Dwyer move will give Orlando goals and Kansas City financial flexibility
It's one thing to pull off the biggest deal in MLS history. It's quite another when said deal is more than double the previous high.
In the midst of a title-contending season, Sporting Kansas City decided to ship U.S. international forward Dom Dwyer to Orlando City for what Orlando announced as $900,000 in up-front allocation money -- $400,000 in general, $500,000 targeted -- with the possibility of $700,000 in additional allocation money headed SKC's way if certain performance goals are met.
Sometimes incentives are used to find a middle ground, but Kansas City GM and head coach Peter Vermes has every expectation that his team will get the full $1.6 million.
"Those incentives, I feel 100 percent convinced they'll all be achieved, and possibly a few of them that might be achieved this weekend," he said on a conference call with reporters.
The amount dwarfs the previous record, which also involved Orlando. In preseason, the Lions shipped Kevin Molino to Minnesota United for $650,000 in allocation money, with $450,000 of that in GAM and $200,000 in TAM. It's reflective of the new economic realities brought on by the creation and expansion of TAM, which makes it much more lucrative for teams to sell within the league than sell to a foreign club.
Vermes said the amount would be spread over multiple years, allowing the team to remain competitive, and he added that if SKC had sold Dwyer to a team outside the league for $3 million, the club would get only $2 million, and only 650,000 of that could be applied to the cap in the form of GAM.
"The way we did this deal, with the combination of both GAM and TAM, all of those resources can be used towards our cap," he said. "We almost tripled the amount of allocation money that you can take, which provides us with quite a bit of resources."
Forwards will always cost more on the market, but this amount is eye-popping. There is also the fact that Dwyer's contract has a club option through the end of 2018. Orlando will need to lock Dwyer up, though it's a near certainty that Orlando doesn't make this deal without being highly confident of giving Dwyer a significant raise.
Meanwhile, the on-field repercussions are immense. Kansas City has opted to trade its best forward, one who is tied for the second-most goals (55) in MLS the past four seasons. What does that say about Kansas City's intentions for the rest of the season, when it has hovered near the top of the Western Conference for much of the campaign and is a clear MLS Cup contender?
Vermes indicated that it wasn't an easy decision, but he was left with little choice. SKC began negotiations on a contract extension with Dwyer earlier this year and, when it was unable to come to an agreement given the money involved, decided to make the move. That said, Vermes admitted that maintaining the team's level with Dwyer gone will be a challenge.
"When Dom isn't out there, we lose something," he said. "We have to find a way to replace that or to use the strengths of some of our other players in a different way that's going to help us."
What will SKC do with all this newfound cash? FourFourTwo.com reported that former SKC winger Krisztian Nemeth is eager to return to MLS, and the club is interested in bringing him back, though he would have to be acquired via the allocation order, top of which is winger-heavy Columbus Crew SC.
"That player and many others all the above are in play," Vermes said. "The question is going to be whether or not we will get another done with another player in the short term, or is it next window? I want to make it clear that we're not reacting to this situation. Our roster is fluid, it's never completed, so we constantly have a set of targets in every position. So it's something we've been looking at for quite a long time, and we'll make the appropriate acquisitions at the appropriate time that best serves the club."
Orlando was using a different method to assess Dwyer's value. Only D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids have scored fewer goals this season than the 22 mustered by Jason Kreis' men. Dwyer, the manager says, is a forward "who can make goals and take goals." But the realities of the international market were also a factor.
"If you come to the calculus of finding an international player that has the type of statistics that Dom has and the type of qualities that Dom has, I would argue that you're going to pay more than what we paid," Kreis said. "So we look at it from that point of view and say we were happy with the value what we got. What we also gained was a player that is already familiar with the league. He's had great success in MLS already, so we don't need to be concerned with any sort of integration or adaptation to the league. It should be a pretty seamless transition for him."
No discussion of Dwyer's acquisition is complete without considering what this means for another Lions forward, Cyle Larin. Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN FC that Orlando has received multiple offers for Larin in the current transfer window, but another insisted that there are no plans to move Larin this season.
The reason for Orlando to hang on is simple: It stands to get two-thirds of any transfer fee if it waits until the end of the season, as opposed to half if Larin is dealt earlier. But the acquisition of Dwyer has the look of a pre-emptive move, and if Orlando decides to move the Canadian international, it has a replacement already on the roster.
But Kreis insisted none of these considerations factored into his thinking.
"We're looking at this as very much a here-and-now situation," Kreis said. "We feel that we need to improve the team now. We have a direct goal in front of us, which is to make a direct push here to make the playoffs. This is all about right now."
And so Orlando opponents are now looking at a two-forward attack featuring Dwyer and Larin, which makes for an interesting combination. Both are powerful, though Dwyer is the more mobile of the two and has the ability to better press opponents on the defensive end.
"I think Dom is more of a high-energy forward that is capable of dropping into holes," Kreis said. "Cyle is going to be a little more of a box forward. It could a real little-man, big-man combo."
With Giles Barnes and Carlos Rivas also on the roster, Kreis added, "It is not a cut-and-dried decision that Dom and Cyle are the two strikers for this team." But at minimum, Orlando's record-breaking signing will be one of them.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.