So, I wanted to write you a note about Kei. I’m sure you know by now we’ve agreed to loan Kei to Norwich City in the EPL until early May. I’ve just returned from Tucson and had the opportunity to be very involved in this, and I spoke with Kei over the past couple days as we worked through things. I need to preface this by telling you that we love having Kei on our team. He’s performed, connected with fans and created a life for himself in Kansas City that will last long after he’s done with soccer.
One of the frustrating things for fans, but a fact of life, is that our players will have aspirations to play in the top leagues throughout the world – most especially the EPL. If we are to continue on the track of being a well-respected organization for player development, then it will be inevitable that teams will come after our players and that our players will have desires to go test their talents in these top leagues.
As an organization, we are never going to begrudge them for it – and we certainly don’t in this case with Kei. We’ve committed to you that our goal is to produce a consistent, championship-caliber team over the long-term. We’ve been outspoken early this year that an MLS championship is our primary goal. In light of today’s news, nothing has changed in our expectations. It’s situations like this that test our organization’s ability to maximize the opportunity to meet both of those goals, while working with our players’ aspirations and professional development.
Strange as it may seem, we think this gives us the best opportunity to keep Kei long-term. As much as he loves Kansas City, Kei deeply wants to experience the EPL and this is his chance. So we’ve partnered with him to give him the chance to do so for the first 10 games this season. The loan proceeds will allow us to reinvest in our existing young core of players and solidify their futures in the club. In the event Kei is signed by Norwich City, our club would receive a very fair transfer fee that again, we’d use to reinvest in our club. If Kei returns in May, his contract is extended and we will work in earnest to sign him to a deal that keeps him with the club through the end of his career. If we hadn’t have done this, Kei would have left at the end of the year as a “free” player, similar to Roger Espinoza this past year. So the risk we take is allowing him to go for 10 games this year, in hopes of getting him for years to come.
I’m not going to say to you that “this is a business,” and you have to get used to it. I know it’s not a business to you, it’s very personal. It is to us as well. We get to know these young men very well, and do what we can to create a partnership that encourages them to connect with the community and hopefully stick around for the long-term. We don’t like it when they go. I understand the impact this has on your kids as well – to the nth degree. My seven- and six-year-olds, Katherine and Charlie, don’t ask me, “Why did they let him go?” They ask me, “Why did YOU let him go?” so I get it…..
We want Kei to continue to be successful. He deserves it for the hard work he’s put in. There’s a chance we won’t get him back, and if so, we can all cheer him on in the EPL and be proud to call him one of ours. But if he comes back, I know we’ll all welcome him with #heartshapedhands.