This past Saturday, Sporting Kansas City completed their penultimate preseason game before the 2024 Major League Soccer season starts. Sporting KC crushed Miami FC (USL Championship) 5-0 on the back of a Willy Agada hat trick.
After the game, Sporting KC Manager, Peter Vermes, spoke with the media and the KC Soccer Journal got a chance to ask if the team would be adding a Designated Player before the season started. Vermes responded that it was “highly unlikely,” which set off a smattering of panicked responses in the comments and elsewhere on the internet.
Vermes continued on finding a DP: "We're constantly trying to find someone to fit situation that we're looking for. We've had a couple opportunities, but haven't [sic] fallen through. We'll keep working towards it." #SportingKC
— KC Soccer Journal (@KCSoccerJournal) February 12, 2024
“Probably highly unlikely at the moment,” said Vermes. “We’re constantly trying to find someone to fit situation that we’re looking for. We’ve had a couple opportunities but haven’t [sic] fallen through. We’ll keep working towards it.”
I think it’s safe to say, he meant the opportunities have fallen through, but that’s just a guess. Kellyn Acosta perhaps?
Despite writing 1,800 plus words on it last week, I would say there is no need to panic. Would I feel better if the team had more quality depth? Sure! Who wouldn’t?! But not every team can be Inter Miami and convince players to come from all over the world to play alongside of one of the elite players in the world.
Sporting KC’s starters look like they are mostly quality across the board. While questions remain on this roster, particularly at center back where Vermes said they planned to add in the offseason but have yet to do so, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
Alan Pulido finished seventh in the 2023 MLS Golden Boot race, despite coming off a catastrophic injury and missing a chunk of games to start the season.
Erik Thommy, who isn’t exactly a string puller in the vein of Benny Feilhaber, still managed 11 assists last season in league play, good enough for 11th in MLS.
Tim Melia was an absolute brick wall when he recovered from injury and consistently stood on his head the couple times a game the team needed him to earn some tough results on the way to the best Western Conference record after May 1st.
Nemanja Radoja was a revelation at defensive midfielder and made this team far better when he was on the field. Keeping him on the field and healthy will be key.
Jake Davis emerged as the right back of the present out of nowhere in 2023. It seems he’ll only get better with a whole offseason to hone his craft at his new position.
Daniel Salloi remained a consistent presence on the wing leading the team in minutes, starts and appearances while knocking in seven goals and adding nine assists.
Johnny Russell put the team on his back when he finally looked fully healthy down the stretch and scored four of his eight goals in the final three regular season games.
Then there is the bench. Sure, it’s not loaded with stars or names that every fan may be familiar with, but there is a lot of young talent just waiting to break out. Willy Agada looks healthy and ready to be a super sub and bang in a dozen goals. Stephen Afrifa and Alenis Vargas join Agada as subs that are young, fast and add an element we don’t always see from the starters.
If there are too many injuries, any team would suffer. Especially in a league like MLS where parity is king. You can’t spend an unlimited amount of money to build depth across the board. But most of us have been pleading for Vermes to “play the kids” for years, and 2024 might finally be that season.
I’m a walking contradiction since I wrote ‘panic rankings’ last week but deep down I’m an optimist. I feel like several players could have breakout years and setup the future of some of the positions on the roster.
Sporting KC won’t win every game. But I also feel confident that they’ll start a lot hotter in 2024. There is no way they don’t win for 10 straight games. With any luck, when they do add a Designated Player, it’ll be something that further propels the team forward. They can sign a player until the close of the primary transfer window on April 23rd, or they could wait until the summer and add a player during the secondary window between July 18th and August 14th.
Take your time and get it right Peter. We’ll have this DP for another three or four seasons at least, so it needs to be the right move. Can the 2024 season start already?!