Kansas City Wizards Technical Director Peter Vermes was a guest on Tuesday’s “From the Pitch with Marcelo Balboa.” He talks in-depth about the new stadium, replacing Eddie Johnson, and of course, the upcoming season — all quality stuff. The two-hour show is available as a podcast on iTunes, with Peter on air for roughly the last 15 minutes. Below is a full transcript of the interview (questions abbreviated):
How are things in Kansas City?
Actually, right now it’s very very cold. But in regards to the team, things are progressing positively. First off, it’s a long preseason number one. Number two is you have to be very patient and you have to have a long-term plan. It takes some time to kind of inject that philosophy that you’re trying to create into your team. You’ve got to change the culture. And we’re slowly but surely doing that. We’re trying to get it done but it takes some time.
Why technical director of Kansas City and not in a coaching position before that?
That’s a very good question because when the new ownership group came in and took over this team I was offered the opportunity to do any of the jobs on the technical side. And I picked technical director only because I felt that if you want to be successful in the MLS as a coach you have to have a good system in place and that starts with scouting – whether that be internationally or whether that be domestically and then also at the college level – and one of the things that always concerned me was that if you’re going to go into the coaching aspect, you have to have that in place. Kansas City did not have that in place. I felt that I’d be looking over my shoulder if I was a coach. If somebody else was to have that job and I wanted to take on that responsibility to make sure the system was in place. I chose that route and I’ve got to tell you that it’s been a challenge, but it’s been exciting and I’ve felt very comfortable in that position over the last year.
Would you ever consider going back into coaching or is this something you want to keep doing?
Probably, like you Marcelo, I would say I can’t say never, because I enjoy the on the field stuff. I’ve learned a lot being a TD. There’s so many little intricacies of the MLS. It’s so hard to understand in regards to the rules around not only which players you can pick and how you can pick them, bur also the salary cap. It’s been a great education for me. And I know that would enhance me if I ever decide to go into coaching, but I just don’t know. It’s not an easy decision to make because you have to be in a good situation. I love Kansas. I love Kansas City. I love the Wizards. I just don’t know. I don’t think I’m in a position to make that decision at the present time. But I do love the on the field stuff.
How do you replace Eddie Johnson?
This is what I’ll say first: If Arsenal can sell Thierry Henry to Barcelona then we can sell Eddie Johnson to Fulham. And look around the world, Marcelo you know this, look at the La Liga. You have Real Madrid, Barcelona and then whoever else – maybe it’s Valencia, it depends – but over the long term it’s Real Madrid and Barcelona. You go to Holland its PSV Eindhoven, Ajax , who else after that, ??? maybe. Every league in the world has a couple teams that are really good. Everybody else they make their living off of selling players. I don’t think the Kansas City Wizards want to be that same type of team where they just sell players. But at the end of the day, if the offer is right, you’re going to sell a player. And obviously Arsenal was able to do that in regards to Thierry Henry, and at the same time, we also have an obligation, I feel, and again – Marcelo, you and I were teammates, we roomed together, we know what we think when we’re in that position as a player – if somebody comes along and offers an opportunity for you as a player and then all of a sudden your club holds you back from that opportunity, you then view that club in a negative way. And we didn’t want to do that with Eddie if the opportunity came, and he was for it, and it suited our needs – then we were going to try to make that work for him and us as well. It just worked out at the end of the day. Eddie scored a lot of goals, no doubt. We’ve got to replace that guy, that’s a difficult situation, but that’s soccer. You’ve got to continuously look for the next guy to step in and make an impact.
Stadium-wise, is this something that Kansas City will be in in two, three, four-years?
