Sporting Kansas City’s tight position under the salary cap will preclude a busy summer transfer window. But it won’t prompt an altogether idle one.
Sporting KC has agreed to contract terms with Portuguese defender Luis Martins, multiple sources told The Star, though the signing is pending the clearance of Martins’ visa and international transfer certificate.
Martins, a left back who turned 27 last month, would arrive in Kansas City on a free transfer, agreeing to a multi-year contract that will not require allocation money, sources said.
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes declined comment on the signing but confirmed to The Star that Martins is “a player who we’ve looked at and have some interest in.”
The acquisition would necessitate a subsequent move before Martins can join the roster. Martins would occupy an international spot on the senior roster, and Sporting KC is vacant of openings there, using its seven allowed slots on Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth, Andreu Fontas, Yohan Croizet, Botond Barath and Nicolas Hasler. To make room for Martins, Sporting can trade, release, sell or loan one of those international players, or it could acquire an additional international spot via trade within the league. None of the seven are thought to be close to acquiring a green card, another option to clear space.
Martins most recently played with Chaves in his home country, appearing in 15 of the team’s 34 league games. He scored once. After Chaves was relegated to the second division this spring, Martins and the club mutually agreed to end his employment there, according to reports in Portugal. That paved the way for his move to Sporting, his first taste of Major League Soccer. He is viewed as a player who could add pace to a lineup that lacks it.
Sporting previously targeted Martins last December, but his price tag included a hefty transfer fee. The club instead signed MLS free agent Rodney Wallace to provide competition with longtime starter Seth Sinovic. Wallace played just 27 minutes over one league match before a hip injury ended his season. Sinovic is third on the team with 17 starts, behind only midfielders Felipe Gutierrez and Ilie Sanchez.
Sporting has attempted to offer Sinovic, 32, breaks during the season, spot-starting Yohan Croizet and Jimmy Medranda at left back. But those stints were short-lived. Sinovic is in his ninth season with Sporting KC, often fighting off incoming left backs to keep his spot.
Martins’ pace would figure to give Vermes a different type of option, though the quickness of his transition to MLS remains to be seen. He will be a relatively cheap option — a straight cap charge as opposed to one requiring allocation money to squeeze his number under the salary cap. That allured Sporting KC, which has devoted much of its financial resources to staying cap compliant in 2020.
The team is likely to operate relatively quiet over the rest of the transfer window, though asked if Sporting had interests beyond Martins, Vermes replied, “Yes, we’re always looking. Always looking.”
Sporting KC (6-8-7) travels to face New York City FC at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Yankee Stadium. With 13 games remaining, Sporting is five points back of seventh-place Real Salt Lake, the current occupants of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.