Sporting Kansas City are sending Homegrown center back Erik Palmer-Brown to Portugal to gain another level of experience – but without any guarantee that he will see any minutes during his year-long loan to Porto FC.
That's just how Sporting manager and technical director Peter Vermes wants it.
“If we have some assurances, then sometimes the player gets complacent,” Vermes said during a conference call on Monday, shortly after the 18-year-old's loan deal was announced. “So this is an opportunity for him. It's about him going there and working and trying to make his way. That's part of the experience of going on loan. So it'll be interesting to see where it leads.
“As much as this is an opportunity for him, at the same time he has to make sure that he earns his way there.”
That's what he intends to do, Palmer-Brown said in a statement released by his agent, Mike Gartlan of COR Sports Management.
“I’m excited to make the move to FC Porto,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity for me to prove myself at one of the best clubs in Europe. I’m always looking to improve my game and I can’t wait for this new challenge. I want to thank Sporting KC for helping to make this happen.”
With Sporting launching their own USL side – Swope Park Rangers – this season and shoring up the central defense with Portuguese veteran Nuno Cuelho, speculation had been that Palmer-Brown would gain minutes closer to home while still making some appearances with Sporting.
Vermes, though, said it was time for the young defender – who until last season had been linked with a possible move to Italian power Juventus – to expand his horizons, while at the same time giving Sporting a chance to forge a solid working relationship with Porto.
“Obviously, he's a young kid, but at the same time the only club that he has known and the only place that he has been a part of is Sporting Kansas City,” Vermes said. “So I think this opportunity for him to go outside of Kansas City, spend some time at that club – one of his desires in the future is to go overseas, so this wound up being a place that we have a lot of respect for in the way their model of play is. Ours is very similar, so we thought that this would be a place for him to gain some real experience in a different country, a different language.
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“He just has a lot of opportunity here to grow as a young man, and we hope that that's going to be a big part of the experience that he's going to get while he's there.”
Palmer-Brown's loan was not dependent on Coelho's arrival in Kansas City, Vermes said.
“Obviously, that was a position that we wanted to add somebody in to, for sure,” he said. “But at the same time, this was something that we were discussing for quite a while, probably the last couple of months, in regards to EPB.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.