Today is shaping up to be “soccer day” in our Kingdom. Earlier I published a piece regarding the addition of Claudio Bieler but prior to that move becoming official I had already planned on recapping some of the other Sporting KC moves and occurred since my last update on the 7th.
Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft was held on Friday and Sporting KC passed on making a selection when their turn came around. Eight other teams also elected to pass, but on the other side of the coin, ten teams made at least one selection with San Jose picking up the rights to three players.
The inactivity of our local squad in that portion of things was to be expected considering they’ve been plenty busy in other ways trading away, trading for, and signing talent in the last week or so. In fact, in terms of improving their roster thus far in the offseason, Pro Soccer Talk ranked them 2nd among the 19 MLS franchises and that was prior to the addition of Bieler.
Considering Sporting won the Eastern Conference by 5 points this past season and had the second best record in the league, ownership’s willingness and desire to push the envelope and make changes is a welcome departure from that the Royals and Chiefs have been doing in recent years.
Last Wednesday the team announced that they had re-signed local product and reigning MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Besler to a new contract. Not only did the 25-year old Overland Park, KS native stay with Sporting, he turned down several trial offers from clubs in England and Belgium in the process and publicly made a definitive statement that he was dedicated to his hometown team.
“I want to play in Kansas City for my whole career. If you told me that in eight to 10 years I was still playing for Kansas City and we’d won multiple championships, that would be the ideal situation. That’s my vision.”
Given that we’re all well aware of how important Besler is to the team’s present and future this move is nothing short of a huge win for everyone involved. Re-signing Besler was the team’s number one offseason priority and they got it done.
In addition to re-signing Besler, Sporting was also involved in a trade with San Jose sending SKC’s second round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to the Earthquakes in exchange for 23-year old defender Ike Opara. The young centerback played in 35 games for San Jose since being drafted in the first round (3rd overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft out of Wake Forest. To date he’s still more about potential than on-field results and hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far. But in Kansas City the pressure is off. He certainly gives SKC a talented option that will provide depth to an already stout defensive unit.
Besler’s signing and the Opara trade came just a day after the team traded allocation money, their 2014 first round pick and 2015 second round pick in those respective MLS SuperDrafts to the New England Revolution. In return they received 27-year old midfielder Benny Feilhaber. (Yeah they were busy and it was a bad week for my writing time to be focused elsewhere and in short supply)
While he has plenty of talent, concerns exist about his ability to fit in to a team environment and it was clear the New England simply didn’t want him around any longer. Since the trade was announced I’ve seen terms like “difficult” and “mercurial” and the like attached to the midfielder but have been unable to find any concrete examples of anything he’s done to put him on the outs with the Revolution. Perhaps he was just in a bad situation and things will work out swimmingly for him in Kansas City. At least that’s the hope as he brings technical aptitude, vision, passing and plenty of experience with the US National program as well as international experience to the table. All of these traits can make him a significant asset to Sporting’s future and there is no question he finds himself on a far more talented roster than the one he left. Winning makes it easier for personalities of all types to assimilate and to his credit he seems energized by the trade and ready to put his disappointing stint with New England in the rear view.
Finally, on the same day Sporting KC acquired Benny, they also signed 21-year old defender Yann Songo’o. His resume and experience are limited but he has represented Cameroon in some international competitions. He’s been playing primarily in Spain, most recently with Pobla de Mafumet CF. There is some familiarity with Songo’o as Peter Vermes cited that their youngest addition trained with Sporting last summer. Obviously he made an impression.