Peter Vermes on MLS Extratime: MLS is Back, social change and debating all-time greats

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes was the star of MLS Extratime on Monday, joining hosts Andrew Wiebe, David Gass and Calen Carr to preview the MLS is Back Tournament, debate all-time greats and remark on the movement to eliminate racism and social injustice.

The conversation began lightly as Vermes gave his take on the greatest MLS teams of all time, why Lionel Messi is inarguably the G.O.A.T., his special experience coaching alongside the late Sigi Schmid and the story behind his best MLS SuperDraft pick (hint: it’s Roger Espinoza).

Vermes then looked ahead to the MLS is Back Tournament, which will begin July 8 as all 26 MLS clubs take the field for an unprecedented competition at Walt Disney World. The 12th-year head coach acknowledges that hot and humid playing conditions will pose an enormous challenge, especially because teams won’t be 90-minutes fit, but believes Sporting’s strong leadership and veteran core—namely Espinoza, Tim Melia, Ilie Sanchez, Alan Pulido and Graham Zusi—will be able to steer the ship.

While veterans will likely play an important role for Sporting next month, he also saved specific praise for 18-year-old Gianluca Busio and 19-year-old Cam Duke, a pair of Sporting KC Academy products who could be poised for increased playing time.

Lastly, Vermes spoke to the social unrest facing American society and the actions he has seen his players begin to take in an effort to build a better future.

“I’ve had bad experiences with teammates of mine playing overseas,” Vermes said in reference to racism. “I’m always proud of the fact that we as a team always rallied around those situations that occurred. What I am very proud of right now is that our guys are doing the same. You have guys that are standing up for the league and you have guys who are standing up for their team.

“We’ve had some really good moments here with our group—our guys getting together and sharing experiences. It’s been educational for all of our staff and players. This is something that we cannot allow (to) be forgotten.

“It’s got to be taken to another level in that we can’t stand for these things to happen anymore. Because these things happen, then time goes by and you forget about it. We gotta change this. We just have to change it.”

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