Sporting KC acquires Scottish winger Johnny Russell

Even with preseason training underway in advance of the 2018 season, Sporting Kansas City’s roster continues to improve.

Sporting KC announced Wednesday that it has acquired 27-year-old Scottish winger Johnny Russell in a transfer from English club Derby County FC.

Russell will occupy an international slot on Sporting KC’s roster pending a successful medical and receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa. He has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2020 with an option for 2021.

“Johnny Russell is a player with good attacking qualities who we are excited to bring to Kansas City in the very near term,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. “We look forward to acclimating him to our club in preparation for the start of the season in just over a month. Sporting KC would also like to thank Mo Johnston, a former member of our club who was instrumental in helping make this acquisition possible.”

Russell has scored 94 goals during a 12-year professional career in England and his native Scotland. The attacking player arrives at Sporting KC after five seasons with Derby County in the second-division English Football League Championship, where he struck 34 goals in 203 competitive appearances. Russell has played 23 matches throughout the 2017-18 EFL Championship campaign, bagging four goals while helping Derby occupy second place in the current league standings.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Russell developed in the Dundee United FC Academy before making his professional debut for the top-flight Scottish Premiership club in May 2007 at age 17. He spent most of the following two seasons on loan at Scottish side Forfar Athletic, scoring eight total goals, and marked his first career Dundee United start with a successful penalty kick in a 2009 Scottish FA Cup win over East Sterlingshire.

After being loaned to Raith Rovers in 2009-10, Russell enjoyed a breakout year at Dundee United with nine goals as the Tangerines finished fourth in the Scottish Premier League. He added 14 more goals in all competitions during the 2011-12 campaign to pace another fourth-place finish, also scoring in a UEFA Europa League qualifier. Russell’s final season at Dundee United saw him produce a team-best 20 goals in 38 competitive appearances, including five in the club’s run to the Scottish FA Cup semifinals.

Russell reached new heights in June 2013 when he joined Derby County at the age of 23. He marked his debut for the outfit with his first of nine goals in the 2013-14 English Championship as the Rams fell just short of promotion to the Premier League. The winger totaled 18 additional goals over the next two seasons to work his way into the Scotland Men’s National Team squad.

Russell, who remained a regular contributor for Derby in 2016-17 and 2017-18, has recorded four goals in the English Championship since last November, notching match-winners against Burton Albion on Dec. 2 and Birmingham City on Jan. 13.

Russell has earned four career caps for Scotland, including one appearance in UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying. He received his first call to the senior squad in May 2012 for a friendly against the United States, but did not feature in the match. Russell landed his debut in a November 2014 friendly against England and featured in two more friendlies the following year as Scotland defeated Northern Ireland and Qatar, respectively. In October 2015, he contributed to Scotland’s 6-0 victory over Gibraltar in Group D of UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying.

As a youth international, Russell represented Scotland at the U-19 and U-21 levels. He netted twice in 10 matches for the U-19s between 2007-2010, then logged 11 appearances for the Scotland U-21s from 2010-2012, tallying one goal in 2013 UEFA U-21 European Championship Qualifying.