Sunday, January 11, 2015

DM Deal Dead (And Who Could it Have Been?)

Robb Heineman posted the above Tweet earlier today, letting Sporting KC fans know that a player that Sporting KC had been chasing would not be coming to the team. It's a bit of a blow to Sporting as the team had been looking for a defensive midfielder (DM) who could come in and really replace Oriol Rosell and Julio Cesar. Since those two players have left, both Lawrence Olum and Jorge Claros have struggled to fill the role of distributor that both players filled so well for Sporting over the last few years.

The obvious next step for fans was wanting to know who said player was. I'm going to take a stab at this based on what has been said this offseason and some looking around the internet. First thing that I looked at along with Heineman's Tweet was the comments that Peter Vermes made last week at the Q&A at Sprint with Heineman, Nate Bukaty, and Roger Espinoza. While Vermes was talking about building the team and the stadium and word of mouth helping to bring player interest to Kansas City instead of KC having to really push for some higher end talent, Vermes said "We're dealing with a player right now that has been in our stadium, and played a game in our stadium, who's a foreign player, and wants to come to us because he has been in our environment and seen what it's like and he wants to come here. And if we're open that way we're going to attract more players than we lose."

So combining those two, Heineman saying that the player was a DM, and Vermes saying that the foreign player had played in our stadium, I went ahead and looked up the number of foreigners who have played games at Sporting Park. I was able to find 17 international teams that have played in Sporting Park, either club or international. You have the five friendlies that Sporting KC has played against Newcastle, Chivas, Stoke City, Montpellier, and Manchester City. You also have the competitive games that Sporting has played against international competition at Sporting Park and the teams they were against; Real Esteli, Olimpia, Cruz Azul, and Deportivo Saprissa. Then you have the 2013 MLS All Star game against Roma bringing in another team. The US meanwhile has played three foreign opponents at Sporting Park, Guadeloupe in the 2011 Gold Cup, and Guatemala and Jamaica in World Cup qualifiers. Finally you had the four U23 teams that played at Sporting Park in 2012 as part of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying.

From those 17 teams, here is the list I've come up with of players that played defensive midfield for those teams (I left Canada blank because pretty much all their players are playing in US leagues):

Newcastle - Cheik Tiote
Chivas - Edgar Mejía
Stoke - Wilson Palacios
Montpellier - Marco Estrada,
Manchester City - Fernando, Javi Garcia
Roma - Kevin Strootman, Daniele De Rossi
Real Esteli - Elmer Mejia
Olimpia - Irvin Reyna
Saprissa - Juan Bustos
Cruz Azul - Alejandro Flores
Guadeloupe - Thomas Gamiette, Stephane Auvray
Guatemala - Wilfred Velasquez
Jamaica - Rudolph Austin
Mexico U23 - Jorge Enriquez
Honduras U23 - Wilmer Fuentes
El Salvador U23 - Edwin Sanchez
Canada U23 - not playing in foreign league.

So from this list you can immediately rule out a few names. Stephane Auvray seems unlikely to be making a comeback to Sporting KC, so he's off the list. Then you have players like Cheik Tiote, Fernando, and Kevin Strootman, and Javi Garcia who are all contributors for their current clubs and would all be well out of Sporting's price range.  The same is likely true for Cruz Azul's Alejandro Flores. Then you can probably rule out the likes of Real Esteli's Elmer Mejia, because of Esteli's talent level and the fact that he's 36. The talent gap I'd also put as a reason to rule out Guadeloupe's Thomas Gamiette, Wilfred Velasquez of Guatemala, and Edwin Sanchez of El Salvador's U23 team. Not to say they couldn't happen, I mean look at Aurelien Collin's pre-Sporting KC team history.

While Daniele De Rossi has been linked with a move to MLS, New York City FC seem to have him targeted at this time. I also think getting either Edgar Mejia or Jorge Enriquez away from Chivas would be a hard ask, although with Cubo Torres coming to MLS, maybe it's something that could be happening. At this time though I'd rule those two out as well.

That leaves us with this list:

Stoke - Wilson Palacios
Montpellier - Marco Estrada
Olimpia - Irvin Reyna
Saprissa - Juan Bustos
Jamaica - Rudolph Austin
Honduras U23 - Wilmer Fuentes

As for the remaining players, I just have a feeling Vermes is looking for a bit more of a veteran in the defensive midfield role, I know Rosell did well there, but I just feel like he's looking to have a veteran presence in front of the back four, so I've ruled out both Wilmer Fuentes and Juan Bustos (although I think Bustos would be a pretty good pick up overall).

For me, on the four remaining players I think the options are two, either Wilson Palacios of Stoke City or Marco Estrada of Montpellier. Palacios has been looking for a way out of Stoke for a while and had a move to Qatar ruled out due to fitness issues (reason for a failed physical?). As for Estrada, the Chilean left Montpellier in 2013 and moved to Al-Wahda FC of the UAE. Estrada though has not played in almost a year, also because he's still recovering from a knee injury he suffered last January and is currently training in Chile. Both players certainly have a reason for failing a potential physical that would see them sign with Sporting.

For me though I have to lean towards the player being Estrada. I just have a feeling about Vermes getting a midfield full of current and former Honduran national team players isn't going to happen. Estrada also could have come with a recommendation from goalkeeper Luis Marin who was on the 2010 World Cup team with Estrada.

So that's my guess for the failed signing, former Montpellier midfielder, Marco Estrada, who recorded an assist in Montpellier's 3-0 win over Sporting KC in 2012.

Of course having said that, all you need to do to poke holes in this is the fact that Rosell, Cesar, and Lawrence Olum have all been center backs before coming to Sporting KC and slotting into the midfield in front of the back four.

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