KANSAS CITY – When Felipe Gutierrez officially made the move to Sporting Kansas City, he was largely an unknown commodity. But so far, Gutierrez has been a revelation for Peter Vermes’ side, and co-leads the league in goals scored through four games.
The goals are an added contribution for the Chilean. Mostly deployed as a holding or box-to-box midfielder in years past, he’s found a creative, attacking freedom within the Sporting KC midfield. But even he didn’t expect the goals to come like they have.
“I didn’t think about it,” Gutierrez said. “I think about the play and [how] to help the team.”
In addition to his four goals, Gutierrez has played an instrumental role in setting up his teammates, including a perfectly threaded pass to Gerso Fernandes in the buildup to Diego Rubio’s stoppage time equalizer against Colorado.
Following a potential move that fell through a few years ago, the 27-year-old saw MLS grow in stature and signed a three-year Designated Player contract with an option for 2021 on Feb. 6.
“Everyone now knows MLS because they have [had] a lot of important players the last three or four years,” Gutierrez said. “But at the moment when Peter called me, and when my manager told me about that [the opportunity to play for Sporting], I was excited for the experience here. That’s why I wanted to come. I wanted to try the league, and I’m happy here.”
The fit has been seamless, and certainly Gutierrez has reason to be happy with the early dividends. But success on the field usually doesn’t come without a positive work ethic off the field.
“We recognized that a few years ago when we wanted to get him back then,” Vermes said. “The first thing you always see is whether or not that guy fits into the way you want to play, and whether or not he has those characteristics. We always felt that he did. The fact was, ‘could we ever get him?’”
Now that they have him, Gutierrez certainly brought everything they thought he would be, and more to the team.
“There is no doubt that he’s got talent, but at the same time he’s a really tireless worker,” Vermes said. “He embodies all four of our core values, probably the fourth one – he has a winning mentality, and then he pursues excellence every day. He works. He cares a lot about what he does. That’s an important aspect, and that’s why he plays well on the field.”