Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes (right) celebrated this year’s U.S. Open Cup championship victory with Sporting KC co-owner Cliff Illig. Allison Long along@kcstar.com
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes (right) celebrated this year’s U.S. Open Cup championship victory with Sporting KC co-owner Cliff Illig. Allison Long along@kcstar.com

Sporting KC

The top of Sporting KC’s wish list: A goal scorer

By Sam McDowell

smcdowell@kcstar.com

November 03, 2017 01:55 PM

UPDATED November 03, 2017 02:15 PM

Before his final meeting Friday with the 2017 version of Sporting Kansas City, coach Peter Vermes provided an insight into the 2018 rendering.

If all goes according to plan this winter, that group will include a new striker atop the depth chart.

Eight days after Sporting KC departed the postseason in its opening round, Vermes articulated the path forward during a year-in-review meeting with reporters.

“It’s a very clear idea of what we need. If we score more goals over the course of the season, we put ourselves in a much different position to be contenders at the end,” Vermes said. “That’s the thing we have to do. We have to find someone that’s going to fit that. That’s also going to take resources.”

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Asked if that goal scorer is currently on Sporting Kansas City’s roster, Vermes replied, “No. No. No. We just went through a whole season, and it didn’t happen.

“It’s obvious we didn’t have that guy. We have to find somebody to fill that role.”

Gerso Fernandes led the team with eight goals in MLS games, but he tallied those from the wing spot. That’s the fewest total for a Sporting KC leading goal scorer since 2008.

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Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara looked back on a 2017 season that included a U.S. Open Cup championship but also a first-round playoff loss.

Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star

Part of that can be contributed to the split in playing time at center forward. Diego Rubio finished the season there, scoring six times in 11 starts. Dom Dwyer occupied the position over the first half of the season before a summer trade moved him to Orlando City SC. He scored five goals in 14 starts in Kansas City, then scored four in 11 starts with Orlando.

Asked if the trade contributed to Sporting KC’s scoring struggles down the stretch of the season, Vermes replied, “Do you know Dom’s statistics? Do you know his statistics?”

He continued: “When you can’t come to an agreement with somebody on a contract in this business and every other sport in this country, at some point you have to make a decision. Can’t keep everybody around. I have a salary cap to manage. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the answer either.”

The return haul from the Dwyer trade will be used in Sporting Kansas City’s pursuit of an adept scorer. The club received up to $1.6 million in allocation money, some of which is incentive-based.

But the resources won’t be limited to that figure. It’s believed Sporting KC is pondering a more expensive addition, one that could top its payroll. Vermes hinted at such Friday, saying, “If you look around the league, this is a much different position than just that money.”

The need is obvious. Sporting KC was second in MLS with 15.3 shots per game and fourth with 5.1 shots on target per game. Yet it finished 17th in the league in scoring.

“We’ve created the chances. Now it’s about finding the guy that is going to be hungry enough and technically good enough and calm enough in those moments to put the ball in the back of the net,” Vermes said.

There will be other offseason targets, too. But the defense will remain largely in place.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia and defender Seth Sinovic — both of whom sat out last week’s playoff loss in Houston because of injuries — will be ready for preseason camp in January. Matt Besler, Ike Opara and Graham Zusi will also be under contract.

“We overachieved in every area except for one, and that’s goal scoring,” Vermes said. “You don’t go and try to fix what isn’t broken. If you mess with that, you have a problem.”