Time is slowly running out on Kansas City Wizards manager Peter Vermes. Just two more exhibitions remain for Vermes and his coaching staff to make final touches to the roster and starting lineup before the season kick-off on March 27 against D.C. United.
The Wizards will host the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos on Tuesday followed by a much-anticipated friendly on March 20 against AC St. Louis for the inaugural Supporters Showdown.
It remains to be seen if newly acquired Colombian defender Pablo Escobar can play in the next match.
“He is going to have to get evaluated again,” Vermes said. “But we are hoping he can train and be able to play Tuesday.”
One person who has made a quick transition is Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Vermes says he has been especially impressed with the Dane’s ability to communicate in camp.
A veteran of 16 European seasons and 388 games in the Danish Superliga, Nielsen's experience helps with getting used to the intricacies of MLS.
“It’s a very similar game to ours [in Denmark],” said Vermes. “But there is still getting to know the guys and their tendencies and the way the pace of the game goes. He’s really not going to get that until he starts playing some games.”
With a little more than a week until the start of the regular season, the Wizards know they'll still be required to further trim their roster. The ongoing CBA negotiations have provided more time to evaluate some players, but they will also eventually yield roster and salary guidelines by which each team will operate.
Three newly-acquired players appear to be locks for that final roster. The team announced the signing of midfielders Ryan Smith (England) and Igor Kostrov (Moldova) on Monday, along with an agreement to terms with English midfielder Craig Rocastle contingent upon his receipt of a P1 visa. One negotiation that is not impacted by the CBA are discussions with Indian international Sunil Chhetri, which Vermes said are in the preliminary stages. Chhetri trained with the club in Arizona early this month.
More roster additions may eventually come from a group of four players who survived among more than 200 participants during two days of open tryouts. The Wizards have selected four individuals to train with the team this season. Their names have not been released. Former Wizards Kevin Souter and Nelson Pizarro were both discovered at previous open tryouts.
"The physical aspect is almost the most a difficult one because I don't think that in the three years we have done this [open tryouts] that you ever come across a guy who is MLS-fit," Vermes said. "The only way he is going to be, is if he is training with the team."