BigShot Q&A: Sporting KC Manager – Peter VermesColumnist Herb Scribner interviews Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes with the 2012 MLS season recently underway
by Herb Scribner | Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Peter Vermes is currently the Manager of Sporting KC in MLS. A former player in Hungary, Holland and the United States (where he played for the Kansas City Wizards), Vermes is one of several current MLS head coaches that have made the successful transition from MLS player to coach.
SN: Can you describe the overall turnaround Sporting KC has gone through since switching its names, colors and having a new stadium built? Has the off-field makeover influenced an on-field makeover and changed the mindset of the squad?
VERMES: The biggest change has been a change in culture, and that's something that we've been working towards for the last couple of years. The rebranding of the team, and obviously the building of the stadium, has shown the players just how serious our ownership group is about putting out a winning team, and they feel that. The players realize that there's been a huge amount of effort put into this organization.
SN: Now that Kansas City has its own Soccer Specific Stadium, do you feel like the few remaining clubs without them like D.C. United and the New England Revolution are at a competitive disadvantage playing in older or oversized stadia?
VERMES: I think everybody has their own stadium, the difference is that not everyone has a LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. To me and to the players, it's a sacred place at the moment, they know that they need to give everything they have to get a result and provide entertainment for the fans.
SN: Expansion talk in St Louis has fizzled out in the last few years, but would a regional rivalry between KC and St. Louis be something you’d like to see in the coming decade?
VERMES: I think more teams in the league is good, as long as we maintain the strength of the player pool. The product is most important, and good play brings out the fans. I think rivalries in all sports are great, and I assume that having a team in St. Louis would have started something along those lines.
SN: You played with the Wizards professionally before retiring and were a part of the early days of MLS. How has MLS grown since you were a playing?
VERMES: The number of teams, the quantity and quality of stadiums throughout the league and the fan bases for the individual teams has grown. Obviously the play has evolved a lot, as well.
SN: Is the play in MLS more entertaining today than in 1996 or 2002?
VERMES: Yes, mainly because the standard of play has risen since then.
SN: You, Heaps, Olsen and Jason Kreis are some of the former MLS players now coaching clubs. Do you think it’s an advantage to have played in MLS versus foreign coaches maybe with more experience but less knowledge of the league and the American soccer culture and its players?
VERMES: I don’t see it as anything other than what it really is, and at the end of the day, I'm only concerned about my team and what we're doing. No matter if you're American and played in MLS or not, it takes a lot of work to lead a successful team in this league.
SN: You agreed to let Chad Ochocinco tryout/train with Sporting KC. Was the media attention overbearing? Would you do it all over again if you had a chance?
VERMES: Absolutely I'd do it again. Chad was a classy guy and took his work seriously when he was here. We wish him all the best.
SN: Graham Zusi is a very special player. Do you think he could be the potential transition or at least backup for Landon Donovan for the US Men’s National Team?
VERMES: Landon Donovan is a tremendous player who's achieved a lot in MLS and for the National Team. Zusi had a great season last year and he's making his way in the game, but he has a ways to go.
SN: Zusi is now 25 and will be 26 later in the season. He got in the spotlight and seems to have blossomed at about 24. Dallas’ George John said recently on his return back from a trial at West Ham United in England, that American players are starting too late compared to their overseas colleagues. Could a player like Zusi have been better had he skipped college? Are young American soccer players going pro too late like John stated?
VERMES: It's always a case-by-case basis. Obviously the earlier you can get into a [professional] environment, the more it can benefit you, but we've seen so many examples of players that weren't quite ready who've gone on to blossom in college and eventually MLS.
SN: Will the Development Academy help American soccer? What would you change about it or the development of our nation’s best young players?
VERMES: I think it's great, the Academy is helping to solve all these problems, most beneficial way for us to be developing our players.
SN: In an interview last week Jason Kreis said it’s hard to be a pro coach in MLS and try to keep your job while winning, yet be responsible for trying to develop youngsters who might hinder that short-term if you play them, which they need to grow. Would you agree? How can MLS avoid the pitfalls of winning, yet developing its youngsters?
VERMES: I think we have a lot more to oversee and a lot more to do, but I think it's part of the job and I welcome it at the end of the day because it's fun to be a part of building something that in the short term will provide you success but in the long term become the lifeblood of your organization.
SN: Would you agree that MLS fans rather watch more technical play like RSL than the physical/athletic style of former coaches Gary Smith (Colorado) and Steve Nicol (New England)?
VERMES: I think it's up to each person who watches the game to decide which style they prefer.
SN: What team is the most dangerous this year in MLS? Who plays the best soccer?
VERMES: For me, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders play the best brand of soccer.
SN: Now that you’ve done both at a high level, what’s better playing or coaching?
VERMES: You can't replace playing. That's the ultimate, but being a manager allows you to have a much bigger impact on your entire organization, and that's very rewarding at the end of the day.
SN: What happens first and when: an MLS club wins the FIFA Club World Cup or the USMNT wins the FIFA World Cup?
VERMES: I think they both go hand in hand. If we're in a position to win a World Cup, I think we'll be in a good place to win the Club World Cup and vice versa.