Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sporting's Homegrown Player Loans

Two of Sporting KC's four homegrown players spent all or part of the year 2016 on loan in Europe, Erik Palmer-Brown and Daniel Salloi spent 2016 in Portugal and Hungary playing with club's there instead of with Sporting KC. With 2016 close to coming to an end let's take a look at both players' time in Europe.

Palmer-Brown's loan to Porto in Portugal took place first, Sporting agreed to a loan move for Palmer-Brown during preseason for Sporting ahead of the 2016 MLS season. At the time he'd been expected to play a role for Sporting's USL side, the Swope Park Rangers in 2016, instead he got a move to Europe. It look Palmer-Brown about a month or so to get up to speed in Portugal, but once he did he became a regular starter for Porto B in the Portuguese second division. Palmer-Brown started 11 games for Porto B in the league as they won the Portuguese second division.

Plamer-Brown missed the start of the 2016-2017 season for Porto B as he suffered a foot injury that kept him out of action until the middle of October. Upon his return though Palmer-Brown again took his place in the starting lineup for Porto B. He started six games for Porto B in their league season as well as playing in cup competitions.

The biggest news for Palmer-Brown in the second half of 2016 came when he was called up on multiple occasions to train with Porto's first team. Late in his loan Palmer-Brown even made the bench for Porto's first time in a Cup game between Porto and Belenenses. Unfortunately Palmer-Brown didn't get on the field, but it showed the faith that Porto has in him as a player. Porto had their last game of 2016 on Thursday, but a hamstring injury has kept Palmer-Brown out for the last couple weeks.

The question now becomes whether Palmer-Brown will make the move to Porto permanent. The club has obviously been impressed enough with Palmer-Brown's work if he's getting called up to work with the first team and as a consistent starter for their reserve side. From reading some fan reactions, the fans are impressed with Palmer-Brown and are wanting Porto to make the move permanent as well.

It he doesn't go though Palmer-Brown's time in KC may still be short as other clubs could come in with an offer. The other thing is that he's likely to feature a whole lot for KC in the first half of the season. If he returns Palmer-Brown is likely to miss a good portion of preseason as U20 World Cup qualifying takes place in February and early March and the assumption is that Palmer-Brown would be on the roster for that tournament. Then if the US finishes as one of the top four teams in qualifying, they'll qualify for this summer's World Cup in late May and early June in South Korea. So if Palmer-Brown does return, don't expect him to jump right into Sporting's starting 11 either.

With Salloi, his loan didn't take place until about half way through 2016. Originally Salloi had been the only other striker on the team along with Dom Dwyer and ended up dressing for Sporting's first few games of the 2016 season until Diego Rubio took that spot over. With Rubio in the 18 for Sporting, Salloi went on loan to the Swope Park Rangers for the beginning of the USL season. He played in 10 games for the Rangers, starting six of them and leading the team in goals with four before his loan. Salloi's loan reportedly was because of his hopes of getting back into the youth national team picture for his country by playing in the local league.

Originally when the loan was announced back in June, Salloi was on his way to Vasas, a traditional power in Hungary. When the league kicked off in mid-July though there was no sign of Salloi on the field or on the bench for Vasas in Hungary. A few days after the league started it was reported that Salloi's loan had been switched from Vasas to Gyirmot for the rest of 2016. Gyirmot, a recently promoted side from the Hungarian second division, is coached by Istvan Urbanyi, a former Sporting Kansas City academy coach from around the time Salloi would have been in the academy. The move in that regard made sense for Sporting and Salloi, and going to a newly promoted club had a better chance of better playing time for Salloi.

Unfortunately the play hasn't gone Gyirmot's way all that much, they're currently rooted to the foot of the table in Hungary in 12th, seven points behind 11th place and seven points from safety right now, with by far the worst goal difference in the league at -23.

Salloi for his part has appeared in 13 of Gyirmot's 19 games before the winter break, starting 12 of them. He's also leading the team in scoring with two goals, but the club has only scored eight goals in their 19 games, less than a goal every other game.

The Hungarian league is on break until February now, so Salloi's loan is effectively finished for the time being. With Rubio out for the first half of 2017 at least, Salloi is once again the only other striker on the roster other than Dwyer. Unlike Palmer-Brown, a permanent move to Hungary doesn't seem likely given Gyirmot's position in the table, it'd seem unlikely that they would want to pick up Salloi permanently with relegation back to the second division looking highly likely at this point.

If I had to make a guess on who is back and who isn't in 2017, I think Palmer-Brown is likely gone, whether it be to Porto, or another team that saw him play while he was with Porto, I think Palmer-Brown makes the move to Europe in January. As for Salloi, I could see his loan extended through the end of the Hungarian season if Gyirmot and Urbanyi really want it, but I could just as easily see Salloi in KC for preseason looking to push for time or back with the Rangers battling Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Kharlton Belmar.

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