Sporting KC's Peter Vermes: "We have a bunch of guys who are hungry and committed"

On the second day of voluntary preseason training at Compass Minerals National Performance Center, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes spoke to media to discuss a variety of topics as his team prepares for the 2021 campaign. Select remarks from the 13th-year head coach are below.


On the departures of forwards Gerso Fernandes and Erik Hurtado and whether Sporting will add attackers before the season starts…

You provide opportunities for players getting ready to enter our preseason. We’ll use a lot of that time to evaluate where we think we are. What this does is provides opportunities for players. Will it be the same (group) as the players who were here before? No, they’re going to have to bring their own qualities and their own impact. The chances are going to come… Preseason is a place to impress. I always go into preseason each year with a completely open mind—without any preconceived notions. Obviously I know what certain guys can do, but I’m wide open to being surprised in a very positive way. There will be some Homegrown Players who are moved around to different positions and they have a chance to impress. Hopefully they take advantage of those opportunities throughout preseason.

As the year goes on, we’re going to make additions as time goes on if we feel we’re light in a certain area of the field or if we just need a different type of player in a certain area of the field. Preseason will vet a lot of that out. I usually use the first 10 games of the regular season as my benchmark for moving through the rest of the season.

On Sporting’s preseason squad, which will train in Arizona from March 7 to April 3…

We’re traveling with a number of players to preseason, and they will stay with us the entire time. We’ll have a pool of players who are with us, and if we send somebody out (of Arizona camp), we more than likely won’t be adding somebody back. Normally when we do preseason, we go (to Arizona) for about two and a half weeks, come back, then do another two weeks. This time we’re doing a straight four weeks (in Arizona). This time we’ll come back two weeks before the regular season as opposed to one week for a number of reasons. One is we don’t think it makes sense to go back and forth from a bubble perspective, and then we think the weather will be nice here in Kansas City beginning in April.

There will be quite a few guys from our second team and possibly one or two from the Academy as well. We’re finalizing those numbers this week.

On the style of play Sporting will implement in 2021…

This is my 13th year coaching here, so I don’t think my formation is going to change all that much. Maybe some nuances with a few of the players we’ve brought in, and they could change a little bit of what we do. The formation will probably be somewhat the same. I like to be a little more flexible and nimble against opponents with the way we use our wingers. We’re going to change a few things that we’ve done defensively—and I don’t necessarily mean change, but maybe just evolve a little bit.

When I look at personnel, we have some pretty good ideas. There will be some players like (Gianluca Busio) who maybe move around a bit, but I do want to have different weapons for different games we play. Our league has become more sophisticated, especially with 27 teams in the league. You’re going to have to find different ways to beat teams and take advantage of situations in the game.

On the prospect of signing more players from abroad…

Our primary transfer window to bring players into the team has been extended to June 1. Usually it ends in early May. So we’re not in a major rush to all of the sudden try to sign a player. I want to use some of the preseason to see who we are as a team and where we are. If we need to make some improvements, we’re in a position to do that based on what we see rather than trying to sign someone really quickly. The immigration aspect of getting players in from other countries is also difficult. We have to take that into consideration if we want to sign another player, but we’re going to take our time with that.

On Homegrown defender Jaylin Lindsey and newly signed center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin…

For Jaylin, he built up a lot of games last year. Now is taking the next step in the evolution of a player—you want to get better. You want to be more consistent and add things to your game. First and foremost, you have to be a better defender, not let goals go in, and if you find the timing to join the attack, great. As an outside back on our team, your decisions on the ball have to improve.

Regarding Isimat-Mirin, we look forward to him joining us. He’s the one player on our roster right now who is not with us because of immigration (issues). We’re waiting for that process to go through, and as soon as it does he will join us in Arizona. He’ll have to go through the protocol of quarantine and all of those things.

On the development of the young Academy products on Sporting’s roster…

As I say to all of the young kids we’ve signed, “You’ve only just accomplished one of many goals.” They come into our Academy and they think that one day they want to sign a contract with the first team. When they do that, what’s the next (step)? They want to make the 18, make their debut, become a consistent starter and help us win on the field. There are all of these small goals along the way that they want to achieve. The majority of that responsibility is on them. We as coaches provide the plan for them. They’re the ones who have to go out and execute and be motivated every day and continue to have that internal desire to improve and pursue excellence in everything they do on the field.

On the expectations of forward Daniel Salloi…

When you look at previous seasons—2018, 2019, 2020—those don’t matter. For every player, including him, the goal is to get into the best form they possibly can entering the new season. I’ve always said that if you’re going to be a successful player in MLS, the first thing you need is a really good offseason. Then you need to have a good preseason—coming in fit, making sure you aren’t injured and missing all of the concepts we implement. That’s the foundation for having a good MLS season.

Daniel is in the same spot as every other guy on our team. It doesn’t matter what their performance was like last year or three years ago. What matters is the present. All of them have to work towards that. From what I can see, we have a bunch of guys who are hungry and committed. That’s a good vibe to have.

On Gianluca Busio taking the No. 10 jersey…

Our equipment manager Mike Flaherty came to me and asked me about (Busio) taking No. 10. I said he’d have to talk to me. I saw (Busio) one day in the weight room and said, “I hear you want to wear No. 10.” He said, “Yeah, I’d like to wear it.” I go, “You sure?” and he goes, “Yeah.” I said, “OK.” At the end of the day, (wearing No. 10) means something. I like the confidence he has. I want to go into battle with players who have strong personalities and confidence. I want to be around those people. Those are the people that win.

When you wear the No. 10 shirt, it means something. Those numbers have significance, and Busio is more than intelligent enough to realize that. I’m interested to see how he performs in that role. I’ve said it from the beginning: he has qualities to do those things with that number on, for sure.

On the status of defender Graham Zusi, who suffered a season-ending injury last October…

He won’t be ready for the first game of the season... Graham really takes care of himself and his body type helps with that as well. He’s a very lean, smaller-frame type of guy. Because of that, he maintains a high quality of fitness. What he doesn’t have is the conditioning capacity that he normally would because he’s not able to run yet. Recently he had a screw taken out as part of the procedure. Now the incision is healing.

Graham's progression will really start quickly now, but my biggest thing that I said to him was that when he comes back, he needs to be in a place to where he had a mini-preseason. Once he’s in the squad, I want him to be there on a regular basis. I don’t want him to (injure himself) again because he didn’t get fully fit like a player needs to be for the ups and downs of an MLS season. He’s progressing really well and I think he’s ahead of the game. He’ll be there when we need him, for sure.

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