everybody has confidence to keep working in the same way.”
Peter Vermes’ tenure in Kansas City was a selling point for Sanchez. Perhaps the selling point.
Vermes, the longest-tenured coach in MLS, agreed to a contract extension with Sporting KC on Monday, a deal intended to keep him on board as the coach and technical director through 2023.
It’s a card. And it’s one that Vermes plays as he recruits overseas talent. Over the past several seasons, he has picked up on that trend — international players looking for a new home are often searching for stability.
“It’s a huge benefit when you can talk to a player and say, ‘Hey, listen, I’ve been with this club since 2007,’” Vermes said. “That means a lot to players because they know if you’re the guy bringing them in that you’re not gonna be sacked in three months and now they’re trying to prove themselves to a new coach and maybe they don’t fit into those plans anymore.”
There are examples throughout Sporting KC's roster. It happened to midfielder Roger Espinoza. Between two stints in Kansas City, Espinoza joined Wigan Athletic. The English club had three coaches in the span of 12 months, one of them offering Espinoza little playing time.
A similar situation befell winger Johnny Russell in his final days at Derby County. Espinoza knew the history with Sporting KC. Russell did the research before agreeing to his first MLS contract.
“I tried to find as much information on the team as I could,” Russell said. “I spoke to the manager, as well, and knew he had been here awhile. Everything seemed right.”
In his conversation with Vermes two years ago, before he agreed to travel to Kansas City, Sanchez flat-out asked Vermes about his long-term plans.
“He told me that he was going to stay here for at least the same amount of time of the contract he was offering me,” Sanchez said. “That’s always a good point to think about when you got to a new place, especially if it’s the coach who really wants you there.”
The potential of a Vermes departure falls within the U.S. national team’s perceived interest in his candidacy. Vermes addressed that possibility Monday in a conversation with The Star, acknowledging that he has spoken to representatives from U.S. Soccer this year about their coaching and general manager vacancies. But he was adamant that he “is committed to being (in Kansas City)” for the long haul.
As he continues to scour overseas talent for a potential striker this summer, the pitch will be the same.
“A coach wants to be around long-term, but players want stability, as well,” Vermes said. “They want to play in an environment and a culture in which they feel comfortable. It lends itself to the actual conversation when we’re trying to recruit players, for sure, to know that there’s a lot stability in the club. There’s no doubt that’s a big help.”