Peter Vermes in a sharp suit on the sideline

Peter Vermes discusses Ike Opara trade: "In our league, $1 million of Allocation Money is very valuable"

Sporting Kansas City traded defender Ike Opara to Minnesota United FC on Monday in exchange for $900,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and a potential $100,000 in future Targeted Allocation Money based on undisclosed performance incentives.

Following the move, Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes addressed the media in a conference call from the club's preseason camp in Scottsdale, Arizona. His remarks are below.


On whether Vermes has discussed the Ike Opara trade with the rest of his team…

“I always communicate with the team regarding any types of (roster) movement that happens within the group. Just like we always do, I think it’s important that players hear from me directly in what transpires as opposed to getting their information from anyone else.”

On how Sporting can use the Targeted Allocation Money acquired in the Opara trade…

“Money is important in this league, especially in the way (Targeted) Allocation Money is used in MLS. Part of it is used in future deals on other players that we think are part of the core group that we want to keep together. There’s maybe some redoing of contracts on other players, and then there’s the final piece: any additional targets that we’re looking at to add to the team. It’s being creative with the money and how to best use it when acquiring other players that we want to bring into the team.”

On whether Vermes feels comfortable with Botond Barath and Andreu Fontas at the center back position…

“Yes—and we also have Graham Smith. I feel comfortable with the guys we have. I don’t think a roster is ever completed. It never is; it’s just a living, breathing group of players. All kinds of things change in a team. Sometimes change is at the end of the season, sometimes it’s early in the preseason. Different things can happen. We are constantly looking to improve our roster, but I do feel comfortable with the group of guys we have. I felt more comfortable with Ike being a part of that, but the fact that he’s not here doesn’t change the way that we’re going about getting ready for this upcoming season and more importantly our first game against Toluca."

On how the acquired Targeted Allocation Money can help bolster Sporting KC…

“In our league, $1 million of Allocation Money is very valuable. Maybe we haven’t been a club over the years that has signed the high-priced (Designated Player), if you will, but we have done a very good job of spreading the money amongst a good, large number of our players. I think we’ve gotten a lot of quality for that spend, and I also think that those players have produced and provided us with the production that we needed to be consistently competitive year after year.

"I see this money being used the same way, but I can tell you that we won’t rush to go and try and find somebody. They have to fit three pieces: one is they have to fit the quality of play that we need on the field and fit into our system; they have to hold the core values that we look for in players; and the final piece is they have to fit a certain financial package if they’re going to be a part of our roster. As I said, our roster is a living, breathing document that we’re constantly trying to improve. We’ll make those steps and those choices as those players qualify in those three areas."

On Vermes’ discussions with Opara in the weeks before the trade was made…

“I can’t remember too many players that have ever walked in and said they’re not happy at the club. I think this situation was centered around an ask from the player of an increase in salary. I have been very specific with Ike recently and told him that the situation could go one of three ways, and these are in no particular order. One, it could be that he stays in his current contract that he’s in and he’s going to continue to play here because he’s under contract. Two, maybe we could find a solution internally to bridge the gap of what he was looking for and what we could actually afford to do and were willing to do. And three, there might be an opportunity with a team that might be interested in him, and then we would look—if the deal was correct for the club—to see if we are amenable to trading him and he could go seek whatever it is that he was seeking with someone else. But until that time, I expected him to conduct himself as a professional until any or all of those things became available.

"We and his agent had a discussion in late November when this topic was brought up. At that time, he never asked to be traded to another team. He actually stated that he wanted to finish his career here in Kansas City. I had made it very clear to him that we had no interest in trading him. It was understood at the time what he was asking for, and we explained to him that we had a plan that was already created prior to the 2018 season that was really looking towards 2019 and 2020 at that time. If you go back and look at all the players we have re-signed within our team throughout the 2018 year, you can see that there was a plan in place to keep the core group together. We had our discussion and I said we had some targets that we were going after at the end of the 2018 season that we want to include in our team in 2019. Once all that was finished, we could circle back and reevaluate where everything was and discuss what we could or couldn’t do.

"“I was disappointed that it became an issue in the public, which is not something that we do here at the club. I was disappointed in that, and unfortunately that kind of threw us into a course of action that I believe didn’t give us a lot of wiggle room at that moment. So it’s one of the reasons we went the way we went."

On negotiating new contracts with key players on the team...

“If you look at players over the years who we’ve done new deals with, we have a very strong and demonstrated performance of rewarding players for doing well at our club and a lot of times breaking open their contracts way before they’re ending—and it’s not just with six months before the end of their deals or at the end of the season. You have to understand that this was a very unique situation in that less than a year ago, he had signed his contract and was already coming in and asking for a new one. I think that we’ve been very good about our philosophy here. I also think that we have been very smart and also not setting (bad) precedents with certain situations." 

On whether any other MLS players were offered in a trade for Opara…

“We had some players that were presented to us by a couple of different teams, but nothing that we were interested in. If you go back and look at last year, all of the re-signings and the players that we added at the beginning of the year—Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez, Andreu Fontas, Yohan Croizet—when you look at those players we added there, plus the players that we re-signed, and then the four additions we made quickly at the end of the (2018) season, they were all moves with players that fit our team. They all have helped us improve. The (offers) that people were presenting would have been a duplicate of what we already had and probably not at the same quality, and/or players in positions that we didn’t really need. We just weren’t willing to go that way."

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