We’ll definitely be in our new stadium in two years. There’s no doubt that this transitional period with our new stadium is going to be a challenge. It’s not any different than some of the other teams in the league. Take Chicago for example, when they had their transitional stadium. Everybody goes through it, but the end result is you have a carrot at the end of the day. That carrot is we’re going to have an unbelievable stadium. We feel, at least when our stadium is done, that it’s going to be the best in the league. We’ve looked at all the stadiums in the MLS and we’ve also taken a tour of a lot of stadiums in Europe, and we’re trying to take all those good parts from all those stadiums, and put them into our stadium. And I think we’re going to have a tremendous environment. To say that this is a soccer-specific stadium that can provide the experience that every fan wants. It’ll be done in two years and in the interim we’re going to be playing in a baseball stadium that provides us with the opportunity to say that our tickets are now in demand because it’s going to be a limited number of seats – 10,000 seats as opposed to 80 which I don’t know too many teams in the league that are selling 80,000 season tickets so for us it’s kind of setting the stage for in two years if you want to be part of the Kansas City Wizards you need to starting putting up now as opposed to two years from now.
How is your franchise going to keep the spotlight and momentum from making the playoffs and direct that after losing a player of that stature?
Well, two things I would say to that. Number one is, and it’s no disrespect to Eddie, because obviously he has international talent, but the year prior to when the organization was turned around last year, Eddie was dead and gone. Nobody in the league paid any attention to him. He was actually a guy that was suspended from the Kansas City Wizards team with the old ownership group and with the old coaching staff. And then he got resurrected and he changed. And at times, you’ve gotta hit the iron while it’s hot. But in regards to him, he’s gone now and we have to look to the future. When you ask that question, we have a guy like Ivan Trujillo who is coming in from Colombia – he’s going to meet us in Argentina. Our team leaves tomorrow for preseason camp there. That’s one. He’s a very solid forward. A lot of people made the comparison that right before Angel who’s in New York right now with Red Bull, right before he went to England and played there, they all say that he’s actually a little bit ahead of him in regards to his development. That’s one guy. And then we’ve been working on another player here, a designated player, in the most recent time and we’re trying to solidify a contract with him and hopefully that works out. But we also have a lot of guys that are stepping into those positions. Scott Sealy has been a very strong player in our club for the last three years. He scored on a consistent basis, an average of at least ten goals a season, so you can’t count out the guys we already have today.
How would you like to be remembered as a player – as a defender or as a forward?
It’s amazing. We had a player in our club here – he was on our 18-man roster all of last year in 2007 – and because our team has become much more competitive we had to basically offer him from a full-roster spot down to a senior developmental because he was still of age and it had just become that much more competitive. Unfortunately, he didn’t accept it. And at the end of the day, he was a true professional because of the way he reacted to the situation. We said to him, you embody – this is our belief or at least our philosophy at the Kansas City Wizards – and that is, if you’re going to make a team, if you’re going to build a team, then you have to build it in your likeness. Because if you start getting guys that are different than your mentality or what your philosophy was when you were a player, then you’re always going to be in conflict. When I look at myself, and Marcelo you can comment on this, I believe that I had some God-given talent, but at the end of the day my work ethic, my attention to detail, and every day my commitment and perseverance to the game was what enabled me to last 15 years as a professional soccer player. I would say that was who I was and that’s what I hope that people remember me as.
What’s been your biggest concern going into this season?
I think it’s trying to figure out how we want to play. Do we want to play a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2? Because we have a real strong talent in Carlos Marinelli. He really hones all the skills of a playmaker. And there really hasn’t been a ton of playmakers in this league. You had Etcheverry, you had Carlos Valderrama. There’s really not a ton of them, but he really is. He hones all the skills that you need. He’s got the game, he’s got the technical ability with his feet. The question is, how do you get the most out of him? Is it through a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2? We’re continuously sort of tweaking that and figuring out how that works. The one thing, again, that we’re very, very happy about is that we’ve really changed the foundation of our club with a strong – we believe, at least – a strong group of guys that we’ve brought in from the SuperDraft and the Supplemental Draft. And that’s going to bode well, we feel, for the years to come. Especially because we’re in the middle of the country. We’re not in New York or Chicago or LA, where ,at the end of the day, if a guy from overseas wants to come to this country, he wants to play in one of those three big cities. So we have to do something different and we have to be able to develop our own. We feel that we’re starting to do that. Our philosophy is that if we can develop one or two guys every year that can eventually make our senior roster than we’re ahead of the game. And last year, we actually developed, over the course of the year, three guys that can make our developmental roster so we’re pretty excited about that. We hope that this next group of guys that are coming in out of our draft are going to provide us with that same foundation that we created last year.
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