Dom Dwyer is headed to Orlando, and MLS history has been made.
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City agreed to a record-breaking trade on Tuesday, with Dwyer headed from SKC to the Lions in exchange for up to $1.6 million in Allocation Money. The package includes $400,000 in General Allocation Money and $500,000 in Targeted Allocation Money up front, with the potential for an additional $700,000 of GAM and TAM to be sent to SKC if Dwyer hits what a source described to The Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell as “easily attainable” benchmarks.
Even if Dwyer fails to hit any of those performance metrics and Orlando only ends up sending $900,000 of GAM/TAM to SKC, that’ll be the most Allocation Money traded in MLS history. It’s an enormous sum and an enormous deal, one that will shape the trajectory of both SKC and Orlando for years to come.
At first glance, I think it makes sense for both clubs.
Orlando are getting one of MLS’ top scorers to help with their push to the playoffs. The Lions have gotten decent play out of Carlos Rivas this year, but there’s no question that Dwyer is a significant upgrade alongside striker Cyle Larin. The newly-minted US international, who will turn 27 next week, is in the prime of his career, and has 55 goals in his last 111 regular season matches, an excellent rate.
He’s already comfortable in Orlando, as well, having had a wildly successful loan stint with the Lions when they were in USL in 2013. He’s played as a center forward throughout his tenure with SKC, but it’s not hard to envision Dwyer successfully running the channels and playing in space underneath the bigger, burlier Larin in Central Florida.
And that’s if Larin stays. One of the bigger aspects of this trade from Orlando’s perspective is getting cover for a potential Larin transfer. The Canadian international has made no secret of his desire to eventually head to Europe – acquiring Dwyer, whose contract is under team control through 2018, allows Orlando to ship the 22-year-old striker overseas without worrying about finding his replacement.
The price was steep, but 26-year-old forwards with Dwyer’s goal rate and potential national team prospects don’t come cheap. Orlando don’t have a great cap situation, but they did acquire a combined $650,000 of GAM and TAM – the previous MLS record – when they traded Kevin Molino to Minnesota this offseason. They’ll also be in line for a serious allocation money windfall if they sell Larin, and have Kaká coming off the books after this season.
Their hands will be tied for the rest of the year, but, if they don’t re-sign Kaká, they should have some room heading into 2018, especially if the league injects more Targeted Allocation Money – something they did last offseason – this winter. That money could eventually end up going to Dwyer, who, according to McDowell, saw talks of an extension with SKC stall in recent months.
For Orlando, Tuesday’s trade was primarily about pushing for the playoffs and covering for a potential Larin exit. For SKC, who have never shied away from shipping out star players midseason, it seems like it might be a longer-term play.
Talk to any GM in the league, and they’ll tell you that every player – every player – has a price. The haul that Orlando offered for Dwyer was too much for SKC to turn down, especially with those contract talks not moving forward. In a league with a $3.845 million salary budget, it’s hard to overstate the sort of impact $900,000 in Allocation Money – to say nothing of $1.6 million – can have on a roster. That goes double for a smaller-market club like SKC, who have historically spent less money than other, flashier members of the MLS elite. Peter Vermes now has the space to make a big addition or two in what’s left of the summer window, while still having plenty of cash leftover to make significant moves this winter.
While this move looks like it's geared toward the long-term for SKC, Vermes will still have to be active before the secondary transfer window closes on Aug. 9. SKC have immediate cover for Dwyer in Diego Rubio, but he only recently returned from an ACL injury and has just two goals in 19 career MLS appearances, only five of which have been starts. I’d be surprised if SKC, who are currently second in the West and will host an Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 9, hand the center forward spot entirely over to him when they’re in the hunt for multiple trophies.
SKC do have a couple of obvious options to replace Dwyer outside their current roster. First is Kei Kamara. The 32-year-old, who transferred from SKC to Middlesbrough in the summer of 2013, has had a bit of a rough time since being traded from Columbus to New England last May. He scored his fifth goal of the year in the Revs’ 4-3 win against LA on Saturday, but sounded after the match an awful lot like a man who’d be open to a trade. Sending some of the money acquired from Orlando on Tuesday to New England for Kamara would alleviate a lot of the short-term pain from losing Dwyer, both on the field and in supporters’ hearts.
Another option? Krisztian Nemeth. The Hungarian striker, who bagged 10 goals and six assists in his lone season with SKC in 2015, is out of contract with his Qatari club and, according to FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio, is in the sights of Vermes. He’d be subject to the league’s Allocation Order if he returns, and Sporting – who are currently 10th in the Allocation Ranking – would need to move up in order to sign him. With all that Allocation Money in hand from Orlando, however, SKC will be able to make a compelling offer to Columbus – who ESPN's Taylor Twellman reported are also interested in Nemeth – for the top spot.
Orlando gained a true forward talent, and picked up some security in case they move Larin. Kansas City lost a key part of their recent success, but have the depth, leadership and money – loads and loads of money – to make a run at trophies this year and markedly improve their entire outfit this winter. Forget the hefty price paid and production lost. Regardless of what moves SKC make in the near-term and how Orlando performs down the stretch with Dwyer, Tuesday's trade makes plenty of sense for both clubs.