LOS ANGELES – Kenneth Vermeer was a fan of LAFC before the club, looking for a new goalkeeper with Tyler Miller on his way out, contacted him about coming to MLS.
The 34-year-old Dutchman, who has spent the bulk of his career at Ajax and Feyenoord, already loved Los Angeles – he's frequently vacationed here – and was looking for a new challenge.
“LAFC is, like, a beautiful team. Like, a beautiful club,” Vermeer said Friday afternoon after training. “I seen them playing last season and they were amazing, the way of playing. That's the way I like to play.”
Might Vermeer, who signed Jan. 15 with LAFC and began training this week, help take the 2019 Supporters' Shield winners to another level?
He must first win the starting job, as he's expected to do. He was the No. 1 goalkeeper at Feyenoord as recently as last month, received an October call-up to the Dutch national team and arrives in the LAFC mold.
“Experienced goalkeeper, really athletic, dynamic, makes big saves, and if you played goalkeeper for Ajax, it also means that your passing and your play with your feet is really good ...,” head coach Bob Bradley said. “He's very quick. He's dynamic. He makes reaction saves. He has a good understanding when his team is defending up the field of covering behind, so he reads plays that come through.”
The ability to play with his feet and his shot-stopping skills could make Vermeer an upgrade over Miller, who signed last week with Minnesota United FC. The room for improvement isn’t too large, though, since LAFC allowed a league-low 37 goals last season and posted a record plus-48 goal differential.
“My first reaction [to Vermeer] was his communication skills,” veteran left back Jordan Harvey said. “His direction. Little things. It's not rah-rah, trying to pump you up. It's direction, information, which helps, and if you take it on, it really helps you with the little things in the game that you wouldn't think, just telling where [an opponent] is, or how close he is.
“When you have someone back there who can see the whole field and can communicate that and articulate it in a way that you can take on very quickly, it's huge. That was my initial reaction. That just came from a simple, small-sided game.”
Pablo Sisniega and Phillip Ejimadu also are competing for the starting job, and first-round SuperDraft choice Paulo Pita wants to be in the mix. All that contributes to the Black & Gold's No. 1 spot for their Concacaf Champions League debut Feb. 18 at Club Leon not yet officially being determined.
“I think we come out everyday and we train, and if you make big saves, if you make big plays the guys on the team know make a difference, then you win confidence within the group,” Bradley said. “Yes, in theory [Vermeer] comes in and you look at everything he's done and [there’s a] good chance for him to be No. 1, but if training doesn't mean something, if there's not this part of guys competing and then when a guy's playing well being rewarded ... the way guys try to push each other to get better, that's really important.”
Vermeer said he learned about LAFC by watching MLS highlights on Dutch television. He's already in tune with the “El Trafico” rivalry against the LA Galaxy, calling it “kind of similar like Ajax and Feyenoord,” referencing the Dutch derby.
LAFC identified Vermeer while scouting goalkeepers during the offseason “because we knew that Tyler was thinking about other things,” Bradley said. Vermeer was not expecting any of this.
“I was surprised, because not a lot of goalies from the Netherlands go to MLS, so for me it was a good chance,” he said. “My decision was already clear. I wanted to go there.”