Sporting Kansas City isn’t going to waste any time remaking its roster.
A little more than a week after cutting ties with several players — including both veteran goalkeepers — Peter Vermes traded away fan-favorites Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong during a half-day trade window ahead of Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft. The team also acquired Columbus midfielder Bernardo Añor in a separate trade. Reports that KC was parting ways with forward Soony Saad — who could be headed to Thailand of all places — started to trickle out during the evening as well.
Those weren’t the only pieces of business on Monday as Kansas City’s protected list was revealed for the expansion draft. Not on it? Designated player Claudio Bieler and Honduran midfielder Jorge Claros — both are available for selection by Orlando or New York. (Also unprotected: Jacob Peterson, Martin Steuble, Saad and Christian Duke.) See the entire list here.
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Sporting traded Collin to expansion Orlando City for allocation money and future considerations. Sapong was dealt to Philadelphia for the Union’s first pick in the 2015 SuperDraft (it’s #10). To acquire Añor, Vermes gave up some allocation money.
Where does that leave Kansas City? If Saad is truly gone, that leaves KC with just 20 players on the roster and only 18 under contract for 2015 — Kevin Ellis and Peterson have received bona-fide offers, but haven’t signed yet. This doesn’t include the potential players lost on Wednesday.
That’s a lot to digest. So here are three thoughts on Monday’s roster developments.
1. Why is Sporting KC blowing up the roster?
It’s safe to say at this point that 2014 didn’t go well. (It’s been literally safe to say that for months now.) Going into 2015 with the same exact group was never going to be an option. Losing — and moving to the more difficult Western Conference — has that effect on a front office.
However, Kansas City was fairly hard-up to the salary cap last year and had a few players who had either regressed, underperformed or both.
Simply put: If you wanna make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
The process that Peter Vermes is going through right now is asset allocation. It’s been proven a few times over, the best way to remake a roster in this league is to accumulate some assets.
KC now has a few added assets — mainly in the form of picks and allocation money. These moves have also created space on the roster.
For the cost of a defender KC couldn’t afford* and a forward/winger that couldn’t break into the first team, Vermes now has allocation money (which I’ve heard is a pretty substantial figure, but those aren’t released to the public or media) and a lot of draft picks.
*Let’s pour one out for the Frenchman. For all the grief Collin got toward the end of his tenure with KC, it’s worth noting that he was the team’s MVP in the MLS Cup after all.
As for right now, Sporting holds the #10, #12 and #20 picks in the first round of the upcoming MLS SuperDraft. (And one in the second, third and fourth too.)
In the recent past, Vermes The Technical Director has shown an aptitude for working the right levers when it comes to trading in the league — and getting an asset for out-of-favor players.
Don’t forget, in 2013 he turned two draft picks into Benny Feilhaber. Before that, Vermes turned a supplemental draft pick (acquired for Ryan Smith) into Paulo Nagamura. (He also dealt a second-round pick for Ike Opara in 2012 as well.)
He’s also, in case you’ve forgotten, kind of good at college scouting — Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Chance Myers, Dom Dwyer, Sapong and Teal Bunbury all came to the team via the SuperDraft.
2. What to expect when you’re expanding
Kansas City protected a pretty predictable 11 players. (I called 8 of the 11 last week.) The notable players left exposed: Bieler, Claros, Peterson, Saad, Steuble and Duke.*
*The players who have already had options declined — Eric Kronberg, Andy Gruenebaum, Toni Dovale, etc. — are also available in this draft.
Of that batch, I’d say Peterson and Saad are the most enticing to the two newcomers. Peterson, especially, can provide a team instant grit and positional flexibility.
However, I think the most interesting thing to watch on Wednesday involves Orlando and the future considerations it owes Kansas City as part of the Collin trade. Those considerations will be a player.
Here’s my theory: One of the players Orlando selects on Wednesday will be immediately shipped to Kansas City as a make-good for Collin. It’s a way for Vermes to get the maximum return for Collin (money and a player), while also keeping open his options on picking the player to exchange.
My best guess? Philly goalkeeper Zac MacMath. What I’d like to see happen? New England’s Patrick Mullins.
Though, wouldn’t it be fun if it was Eddie Johnson?
3. What’s the deal with Añor?
Kansas City did make an addition on Monday as Vermes brought in Bernardo Añor, a left and central midfielder previously with the Columbus Crew.*
*You might remember his as the guy who had his leg destroyed by Kei Kamara. (Hard to see those guys being teammates next year.)
Añor is a pretty solid wide midfielder who pitched in 6 goals last year — though, with just one assist and 53 shots it doesn’t seem like he likes to share that much.
I think of him as a more physical option than Dovale and a more technically skilled option than Sal Zizzo/Sapong. As a pure left-sided option, he would also allow Zusi to move back to the right wing where he can ping in dangerous crosses.
But Añor isn’t the only signing KC will make. Just the first.
Vermes still has to shop for a goalkeeper (or two), another center back*, depth at fullback, depth at forward and (potentially) a full-time defensive midfielder. A little more depth and athleticism on the wing wouldn’t hurt either.
*Ike Opara is reportedly ahead of schedule on his return. That’s huge for KC’s backline.
This is only Day One of the process. There are many more to come, many spots to fill and many ways to fill them.