Sporting KC

As transfer window opens, Sporting KC sets sights on striker

Sporting Kansas City's Diego Rubio (left) and Khiry Shelton have split time at striker this season.
Sporting Kansas City's Diego Rubio (left) and Khiry Shelton have split time at striker this season. The Associated Press

The pursuit of a striker was postponed last offseason, Sporting Kansas City content to wait until summer and shift its resources to surrounding positions. The aftermath is the most productive offense in franchise history, with this year’s club on pace to score more often than any of its predecessors.

But the search for a striker forges ahead.

As the MLS summer transfer window opened Tuesday, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes told The Star the team has made multiple offers for center forwards. But no deal is imminent.

“We have offers out there,” Vermes said. “We’re working hard to make something happen. We have been for awhile. It’s not like we just now decided to get after it. We’ve been getting after it.”

Sporting KC is optimistic it can reach multi-year contract agreements with the players it covets — residing in familiar locations such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and France — but it has not agreed to transfer fees with the clubs. That is the same obstacle that prevented an acquisition during the winter window, prompting Sporting KC to delay its search. It is unclear if the asking prices have changed in the ensuing months.

In part due to the allocation money acquired in last summer’s trade of forward Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC has enough wiggle room within the salary cap to make an addition of any size fit on its roster, and club ownership has approved a significant transfer fee, if one is required. According to sources familiar with the search, Sporting KC is aiming for a major impact addition and is hesitant to settle for a second-tier signing.

Vermes has publicly stated his desire to add a center forward since the end of the 2017 season. His final opportunity to supplement the 2018 roster concludes with the close of the summer transfer window on Aug. 8.

Sporting KC is on pace to score a franchise-record 63 goals this season, despite limited goal-scoring output from its strikers. Khiry Shelton leads the team with 13 starts there. He has two goals, one in a substitute role.

But a source told The Star that Shelton is scheduled to undergo surgery on his knee after suffering an undisclosed injury during Saturday’s draw with Toronto FC. The surgery is expected to sideline Shelton for more than a month, though it is not considered to be season-ending.

That will not have much of an effect on Sporting Kansas City’s quest for the position in the overseas market. It planned to be active regardless. Diego Rubio is likely to slot in as the team’s starting striker in the interim.

Vermes told the Star he and Brian Bliss, the director of player personnel, are also seeking to add depth on all three lines during the transfer window. Those asks figure to be less urgent, particularly with midfielder Felipe Gutierrez and left back Jimmy Medranda slated for returns later this summer.

Gutierrez, the highest-priced player in franchise history, has returned to full training and could appear as an option off the bench as soon as this weekend, when the club travels to face the New York Red Bulls.

“It will be like getting a new player,” Vermes said. “At some point, Jimmy comes back, too. Those things will help in a lot of ways.”

Gutierrez scored five goals in his first five MLS matches before undergoing sports hernia surgery in May. He was part of the solution to an offense that struggled to score goals down the stretch of 2017. Sporting KC also brought in Johnny Russell and Yohan Croizet and has benefited from Daniel Salloi’s breakout season.