Newcomer Kenneth Vermeer made a tough choice and could fill a huge void for LAFC
Kenneth Vermeer had played more than 90 games in goal for Dutch powerhouse Ajax when he suddenly lost his starting job early in the 2013-14 season. He was 28, just entering his prime, and didn’t want to spend those years on a bench. So with the transfer window closing, he arranged a move to league rival Feyenoord.
“Sometimes you need to make choices and for me it was an important choice to go and get my No. 1 spot again,” he said of the move that saved both his job and his career, with Vermeer winning 35 games and posting 21 shutouts over the next two seasons.
“I was playing in Holland all my career. So I was like ‘now’s the time to make a move, a new challenge, a new life situation,’ ” Vermeer said following a training session Friday at Cal State L.A. “I was ready for it.”
He certainly didn’t have to ask for directions since Southern California long has been a favorite vacation stop.
“Most of the time [I] was in Hollywood or Beverly Hills,” he said.
This trip, however, has been no holiday.
Ex-UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, charged in the college admissions scandal, accused the school of using athlete admissions “as a vehicle to raise funds.”
“When you make a move like this you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “My mindset is always work hard and show them what you can do.”
Vermeer could see his first game action in an LAFC uniform Saturday night when the team meets Peñarol, Uruguay’s most successful club, in its preseason opener at Banc of California Stadium.
Vermeer, 34, said he was given no promises when he signed with LAFC. But his experience, with more than 200 first-division games in Holland and five more with the Dutch national team, gives him a big edge in the competition with returning backup Pablo Sisniega for the starting job left open by the departure of Tyler Miller.
Miller led the Western Conference with 34 wins and 19 shutouts the last two seasons before being traded to Minnesota for some of the allocation money LAFC used to sign Vermeer, whose salary (upwards of $530,000) also signifies a starter’s role.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández’s transfer to Galaxy isn’t a retirement move, he’s simply moving on from the European dream.
“You look at everything he’s done and you say ‘good chance for him to be No. 1,’ ” coach Bob Bradley said.
Perhaps more important is Vermeer’s style of play. He’s athletic, likes the ball at his feet and is comfortable building out of the back, all attributes that fit with the kind of soccer Bradley preaches.
The friendly with Peñarol, winner of a record 50 Uruguayan first-division titles, is the product of a growing partnership with LAFC, which has bought two players from the South American club. The game comes less than two weeks into a preseason training camp notable for the absence of six players to international duty while another, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, is slowly working his way back from injury.
The most impressive player in camp has been forward Adrien Perez, said Bradley, who plans to empty his bench Saturday. No one, he said, is likely to play more than 45 minutes.
“It’s still early,” Bradley said. “So it’s a way to sort of assess the first part of the preseason and see where we are in all categories.”