The Full 90

Ask The Full 90: Is Sporting KC inclined to spend big money on one player?

Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes.
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Sporting Kansas City opens a slate of five matches in 15 days on Saturday, when it travels to face FC Dallas. The club will be racking up its frequent flyer miles with additional trips to Trinidad and Tobago, Vancouver and Philadelphia.

Before the schedule mayhem, let’s embark on another The Full 90 mailbag. Here goes ...

I’m leading off with Corey’s question here because several others addressed a similar topic after Sporting KC stayed quiet as the transfer window closed last week.

To address Corey first: Peter Vermes is very much a forward-driven thinker who has completely put his playing days behind him. Beyond that, he played overseas. He preferred playing for less money if it meant sticking in the United States.

On the bigger picture of this club’s willingness to absorb bigger contracts: Sporting KC has vocalized a readiness to extend its budget if it can find the right fit. The club was deep into negotiations with Argentine midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the transfer window last month and at one point felt optimistic a deal may happen. He would have required a transfer fee.

Did money play a factor in those negotiations falling apart? Sure. In a small market, Sporting KC is a club that can’t afford to miss on a big expenditure. As Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman put it last offseason in a interview with The Star, Sporting KC is “just never going to be that team that’s out there spending five, six, seven million bucks on a player.”

Vermes feels the market has been inflated by other MLS incoming transfers, and he is reluctant to meet the current demands. At what point do you sacrifice your roster and salary-cap freedom to add a big name? Would you rather add a few pieces or one brand name? Those are questions on which smart minds can disagree.

But this front office has shown a keen ability to add under-the-radar players such as Krisztian Nemeth, Soni Mustivar, Jimmy Medranda and Nuno Coelho. A significant investment in one big-name player would hinder some of that flexibility.

Yeah, this is a good point and one that I frankly don’t think gets mentioned often enough. It’s somewhat of a rarity in sports for one man to have the final say in both the roster construction and the product on the field. Vermes has that luxury in assuming the role of technical director and head coach.

The simple answer is probably the most accurate answer here. More than anything, the two job titles is a sign of extreme trust from the ownership group. The five consecutive trips to the postseason and the 2013 MLS Cup have further entrenched Vermes in his job(s) security.

Some coaches considerably adapt their system based on their personnel. Other coaches acquire players to fit a system that’s already in place. Vermes certainly falls into the latter group.

And that’s the sense behind the arrangement in place in Kansas City. With Vermes preferring such a specific (and demanding) style of play, the ownership group believes he’s the best man to judge which players can adapt to it.

But you’re right: Not every move he makes as the technical director winds up being a coach-friendly one. And with both responsibilities, Vermes takes on more accountability, too.

I think we saw a slight adjustment from him in the dual roles last offseason. After a disappointing 2015, he made a concerted effort to add options and protect himself from some of those what-ifs. Lawrence Olum and Nuno Coelho were brought in to challenge incumbents Matt Besler and Kevin Ellis, who in turn have seen their playing time dwindle.

In other words, the technical director moves have offered the coach the ability to adapt. Expect the club to continue to employ this sort of roster construction moving forward.

The transfer of forward Krisztian Nemeth to Qatar hurt. There’s no denying that. Free agent Justin Mapp has been largely a bust, though injuries have played a factor. But Mapp is only on a one-year deal, so the risk there was minimal.

I’m going to rate the offseason somewhere more toward the middle. Let’s say 5/10.

Don’t forget the addition of Coelho. While Coelho has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury for a couple of months, that shouldn’t override the fact that he was playing as good as anyone in the league at his position before the injury. He will be a major piece during the stretch run for Sporting KC, a team that has returned to its defensive roots.

Bringing back Olum has also proved critical. Adding forward Diego Rubio will allow striker Dom Dwyer to rest in CCL matchups, and the club has developed a strong relationship with Rubio that could be the foundation of a deal that extends beyond this season.

Coelho is ready to start Saturday, and will likely be in the lineup with the red-card suspension of Soni Mustivar. I would expect him to either play defensive midfielder or return to the back line and push Lawrence Olum to defensive midfielder.

Nagamura is more of a question mark. While he’s likely ready to see the field, he’s not yet 90 minutes fit after missing considerable time.

More on this coming Friday at KansasCity.com. Thanks for the teaser!

That’s it for this week. Appreciate the questions.

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