Peter Vermes - Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake - October 22, 2017
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QUOTES: Manager Peter Vermes discusses addition of Johnny Russell and the start of preseason training

Following the signing of Scottish winger Johnny Russell on Wednesday afternoon, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes addressed the media via conference call from Scottsdale, Arizona. See below for Vermes' quotes regarding the addition of Russell and how preseason is going to date.

On why Johnny Russell will be a good addition to the team:
“I think his resume up to this point speaks for itself. I believe it’s a really good signing for the club in a lot of different respects. I think that he is a very accomplished player, I think that he has really good attacking qualities that can obviously provide us with something that our team needs. That is, as we said last year, we need to be better in the attacking third and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to help with that. Not to put all the pressure on him by any means but I just think that he’s one of those players that possesses qualities that can really lend themselves to success in the final third. I also think that he has a lot of experience in playing under a lot of pressure. Playing at Children’s Mercy Park is not an easy place, it’s always packed, it’s a great environment, but I think a guy like him is going to relish in the fact that he’s in that kind of environment. So we’re excited to add him to the roster and I’m looking forward to starting to work with him inside the white lines here in the next couple of weeks.”

On the influence of Mo Johnston in getting the deal done:
“Mo is the one who initially – we had known the player before – but he came to me and said that there’s a real possibility not only of getting him out but more importantly he was really interested in coming. Mo was instrumental in the initial (contact) and then also the process, just helped a lot the fact that he’s Scottish and that he played for the club. I think he’s helped both the player, the agent and helped the communication especially early on, which was great. All along he’s been a part of the process from the beginning until the end and just making sure that everybody was getting the information they needed and at the same time, I think whenever a foreign player is making a move to a team, if there’s someone that they feel comfortable with, it just makes that transition that much easier and Mo’s been great in that part.”

On if his minutes with Derby this season prepares him for the MLS season:
“He’s coming off of playing all the time so it’s not like he’s out of shape. I actually think this next week or two that he’s going to have off from not having to go to practice every day is actually pretty good – a little break for him mentally as well. Then he comes in here and gets started with us once he gets the rest of his docs and his medical and his P-1 Visa sorted out, I think that he’s going to be ready to start making his way into the team. I’m not going to rush it either, we’ve got a whole season, we’ve got a long season, we’ve got to make sure he’s there for as much as he can be, especially at the end.”

On when Mo Johnston initially introduced the idea of signing Russell:
“I’m going to take a guess here and say that it’s probably been two months. Like I said, we had known about the player before, and Mo’s the one who called and basically said hey, this could be reality if you want it to be. He had spoken to the player and he had told him that he had real interest in coming and so we had started the steps to see how feasible that would be, because he’s still under contract. So that was part of the conundrum a little bit: are we able to get him now? Or in the summer window? Again, he was a big help in not only us being able to acquire a player, but also acquire at this time in our primary window which was important to us.”

On what the signing of Russell provides the team in terms of tactical flexibility:
“With Johnny and some of the things we have going on, what’s really going to help us is that we can actually change our formation a little bit at times if we want to within the game. The types of players we have been bringing in here recently are going to give us a lot more flexibility in our formation. I think 4-3-3 is always going to be the foundation of how we play but with the quality and different types of players we’re bringing in, it’s going to give us a lot more flexibility in what we can and can’t do from game to game and also in the actual game itself. It’s actually exciting from a coaching staff point of view to be able to have that flexibility and do it if we need to.”

On which of Russell’s attacking qualities he thinks are the strongest:
“He can play on either wing and he’s different on both wings. When he plays on the left, he’s a great server of the ball, he’s good one-v-one, explosive and can get past people. When he’s on the right, he’s very good at coming inside and beating guys and can obviously score. That’s another quality that he has and it’s a determination, he’s a guy that likes to go at people, which is what we like and want in our system of play. The other is that he also can play, depending on the situation, in a tighter role in a 4-3-3 where he’s coming and he’s playing a little bit behind the striker. He can be inside a little bit more and play there as well and I think all of a sudden he becomes a danger because he also has a good shot from distance.”

On Johnny Russell’s fitness for the MLS campaign ahead:
“The fact that he’s starting with us now, the good thing is he will build up towards (the summer climate). As the season goes on, we’ll be able to monitor him and figure out if he needs a break or not based on the fact that he could be going about six months longer than he normally would in the season. I also like the fact that we have this kind of break for him at the moment while he’s still getting all his documents completed. I think that will help him too mentally.”

On Johnny Russell’s familiarity with Sporting KC:
“Mo (Johnston) did a really good job because by the time I had my conversation with (Johnny) on the phone, he was already telling me that he was looking at houses in Overland Park and he knew the Blue Valley School District. He was very in tune to the place that he wanted to come to in Kansas City. Mo did a really good job of explaining and updating him on who Sporting Kansas City was. There’s no doubt in my mind that he wants to be here. That became very evident when we had our conversation. He knows about MLS. He comes to Orlando a lot on vacation. He’s very familiar with MLS and this is something that he wanted to do. Mo was instrumental based on his experience in Kansas City, being an important player in our club over the years and having an affinity to it as well. I think he did a great job in basically recruiting Johnny.”

On what about the club attracted Johnny Russell:
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, early on, he had good conversations with Mo. He got a chance to do some research on his own about the club and then I got a chance to talk to him as a well. All those things added up to him really wanting to come here.”

On the manager’s early impressions from preseason:
“Overall, the group came in fit. I also think that a lot of the new guys we have either drafted, players that we traded for or acquired, those guys have fit in really quickly. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have a solid core of guys that have been here and have been through this process quite a bit. It’s not trying to teach a whole bunch of guys new things. At the same time, there’s more than enough guys that have a real hunger in coming to this club. There’s an excitement level that’s a little different and I think has been good.

When you look at guys like Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey, Felipe Hernandez, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal – the boys who have come through our academy and have either signed with Swope Park Rangers or with us and they’re here in camp and they’re playing, you see the qualities that they have at such a young age. All the guys see a couple things: they see that our pro pathway is continuing to yield the kind of players we’re looking to develop and they also see that there’s real quality in those guys and they’re young. They have to stay on top of their game because here these guys are. I think it’s a really good environment and I think everybody is acclimating quicker maybe than I thought they might and that’s a good thing.”