KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The last time Sporting Kansas City signed a midfielder who came up through Barcelona's famed La Masia academy, he blossomed into a star.
They're hoping that history repeats itself with Thursday's deadline-day acquisition of 21-year-old Jordi Quintilla, expecting his background with the Spanish super club to ease his transition into Sporting's system.
“Similar formation, rules and responsibilities with positions, excellent technical foundation, and tactically they're very smart in their position,” manager and technical director Peter Vermes told reporters shortly before Quintilla's signing was made official. “It's the best club in the world, so if we can find some players from there, it's big for us.”
Quintilla, who spent the 2014-15 season with Ligue 2 side AC Ajaccio in France, was a contemporary of former Sporting defensive midfielder Uri Rosell at La Masia. Rosell, who came to Kansas City in the middle of the 2012 season, became one of the league's premier defensive midfielders during his two-year stint before being sold to Sporting Clube de Portugal in the middle of the 2014 season.
It took Rosell until late 2012 to break out with Kansas City, but Quintilla could be on an accelerated schedule with the loss of Roger Espinoza for 10 to 12 weeks. Espinoza was diagnosed with a broken sesamoid bone in his left foot, the club announced earlier Thursday.
“He's a guy in the middle of the midfield,” Vermes said of Quintilla. “That's where he can play – a No. 8, like Roger plays. He has different qualities, though. He's more with the ball than anything else.”
In the meantime, Sporting will likely count on veteran Paulo Nagamura to take Espinoza's spot – although Vermes said Amobi Okugo, acquired last month in a trade with Orlando City SC, also can play in that position.
Injuries, along with Espinoza's return to Kansas City after two years in England with Wigan Athletic, have limited Nagamura to nine appearances with five starts this season – but he is coming into form just when he's needed, Vermes said.
“The great thing is that he's starting to get back into shape after the long period of time that he was out,” Vermes said. “So from that point of view, it's good. We have some other guys that we're going to have to move around a little bit, to make sure that we can take care of the loss of Roger.”
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“It's disappointing to lose a guy like Roger,” center back and captain Matt Besler told reporters on Thursday. “Roger was really coming into form, playing with a lot of confidence and getting back to the normal Roger Espinoza that we've been accustomed to seeing. But it's the same old case when someone goes down. The next guy has to be ready.
“That's why we have a big roster. That's why everybody trains with the first and second team, and everyone mixes and matches. So I'm not too worried right now.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.