SKC Notebook: Vermes refutes Smith's free agency claim

Ryan Smith

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Weeks after leaving Kansas City for personal reasons, Ryan Smith is already searching for the next step in his career across the Atlantic. 

Smith was quoted by Sky Sports as saying he was a free agent and looking for opportunities to either play in England, most likely in the Championship, or somewhere on the continent within a few hours’ travel of his family.

Sky also reported on Wednesday that the former Sporting Kansas City winger was in Spain on a two-week trial with Real Zaragoza with an eye to join the La Liga side for its upcoming campaign. Sporting manager Peter Vermes acknowledged that it was possible that Smith could sign with another club but emphasized that could not happen before ironing things out with Kansas City.

“He’s not a free agent,” Vermes said. “He may not understand what that means. He may have just meant that I’m free to sign over here if I want to and all that, meaning he can go sign someplace. But he always has to deal with the league and [Sporting Kansas City] before that happens.”

Vermes said he wasn’t surprised that Smith was exploring opportunities in Europe after leaving Kansas City to be closer to his family, especially his young daughter, in England. But he did stress that SKC and Major League Soccer would need some sort of compensation to release Smith from his current contract, whether that’s financial, a sell-on clause or through some other agreement.

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there,” Vermes said.

Smith struggled to recover from offseason knee surgery early this season and made only a handful of appearances before suffering a groin strain that kept him out until his departure. He led Kansas City in assists in 2010, his first season with the club.

Sporting has a few roster spots to work with and room to maneuver underneath the salary cap, according to Vermes, which suggests they could be active participants in the summer transfer window should the right opportunities present themselves.

Vermes declined to comment on possible targets, including two trialists club president Robb Heineman mentioned on Twitter, or areas on the field in need of shoring up but did say Sporting were prepared to upgrade their roster if they found the right player.

“We’re looking,” the manager said. “We’re looking at players that are in camp with us and trying out now. We’re looking at possible opportunities with other teams. We’ve had our sights on a few guys overseas for a while, but it’s how do those things come together. We all know that there is a lot of work there to be done.”

Kempin named to Milk Cup roster

Home Grown goalkeeper Jon Kempin was one of two goalkeepers named to the United States Under-18 men’s national team roster that will compete in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup in late July and early August.

Kempin, who is currently third on Kansas City’s depth chart behind Jimmy Nielsen and Eric Kronberg, will compete with Cody Cropper of English second-division side Ipswich Town for playing time in a tournament the Americans won in 2010.

The 18-year-old said he was grateful for the opportunity to represent his country while hopefully getting some more game experience under his belt to augment the time he has spent honing his craft in training with Kansas City. 

“I could go out there and train for four years and get into a game and have no idea what I’m doing,” Kempin said. “I think games are hugely important for my development right now.”

The US’ first match in the prestigious youth tournament is on July 25 against Israel. They will follow game that up by playing archrivals Mexico on July 27.