Without a midweek game to distract me this time around, I've been thinking about who I would choose for an all-time Wizards/Sporting side. After some (admittedly not a ton) of thought, I came up with the following side and would be interested in who you'd send out as Kansas City's best ever XI. A couple of caveats to this list--one is that I tried to come up with a side that would actually stand a good chance to play well together and complement each other, not just be a team of All-Stars, and they're lined up in basically a 3-4-3 or a 5-4-1 depending on how you view the use of wingbacks. The other is that the criteria for this side was exclusively contributions in a Wizards/Sporks kit--ergo, someone like Richard Gough, who was a club legend at Rangers and probably one of the best defenders to ever play for us, doesn't make the cut because he didn't make much of an impact here.
GK Tony Meola
Tony or Jimmy? (Sorry, Kevin Hartman, but these two guys are a notch above.) Both came up huge in MLS Cup matches, but my recollection of Meola is as a more well-rounded keeper than Nielsen, who, for all his ability, had some definite weaknesses to his game. Tony Meola at his peak, though, was simply unbeatable, as evinced by his selection to the 2006 edition of the MLS all-time best XI.
CB Jimmy Conrad
Making a World Cup squad--even one as ill-fated as the 2006 USMNT side--counts for a lot, and Jimmy Conrad did plenty in a Wizards jersey to earn that spot. I'd rate him almost as big a threat on set pieces as Aurelien Collin, plus he anchored a backline that earned a US Open Cup title and an MLS Final appearance and, like Vermes and Besler, won an MLS Defender of the Year for his personal trophy case. Might also be the best Twitter follow in soccer, but that is neither here nor there.
CB Nick Garcia
I went back and forth on whether to have Peter Vermes or Nick Garcia anchor this backline, but Garcia's sheer longevity puts him here. He and Jimmy were the best CB combo in team history prior to the arrival of Besler--Collin, and it showed in the results (see above).
CB Matt Besler
Presumably needs no introduction. Likely to be the first active Wizard defender to start a World Cup match for the USMNT, an MLS Defender of the Year, and an all-around consistent, smart, reliable player, Matt Besler was an easy inclusion here.
RM/RWB Chris Klein
Chance Myers may one day eclipse Chris Klein, but for the moment, Klein is probably the best two-way right-sided player that the franchise has produced. And even after leaving the Wizards, Klein went on to experience significant success elsewhere, particularly with the LA Galaxy, for whom he is now their front office boss.
CM Kerry Zavagnin
Perhaps the closest the squad has gotten to a one-club man, Kerry Zavagnin spent all but three years of his career with Kansas City--two years with the MetroStars in 97/98, and 99 with the Lehigh Valley Steam (huh? was my reaction too). For eight seasons, Zavagnin was our personal Claudio Reyna--a deep-lying distributor who did a lot of the unsung work in the engine room of midfield, work that generally goes unnoticed but that Zavagnin did well enough at to earn himself 21 USMNT caps, all during his tenure here. Of course, we also know him today as PV's right-hand man on the coaching staff, and as Vermes' name continues to get floated for bigger and better jobs (especially as Klinsmann's successor at the USMNT), I'd personally like to see Zavagnin get a head coaching gig himself too.
CM Roger Espinoza
"Red Card Roger" defined the SKC style for a number of years with his high pressure, tenacious defense, and tireless link-up play to the point that, despite his lack of goals, his absence was incredibly evident during most of 2013 after he had left for Wigan--we had traded for his successor, Benny Feilhaber, that offseason, but Benny wasn't "Sporting Fit" yet, and Paulo Nagamura was solid when healthy, but was often injured. Holds the distinction of earning two back-to-back domestic tournament titles in separate countries with SKC's 2012 US Open Cup title and Wigan's 2013 FA Cup title, and (though it didn't factor in here) is rightly remembered by international football fans for his heroic performance for Honduras at the London Olympics.
LM/LWB Josh Gardner. Just kidding (too soon?), Seth Sinovic
I'm not sure that there is a Wizard who has done more with less than Seth Sinovic--after being given perfunctory chances with a couple of MLS teams, Seth got a lifeline from his hometown club and made the most of it. And he did so while not being gifted with exceptional pace, crossing ability, or any of the other traits we tend to associate with top-flight fullbacks. But he more than made up for it with work rate and smarts, as evinced by his ability to unseat Mikey Harrington (a quality fullback in his own right). The best left back (since Roger is getting slotted in elsewhere) for my money in a Wizards uniform.
218 appearances, 79 goals, 102 assists. Simply the best outfield Wizard of all time. Deserves his status as a Sporting Legend. Simply nothing else I can say about the man. He was always a joy to watch.
ST Miklos Molnar
Far and away the fewest appearances of anyone on this team sheet, but if you remember how he played the defenses in this league like a harp, you know that he belongs here...although it also speaks to our abject lack of goalscoring since then that Danish Dynamite is here. 12 goals in 17 matches, including the gamewinner for the 2000 MLS Cup, constituted an excellent season that would have seen even more goals if he hadn't missed several weeks for national team duty at the 2000 Euros. Like our other Danish club legend, one Jimmy Nielsen, Molnar elected to retire a champion.
LW Kei Kamara
I know he played RW for us, but Vermes switches his wingers around so much in-game that I had few qualms putting Kei here. And really, Kei does deserve to be here after being claimed basically off the scrap heap from Houston and transformed into one of the biggest attacking threats in the league before going on loan to Norwich and then to Boro on a permanent deal. Leading your team in scoring while playing winger is no small feat unless your name is Cristiano Ronaldo, but Kei Kamara managed it. Twice. He just barely makes the cut ahead of Zeus.
What do you think? Who would you pick to your own All-Time XI/Gameday 18 for the club?