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Key quotes from Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes at Media Day 2024



Thad Bell Photography

Tuesday was Media Day at Children’s Mercy Park in front of Sporting Kansas City’s 2024 home opening match versus Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening (7:30pm, KO 7:40pm). Sporting began the season with a 1-1 draw at Houston Dynamo last Saturday.

An annual feature of media day is an open session with Manager Peter Vermes for the 70+ media present. Both the recent past and the present are covered by media questions; however, this incarnation took us back farther. The 2024 edition – nearly 30 minutes in duration – featured many interesting nuggets from the impact of last season’s dramatic recovery from the early season tailspin and all therein, including Vermes’ continued resolute stance, to insight on the original acquisition of now veteran and soon to be 38-years-old goalkeeper Tim Melia and a major reason why there is an ongoing search for a Sporting Director. And much more.

Related: Media Day Interviews with Afrifa, Vargas, Vermes, and Salloi

So let us save you some time from wading through all that was covered. Here are the most interesting quotes (with the general topic or the prompting question provided when imperative) from Vermes’ conference with the press:

On the 1-1 draw at Houston…   

“Our guys did some of the things that we worked on in preseason.”

Is there a carry-over effect from the way last season ended?

“Well, let’s hope so… For the guys that were here, I think there is definitely a carry over. I also think they also feel very proud about what they did because they knew it wasn’t easy early on. There is a level of commitment that you have to show as a player, then you have to execute when the time comes. They also understand what it was like and the other side of that they have an inner strength that they may not have had before.”

Stephen Afrifa and Alenis Vargas getting time in the draw…

“With a very healthy team, you know get opportunities because you deserve it, not because of the absences of other players. That changes thing immensely. Both those guys deserved a chance to get on the field because of how well they performed throughout the entire preseason. Big jump for Afrifa from last year to this year, and Alenis, he showed a lot in preseason in a very condensed period of time.

“The bottom line is, they have to keep progressing. That’s all I’m ever looking for in a player. That’s why guys get time.”

How the initial signing of Tim Melia from the MLS goalkeeper pool before the 2015 season came about…

When Sporting pulled Melia from the goalkeeper pool in 2014 for a small, emergency sting, Melia caught Vermes’ eye on two plays.

After the 2014 season, Kansas City was looking for a goalkeeper. Vermes arranged for Melia to train under former Sporting goalkeeper (and Sporting Legend) Jimmy Nielsen in Oklahoma for a five-day assessment. Nielsen called Vermes on day two and said, “Sign the guy. I don’t know if he’s your number one, but he’s for sure number two. He could be number one.”

On where Melia has most grown, Vermes stated, “In the run last year, bringing his calmness and experience was really good.”

Speaking of calmness and experience, 16 years of being Sporting’s manager have brought Vermes those qualities… for sure the experience. Yet, even the calmness, except when a bit of emphasis is called for…

Does anything change for you over your 16 years?

“At the end of the day, it’s about people, adapting and adjusting to all the different people that come in. We have a saying, ‘From many different paths, we become one.’ I take a lot of interest in knowing who [the players] are, where they come from, what their situation is like.

“[And that] the game is always changing… The 4-3-3 with a holding defensive midfielder, that’s the way I play. But within that there are so many nuances that go into that style of play. It can look so many different ways depending on what you do. So, I’m always adapting and adjusting.”

What have you learned about yourself?

“…I’ve learned I have to go with my gut. I listen to everybody – sometimes too much, as I’ve been told in the past – but I don’t think that because two heads are better than one… and so forth. As the years have gone on, I have focused more on us, as opposed to the opponent. We know what the opponent does and what they are good at. But if we are really good at what we do, that can rule the day.”

“Sometimes it’s adding things to what you do.” Vermes now uses a test to find the player’s archetype and how he learns. This test aids in how to teach players and reveal points to them. Does he need to take him to the field to show him? Does he have to show him a video? Does he need to see the point on the whiteboard? Or does he just need to talk with the guy?

A related question came later: “What kind of mental preparation before and after games for recovery… Is there a psychologist?

“We have a full-time mental health coach. She’s great…. I understand the players need someone different to talk to than myself or one of the other staff members. She and us both are always available.”

“[Psychological care has] always been a big part of the business… Everybody meets at least once during preseason. After that, it becomes voluntary. There are some group sessions they don’t have to participate in.”

A big question that fans have been wondering about was answered soon after. It came out near the end of the talk that there is an ongoing search for a Sporting Director after the Gavin Wilkinson hire and the near-rage response from fans and more that prompted a termination of that relationship.

“Yes, there is,” was Vermes’ response to the question of if a search was ongoing.

Some insight as to why the idea came across the minds of the Sporting brass came in a question previous.

When looking at contracts and options, conceivably you guys could move on from nearly two-thirds of the roster at the end of this season… How can that affect a player’s psyche or performance?

“I’m trying to get out of that business of [contract negotiations], just so we’re clear [on that]. I’ve been doing that job for 18 years, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t think it’s good anymore for a lot of reasons, just for the question you are asking me.”

“I will comment on the part of being a player. I’ve seen players get affected negatively, and I’ve seen guys get incredibly charged up in those situations. At the end of the day, we are all under contract. So, you have one thing to do, and that is to perform. Either way, it’s the best, for a staff member or a player; if you are good at your job, then you nothing to worry about.”

Lastly, Vermes was prompted to reveal what the most difficult part of the last season was, the digging of a pit early on and the subsequent climbing out of it.

“The biggest thing I was focused on was the players… It takes so much work and so much time to build confidence. And you can lose confidence so quickly, Vermes stated. “When we weren’t getting the results and the guys were feeling the pressure, I told them ‘You’re going to be fine. I believe in you guys.’ It got to the point that I believed in them a lot more than they believed in themselves…”

Vermes, though, knew the question was bent towards the “Vermes out” voices that progressively grew louder.

“Sometimes it takes time. In this business not everyone wants to give you time… A very small portion of the fan base that was vocal, wanted me out.

“What they didn’t understand, and what I proved to be right on, was that in that moment, if they had fired me, the next guy they would have brought in would have to wait the same amount of time that I would have for all those players to come back and have an impact in the team.”

“It’s no disrespect to the players that were playing. Every team is built into three buckets: your veteran group, the middle group that is just about to break into the veteran group and get a lot of minutes, then there is that younger group, there are just, ‘Whatever you give me, I’m going to take and I’ll go crazy when I get it.’ The problem was that a bunch of the guys at that top group were out. That second group was then given the majority of the minutes, and they aren’t built mentally and physically for that yet.”

Vermes emphasized that only a handful of teams like Premier League side Manchester City have the luxury of having a full roster of players who can consistently step in.

“We needed that time to get back to your team.”

“When I went into the Member’s Club. I had my say because it’s who I am. I can’t play the two-faced game. I thought [“Vermes out”] was disrespectful. This is what I believe. This is why I think it was. I wanted to confront those people – I don’t know if it was 3, 10, 20, 40… The rest, I love this fanbase, this stadium, I love Kansas. I’ve been here for going on my 24th year. I played here. I am very privileged to be at this club doing what I do. I’ve been offered other opportunities, and I’ve never left because I believe in the project, in the club, the ownership, the staff, the fans, the players. And I want to try and keep winning with it.”

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