Peter Vermes: "The entire pro player pathway is right in our backyard"

Sporting Kansas City made a huge Homegrown splash this afternoon, signing Sporting KC Academy products Grayson Barber, Ozzie Cisneros and Brooks Thompson to MLS contracts.

Following the announcement, Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes met with media to discuss the signings, the club’s professional player pathway and MLS SuperDraft 2021, which will begin Thursday at 1 p.m. CT. Vermes’ full remarks are below.


On the Homegrown signings of Barber, Cisneros and Thompson…

All three players have had different paths within our pro player pathway. Grayson was in our academy, wound up going to college and we’ve been following him all along. He’s someone who has developed and has a chance to make a real impact with a career in MLS. Brooks came into our academy, signed with Sporting KC II and has now graduated to the first team. Ozzie came into our academy and has now signed directly for the first team.

The path is different for every player, but at the end of the day, they’re all afforded the same opportunity. It’s the next step in their careers as pro soccer players. That opportunity comes through our pro player pathway, and now they’re going to have to earn their chance on the senior team. They’re going to have to take advantage of those opportunities when they get them.

On Sporting’s four open roster spots heading into the 2021 season…

We are still looking to add players to our roster. At the same time, because of the uncertainty with scheduling, it’s all going to be determined by when we start playing. As much as we’d like to say that we have this incredible plan—normally we feel like we have a really good plan—right now it’s more about being able to adapt and adjust to the ever-changing environment.

Whenever we start preseason, the players are going to work towards finding a place in our system. All of these young players are going to develop, but they need to play games—whether that’s with the first team or SKC II. It’ll be based on how our roster shakes out, who’s in form, who’s not in form and health of the team.

On the current state of soccer at the academy level and the challenges of acquiring players from abroad…

It’s difficult. Take Portugal for example. Their academies aren’t even allowed to participate right now, so they’ve made all of these different professional competitions and they’re playing young players up into those competitions just so that they can play games. They’re trying to create an environment to continue the growth and development of players within their system. When you talk about trying to acquire players, you think about the time it takes to bring them here, the quarantine aspect and all of the other things that go with it. It’s challenging, for sure.

On MLS SuperDraft 2021…

I feel bad for the college players not being able to play in a normal situation with scouts being able to look at them all year long like they normally would. That’s been a very difficult thing for those kids, really tough. It was one of the reasons we took the lead in creating the College Invitational Combine. It was giving those kids a chance to come here and play, and I thought our staff did a really good job with that. It’s been very difficult, but when you’re scouting college teams, you usually not just watching one player. You’re scouting a bunch of players because they all have different ages and you never know when one might become available to you. I give our technical staff a lot of credit because they do a good job of that.

On how the SuperDraft supplements Sporting’s pro player pathway…

The college draft for us has changed over the years. So much has to do with what pick you have and what players are available. We have always been a club that has traditionally picked based on position. Sometimes clubs take the best player available, but we normally pick based on positional needs. Statistically speaking, with the players that get drafted these days, it’s very hard for them to have significant minutes in year one. For every player we draft, I remain open and let the player show us where they belong in our system. Maybe they don’t belong at all. So once you select a player, it’s about finding where they fit in the grand scheme of things.

It benefits us immensely that we have a second team in Sporting KC II. It also helps that our second team is here in town, so we have the chance to keep a close eye on the progression of all of the players on that team. The distance between the two is nominal—maybe 20 minutes between facilities. In terms of keeping a good eye on players in our system, it makes it easier when the entire pro player pathway is right in our backyard.

On Sporting’s draft position, picking at 50th, 77th and 82nd overall…

I’d like the No. 1 pick if that’s what you’re offering me. Would we like to pick higher? Sure. If an opportunity (to trade up) arose, would we be interested? Again, it depends on what players are available at that time. Based on how we finished last year in the overall (standings), we get a pick that’s much further down. With the number of teams in this league, it becomes more and more difficult to be in a good position to have a good pick.

On the anticipated start date for preseason…

We’ve been operating off both the February 1 and February 8 dates. We’ve been planning for those, so we’ll start at that time unless we hear something between now and then.

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