Sporting KC signs Croatian defender Roberto Puncec to two-year deal

Defender Roberto Puncec plays in a February 2017 Second Bundesliga match for Union Berlin.
Getty Images/Courtesy Sporting KC

Roberto Puncec, a Croatian defender with 12 years of professional experience, has signed with Sporting Kansas City, the club announced Wednesday.

Puncec, 28, signed a two-year MLS contract through 2021 with an option for 2022. He will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

Puncec played the last 2 1/2 seasons with Croatian first-division club HNK Rijeka, which won the 2019 Croatian Cup. He has totaled almost 300 professional appearances in Croatia, Israel and Germany.

“Roberto has significant experience playing in Europe over the last several years,” said Peter Vermes, Sporting’s manager and sporting director. “He is very excited to be here and we look forward to him integrating into our club and our city.”

The center back signed his first senior team contract in 2008 at age 16. He became a regular starter in 2009 and helped his hometown club in Varazdin, Croatia, secure a spot in 2011-12 UEFA Europa League qualifying. He joined Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2011 for one season, then began a five-year stint with German side Union Berlin of the second-division 2. Bundesliga in 2012. He started 118 of 128 appearances in all competitions for Union Berlin.

Puncec returned to his native Croatia in 2017, anchoring the defense for HNK Rijeka from 2017-19.