KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Buried in hoopla surrounding the addition of another Designated Player — Brazilian playmaker Jéferson — to the fold, Sporting Kansas City picked up a lesser-known talent they’ve been circling patiently for more than a year.
Kansas City signed 20-year-old defender Daneil Cyrus on loan from Trinidad and Tobago side FC Santa Rosa last week, ending manager Peter Vermes’ year-and-a-half-long struggle to bring the young international stateside.
Sporting tried to sign Cyrus prior to the 2010 season but couldn’t get the required visa. After impressing the technical staff during a combine on the island in December, the defender then spent most of the preseason with the team before returning home when a deal couldn’t be reached.
Despite those struggles, Cyrus finally made his debut for the club this week in a reserve game before playing the second half against Newcastle United on Wednesday, an experience he said was well worth the wait.
“My time here at the beginning was great,” Cyrus said, “but a misunderstanding happened and I went back home. I am so happy to be here and play my first game with Kansas City against a big club like Newcastle. Everything is going great so far, and I’m so proud to be here and represent Sporting KC.”
Likewise, Vermes is delighted to have him in Kansas City for at the very least the remainder of this season before the club decides whether or not to exercise its option to purchase Cyrus outright.
“He’s young enough and he’s got such an upside that — within our situation now and having the players that we do — he can grow in this environment and not have pressure on him to make an impact at a young age,” Vermes said.
And, make no mistake, Vermes expects Cyrus to continue to improve.
The versatile 6-foot-3 defender may be relatively young, but he has plenty of experience after playing on loan with Trinidad and Tobago Pro League side Caledonia AIA for the last two seasons and making his debut for the T&T national team against Chile in May 2010. He has since racked up 13 appearances with the senior side in addition to representing his country in the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups at the youth level.
And following a 45-minute performance in which he matched up favorably against some of the Premier League’s most talented and physically imposing strikers in Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba, Cyrus said he is just happy to continue his steady progression in the game.
“Everything is just another experience for me,” he said. “I’m so happy to get the chance to play against Ameobi. He’s a great player. We came out in the second half and kept a clean sheet, and I had him a little bit frustrated so I’m proud of my performance and the team’s.”
Vermes said Cyrus’ integration into the squad should be relatively seamless — apart from getting to know some of the club’s more recent acquisitions — since he spent most the preseason with Kansas City. The immediate plan is to give him plenty of opportunities with the reserves with the chance of appearing with the first team should circumstances (injury, suspension, etc.) dictate it.
In the meantime, Kansas City’s fitness staff will certainly want to put some more bulk on his lanky frame — he is currently listed at 150 pounds — but Cyrus already has the kind of physical gifts that are impossible to teach.
“He’s very fast,” Vermes said. “He rarely gets beat on the floor. If someone takes off, he somehow finds a way to track that guy down. I call it street smarts, but he has lots of field smarts, too. He manages situations really well. I think that is because of his upbringing.”
Predictably, Cyrus also drew on his roots to get an idea of what to expect in MLS. Though he is known as a “skillful” defender back home, he said his teammates on the national team told him he would have to adjust his style of play to adapt to the rough-and-tumble style in his new surroundings.
“They said in MLS as a defender, it is just down to business,” Cyrus said. “Mash up the play and organize. There isn’t time to always be skillful because most forwards tackle like defenders. There is no easy play. I might not be the biggest defender, but I use my head and ability to read the game well. I’m not really afraid of competition. That is why I came to the league.”