As the 2019 MLS preseason begins, attacker Erik Hurtado finds himself amid one of the most stable club situations in MLS, after departing one of the least.
The 28-year-old arrives at Sporting Kansas City following a December trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps, where new head coach Mark Dos Santos and the front office have been engineering a massive roster overhaul.
At Sporting, he finds a coach who is the longest-tenured in MLS in Peter Vermes, and team with a well-formulated identity.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this organization,” Hurtado told MLSSoccer.com. “They have a really good history, a really good culture, and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
Hurtado had spent his entire pro career with the Vancouver Whitecaps, but in his sixth season last year logged a career-low 484 minutes. Having seen plenty of Sporting Kansas City as a Western Conference foe, as well as a group opponent one year in the Concacaf Champions League, Hurtado had always admired their style from afar.
“Ballers,” Hurtado said when describing his previous impressions of Sporting. “This is a balling team. That’s why I said I’m really excited to join this culture. Because every time we’ve played them, they balled out. They know how to keep the ball, they know how to score, they know how to defend, they know how to do everything.”
Vermes, who is also the club's technical director, has been impressed with what he’s seen from his new acquisition, who so far has lived up to the reasons he made the trade.
“He has a very good attitude,” Vermes said after Sporting’s first pre-season match. “[He has a] strong mentality, great work ethic, has a good understanding playing with the ball and being simple.
“At the same time I think he has very good movement on the field, especially when we’re pursuing an attacking action. He reads the game in those situations very well and I think he’s just a handful for the opposing team’s defense. Just because he’s very explosive.”
Compared to the Whitecaps, who have just one Canadian Championship to their name during the club's MLS era, the expectations in Kansas City are a fair bit higher, Hurtado says, given that the club have won MLS Cup twice, the Supporters' Shield once, and the U.S. Open Cup four times.
“Everywhere is different," Hurtado said. "But here, the culture is work hard, team first, winning mentality, I think that was ingrained into me as a kid. Work hard, do the best that I can, always try and win, and put the team first.”