Few teams have found more success with the Major League Soccer / USL PRO partnership than Sporting Kansas City. Last year, Manager Peter Vermes loaned six different players to Orlando City Soccer Club, including Dom Dwyer, who in less than half a season broke the league scoring record.
In addition to Dwyer, Vermes sent players such as Christian Duke, Jon Kempin, Kevin Ellis and even 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year C.J. Sapong to Orlando to gain valuable experience and develop what he calls a “rhythm of play.” Sapong scored three goals down the stretch for Sporting KC and scored the game-tying goal against the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship.
So with the 2014 season only three weeks away, and Sporting KC having added Oklahoma City Energy FC - coached by former Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen - as a second affiliate, the question many people are asking is: Who will Sporting KC send on loan this year?
“We will make those decisions in the next two weeks,” Vermes said after Sunday’s training session in Orlando. “We first have to establish who is on our roster. Then when we do that, we look at which guys will benefit from the potential of going away from us and getting a rhythm of play.”
Vermes is quick to point out that a loan to either Orlando City or Oklahoma City is not a demotion, but rather a statement to a player who the technical staff believes can make an impact on the team later on in the season. That statement was never more evident than with Dwyer in 2013.
“What people don’t understand is that two years ago, toward the end of his first season, Dom [Dwyer] started getting minutes for us because he was able to figure things out and be very effective,” Vermes said. “As a result, we weren’t demoting him by sending him to Orlando [in 2013], but we were sending him there to develop a rhythm of play because we felt he had the potential to make an impact on our team as the season progressed.”
Sporting Kansas City recalled Dwyer from Orlando City in late June. After re-joining the squad, Dwyer tallied two goals and two assists in 16 regular season games, scored a goal in a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match at Real Esteli and capped off his season with the goal that propelled Sporting KC to MLS Cup.
But while the philosophy behind the loan system remains the same for Vermes, 2014 presents a different set of challenges for his club. The team is scheduled to play 41 games between MLS, Open Cup and Champions League, and that is without advancing in any of those competitions or to the MLS Cup Playoffs, all of which are goals for the club.
“We have to make sure that we don’t overextend ourselves with the guys out on loan,” Vermes added. “We have the World Cup coming up and a multitude of games, so we need to make sure we have enough guys around. We will probably do our loans a little differently this year, where we will make sure guys who are on loan are able to be re-called when certain situations arise and we need them.”