We'll always be members of "Jimmy Conrad's Posse". (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
While technically their salaries had already come off the books when they were not offered new contracts a couple of weeks ago, it took only about 60 seconds for over $450,000 of salary cap space to be officially freed up for Sporting Kansas City technical director and head coach Peter Vermes to reshape his squad. Until their rights were officially selected by the respective clubs with which they now reside, there was always the possibility for either one of Conrad or Wolff, or both, to be back in 2011. But, alas, that was not in the cards.
Many speculated that Conrad could have been taken in the first phase of the re-entry draft held last Wednesday afternoon, but at his 2010 salary rate (plus an additional five percent) of $232,750, he was a much more attractive target this Wednesday when a team can now negotiate a new contract with the player.
It was somewhat a wild day in not only the Sporting KC universe, but also all of Major League Soccer. If you stepped away from Twitter for more than 20 minutes at a time, (which I mistakenly did myself) you came back to a largely changed landscape of America's top division league.
After the jump, we'll not only recap all of the happenings for the Kansas City outfit, but what each one means going forward.
Josh Wolff to DC United
In 2010, Kansas City (then the Wizards) struggled mightily for much of the season to score goals. We all knew that there were going to be changes coming in the offseason, and that Wolff was the most likely roster casualty. At the very least, we knew that he wasn't going to be returning on a contract similar to that of his 2010 deal. ($220,004)
Wolff scored 43 goals in two stints spanning seven seasons as a member of the Kansas City Wizards.
What it means going forward: As I said, Wolff was always the most likely to be leaving the team, or accepting a greatly reduced contract. He started the 2010 season as a regular member of the starting XI, but as the team faltered and the attack failed to score goals, rookie forward Teal Bunbury took over Wolff's starting spot in mid-July against Columbus. Not coincidentally, the team then took off and made a late push for the playoffs.
More than anything, Wolff leaving means almost ten percent of the team's entire alotted salary cap is now free.
Not to discredit anything Josh ever did with the club, but from a standpoint of winning now and in the future, (isn't that the reason they play?) it was time to part ways. Best of luck to Josh in the nation's capitol.
Jimmy Conrad to Chivas USA
This is the one that Sporting fans are having the hardest time getting over. The fact of the matter though, is that things are ever-changing, whether it be the name of the club or losing a colossal figure in the club's history like Jimmy Conrad.
I'll say this as nice as I can, and I'll only say it once before moving on: Jimmy Conrad was a great player for Kansas City for eight years. He was, still is and always will be a fan favorite. Matter of factly though, moving forward, the team's best chance to win is to part ways with Jimmy. You can either pay a player that will be 34 years old at the start of the 2011 season a quarter-mil, or you can take that money and either give it to one promising young prospect or multiple players that can serve more than one role. Sports a numbers game, and Jimmy's number (his salary) was huge by MLS standards and only going to tie the team down financially.
Will it be weird to see Jimmy playing in another jersey next year, and of all clubs Chivas? Yes, it will. Will it hurt? It may even hurt a little bit. At this point, you can either choose to be a fan of Sporting Kansas City - like many have for 15 years, stay loyal to an individual player and hate the team that you claim to love, or admit to yourself that not everything in the world is all roses and things that smell good and accept the change as part of the ultimate plan to bring another MLS Cup to Kansas City.
Perhaps it's easier for myself to get over losing Jimmy because I haven't been a hardcore fan for his entire time with KC. I'm sure that largely plays into it, actually. But, even when my opinion is clouded by my feelings towards a player in any sport, I try to stay objective and see the big picture.
What it means: Again, SKC's available salary cap goes +$232,750 at the moment. That's huge.
There was always the possibility he could be back next year and resume his spot in the center of defense, but we now know that either Matt Besler or a new signee will be called upon to fill Jimmy's big, empty shoes. If the new season started tomorrow, it would be Besler starting alongside Shavar Thomas. I also believe that current target Aurelien Collin will be in the mix eventually.
No matter which way Vermes decides to go on the field next year, it will be someone significantly younger and cheaper. You can count on that.
Hejduk Selected, Traded To Los Angeles Galaxy for Luke Sassano
When Hejduk was initially selected, my initial reaction was that the team is less than hopeful of being able to agree a new deal with last season's prime performer at rightback Michael Harrington, and that Hejduk would be there to fill his spot for a year or two until they find a valliant replacement. At this point, my day did not look the brightest.
I've made it no secret that Harrington is one of my, if not the, favorite player on this team and that there are very few better at his position in MLS. Having him defending the wide areas on the right in 2011 is absolutely necessary if SKC fans have any hopes of postseason play next season.
Then, about four hours later, Hejduk was sent to LA for Sassano. Whether Sporting received a young player like Sassano in return or a bag of old soccer balls, I immediately felt better about the rightback situation. Not because I don't like Hejduk, (he's a US national team legend, for crying out loud) but because Frankie wasn't brought in to take Harrington's spot.
So long, Frankie. We hardly knew thee.
What it means: Sassano is somewhat of a utilityman, it seems. He's been known to play some holding mid, centerback and even rightback. In a bind, he could back up any one of Stephane Auvray in the center of midfield, Thomas and/or Besler in center of defense or Harrington at rightback.
Most likely, Sassano, assuming that a contract is eventually agreed upon, will be a nice piece for squad depth. What having someone like Sassano, who can play a few different positions, does is allows Vermes to go after other players that fill other specific roles; not only in the transfer market, but also in team selection on gameday. If you don't have to select two defenders and a holding mid on the bench, but can instead choose Sassano and one other defender, you can fit one more possible attacking option into the gameday eighteen.