Press Conference: Peter Vermes on the return of Roger Espinoza

With the offseason churning on for Sporting Kansas City, head coach Peter Vermes says his team isn't done as they look to bolster their roster ahead of the 2021 season.

Speaking with reporters on a Friday video call, Vermes outlined his thoughts on where Sporting's roster currently stands, as well as what they're still looking to accomplish between now and the start of preseason. The coach said there are still a couple of pending negotiations with players that could return from last year's squad, but that the club remains on the lookout for outside additions as well. 

Sporting announced they have re-signed beloved midfielder Roger Espinoza on Thursday, and made a notable addition with the signing of French midfielder Remi Walter in December.

"I would first state that we're not done yet," Vermes said on Friday. "We still have a few other positions that we're looking at. I would probably say positions first and then players second. And we have to be very strategic in that, have a pecking order of what we're looking for first. But what we feel is that we have a strong nucleus of guys that are returning and the acquisition of somebody like Remi really adds to that because there's an experience level there that is excellent as we move forward, especially the positions he can play and how he can help us out."

While this offseason doesn't necessitate a full-on rebuild for a team that finished first in the Western Conference in 2020, Vermes did say that he feels as though Sporting's 2021 squad will be a more youthful bunch than last year's team, adding that the club's objective will be striking the right balance between allowing that youth to contribute and having veteran leadership to help them develop.

"Every year is a retooling of our roster," he said. "I don't know if we've really been in a rebuild yet, I know that a lot of times rebuilds are wholesale changes in clubs and I don't think necessarily we're in that place by any means. But I do think we have a much younger group than we've probably had in the past or we have a larger group of younger players.

"And they're still in that transition phase, they're still in the phase of trying to make their play in the team consistent. So with that, they have to do their job and we have to have not only a staff, but also other players that can assist in helping them become the professionals we want them to become. So I think we're trying to build a roster that helps with that but at the same time puts in a place where we can compete. But as I said, I think we're still in a place of trying to add some more players to the club as we move forward."

Vermes also provided updates on the status of a couple of players from the 2020 team that have uncertain statuses for next season, the first one being midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, who missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery in June for a cartilage defect that had kept him sidelined since preseason.

Vermes said Sporting has been in discussions with Gutierrez regarding an agreement to return that would make the player comfortable but also give the club insurance regarding the uncertainty caused by the injury.

"I think he and his representatives understand that," Vermes said.  "It's about whether or not we can get to an agreement where everyone feels comfortable, so we've been working with that."

As for winger Gerso Fernandes, Vermes said Sporting extended him a bona fide offer that was declined by the player. Fernandes put up three goals and three assists in 820 minutes last season.

"At this point, there is no negotiation because he declined our offer," Vermes said. "At the same time, we maintain his rights, so I'm not sure if he's going overseas or what the plan is there, but again understand that with the bona fide offer our intention was to re-sign him. Where that goes from here I can't answer that because as of now he's declined our offer so there is no negotiation."