KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After a season that ended in both disappointment and promise, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes and his staff are already busy shaping the roster for a 2011 season with plenty on the line. In addition to the arrival of the club's new stadium and Designated Player Omar Bravo, Vermes' responsibility is to continue the development his team showed at the end of last season and deliver a playoff birth.
MLSsoccer.com sat down with Vermes to discuss the state of the roster thus far and the direction the team is headed as the offseason approaches full swing.
MLSsoccer.com: The deadline for exercising contract options or allowing guys to be a part of the first re-entry draft is fast approaching. How is the roster shaping up so far this offseason?
Vermes: Some of it has been nailed down. We’re trying to negotiate with a few of the guys that are on the roster at the moment. We have up until the eighth [of December] to get some deals done.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve got some guys out of contract and others that are likely going to have their contracts renegotiated. Do you expect much change from last year’s group?
Vermes: I think there will be some guys moving on for sure. Some of it will be over the next couple weeks on what they are looking for between themselves and their agents in regards to salary. If we can work something out that we feel is commensurate with where they are within the team, age and all those different things, then some guys could remain. If it’s outside of that, we are just going to have to move on and look at other players.
[inline_node:323457]MLSsoccer.com: Along those lines, you’ve already been out quite a bit this offseason scouting players. How is that process going?
Vermes: When I went over to Portugal, Sweden and Denmark, we had some very specific targets identified. In that process, we obviously looked at a lot of guys and some that we decided right away that we didn’t like and they didn’t fit what we were looking for. There were a few guys that really caught our attention and would be good fits to the way that we play and the positions that we are looking for.
MLSsoccer.com: Have negotiations begun with those guys? Rumors are there might be a French defender close to being acquired.
Vermes: We are in discussions with those guys, but we’re not at a position where we are going to get a contract done anytime in the next couple weeks.
MLSsoccer.com: One huge addition to the squad is already locked up in Bravo. Did you have a chance to sit down with him when he was here for the rebranding ceremony?
Vermes: We had a great conversation. He said some great things, and you can tell that they are genuine. He wants to be here.
MLSsoccer.com: You will be leaning on him in the goal-scoring department, but it also seems like he may some similar qualities to a guy like David Ferreira when it comes to slowing down the game and making his mark late when results can be won or lost.
Vermes: He really knows how to manage the game when we need it. It’s hard for me to say it in English, but he smells what the game needs. That’s the best way for me to say it.
MLSsoccer.com: At the opposite end of the player spectrum, it seems like you and the staff have laid a foundation for building the roster from the ground up with Home Grown guys. Jon Kempin came in this year as the first from the academy. What advantages does he have over the college guys that come in the draft?
Vermes: I had a talk with [Kempin], and I used the example of [Iker] Casillas at Real Madrid. He was something like 18 years old when he made his debut. Obviously, he was in their academy system from a very young age, but Jon is getting that accelerated process. He’s five years outside any other guy that would come in here from college and start working with us.
MLSsoccer.com: There have been rumblings that the club will possibly sign another from the academy this offseason. Where are you in that process?
Vermes: We’re looking, but we also want to be very careful. There is a balance. You have to take some chances, some risks on some guys. But at the same time I’m a big believer in putting people in positions to be successful and not to fail. I want to make sure the guys that we do pick are better than a 50/50 chance. It has to be right. A kid has to decide that maybe school is not the direction a kid wants to go in. There are other variables than just being a good soccer player.