One of the big talking points for Sporting Kansas City during the off season has been the possibility of the club bringing in a designated player to help bolster their chances in 2012. It appeared a couple of months ago that the club would sign at least one designated player in the current transfer window. However, expectations for a DP signing have been tempered as of late, with Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman noting that the chances of signing a designated player in this window are slim at this point.
On the surface, the idea of signing a higher profile player from overseas would appear to make sense for an organization that is in "MLS Cup or Bust" mode. However, the history of the designated player in Major League Soccer suggests that perhaps Kansas City would be better served passing on a potential DP.
Even with the Galaxy's successful DP trio (Donovan, Beckham, Keane) in 2011, one has to wonder if the amount of money being invested in some of these players is actually worth the results on the pitch. For every successful DP signing, there have been a number of designated players that never lived up to their status as game changers in MLS. The 2011 Galaxy were actually the first team to win an MLS Cup with a designated player on their roster, which is somewhat surprising, given the fact that rule has been in place since 2006.
If anything, that last sentence should be comfort enough to Sporting fans that Kansas City doesn't need a DP to bring the MLS Cup to Kansas City in 2012.
Designated Players have been a mixed bag for the franchise in the past. Kansas City has only signed three DP's since the rule was implemented; Argentinean striker Claudio Lopez in 2008, Mexican forward Omar Bravo in 2010, and Brazilian midfielder Jeferson in the summer of 2011.
Lopez would have to be considered the best signing out of the three. El Piojo played for the Wizards for two seasons, scoring 13 goals and 15 assists during his time with the club.
Bravo had a solid season for Kansas City his one year with the team in 2011, scoring 9 goals and adding 3 assists before transferring to Mexican side, Cruz Azul, after the 2011 MLS playoffs.
Jeferson was brought into the team during the summer of 2011, with the hope that he could become the number 10 that the club was lacking. However, injuries derailed Jeferson's stay with the club and Sporting ended up waiving the midfielder at the end of the season. Jeferson finished with one assist in nine regular season matches in 2011.
While both Lopez and Bravo were solid contributors during their short stays in Kansas City, the impact both players had probably didn't warrant the price tag of a designated player. In the case of Jeferson, it's safe to say the experiment was a complete failure.
And that's the thing about designated players. Very rarely do these players live up to the money, and the expectations of the designated tag. Since the implementation of the DP rule in Major League Soccer, only a handful of designated players have actually had a major impact for their clubs. David Beckham, Thierry Henry... of course, Landon Donovan. All three have been worth their weight in gold on and off the field for their respective clubs.
Juan Pablo Angel was worth the price tag when he played with the Red Bulls from 2007-2010. Luciano Emilio was a force for DC United from 2007-2009. FC Dallas' David Ferreira won the MLS MVP Award in 2010, helping lead Dallas to the MLS Cup Final, but he spent the majority of this past season on the sidelines with an injury.
On the other side of the coin, there's a laundry list of players who ended up failing to deliver the goods. Mista (Toronto FC) appeared in only nine matches for the club in 2010, failing to score a single goal in regular season play. Midfielder Claudio Reyna's two years ( 2007-2008) with the New York Red Bulls was mired with injuries. Former FC Dallas winger Denilson managed only one goal during his one year with the club.
Branko Boskovic (DC United), Rafael Marquez (New York), Mustapha Jarju (Vancouver), Marcelo Gallardo (DC United), Giovanni Deiberson (San Jose Earthquakes)........ the list can go on for quite a while in regards to players that haven't panned out under the DP tag.
Which is why Sporting Kansas City should probably be content with where they are at the moment. With the season quickly approaching, how many attainable players from overseas would realistically be able to come in to this Sporting squad and have a major impact for the team? My guess is not many.
Sporting have brought in depth on the wings (Bobby Convey, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson), midfield (Paulo Nagamura, Michael Thomas), and center back (Cyprian Hedrick, although I still believe some more depth would still be nice, but nothing that would warrant a designated player).
I know as fans we are almost always looking for our teams to make the big, flashy signings. It's just the way we are. And most of the time I would be right on that bandwagon. But, I keep looking back at what Sporting was able to do in 2011, and I think about how this year's squad should legitimately be better than the one that reached the Eastern Conference Final just a few months ago, and for once I find myself hoping that Sporting will stand pat.