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Sporting Players and the World Cup

Sporting KC has a history of sending players to the World Cup, and has a number of players represent their country before or after playing in KC.

Netherlands v Chile: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

For the first time since the club was founded, Sporting Kansas City had no one represent the club at the World Cup. Four players currently on KC’s roster, Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, and Graham Zusi along with head coach, Peter Vermes have represented their country at the World Cup at some point in their career though. Those are four of 31 players who have played a game for Kansas City who have also played at the World Cup. With the World Cup finals set, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the players who have played in the World Cup and for Kansas City and with the players fairly evenly divided between the US (18) and foreign (13) countries and to try to make a roster of US players and foreign players.

First the 31 players who have represented their country at the World Cup, in parenthesis are the World Cup years they competed in.

US (18): Matt Besler (2014), Brian Bliss (1990), Mike Burns (1994, 1998), Jimmy Conrad (2006), Bobby Convey (2006), Brad Davis (2014), Benny Feilhaber (2010), Herculez Gomez (2010), Chris Henderson (1990), Eddie Johnson (2006), Frank Klopas (1994), Alexi Lalas (1994, 1998), Tony Meola (1990, 1994, 2002), Preki (1998), Mike Sorber (1994), Peter Vermes (1990), Josh Wolff (2002, 2006), Graham Zusi (2014)

Chile (2): Felipe Gutierrez (2014), Luis Marin (2010)

Honduras (2): Jorge Claros (2014), Roger Espinoza (2010, 2014)

Scotland (2): Richard Gough (1986, 1990), Mo Johnston (1990)

Argentina (1): Claudio Lopez (1998, 2002)

Cameroon (1): Samuel Ekeme (1994)

Denmark (1): Miklos Molnar (1998)

Jamaica (1): Onandi Lowe (1998)

Mexico (1): Omar Bravo (2006)

Nigeria (1): Uche Okafor (1994, 1998)

Yugoslavia (1): Refik Sabanadzovic (1990)

Of those 31, nine competed at the World Cup as members of the KC Wizards/Sporting KC: Besler, Conrad, Espinoza (2010), Johnson, Meola (2002), Okafor (1998), and Preki.

With that here’s my take on what sort of lineup you could put out for the United States. For this I tried to look at the player’s whole career, not just their time in Kansas City. For example, while Vermes had a very successful career in defense for Kansas City, he started his career as a forward and didn’t really play for the national team as a defender so unfortunately he would be on the bench.

For the US I went with a 4-4-2. Goalkeeper is fairly easy with the only player to play for KC that went to three World Cups as Tony Meola gets the nod there. In defense Mike Burns and Matt Besler are on the wings with Alexi Lalas and Jimmy Conrad in the middle. In midfield I had Benny Feilhaber and Preki in the middle with Graham Zusi and Chris Henderson on the wings. Yes I know the midfield lacks any sort of defense, but Kerry Zavagnin never made a World Cup roster. Up top I went with Josh Wolff and Herculez Gomez. That left me with the likes of Eddie Johnson, Mike Sorber, and Peter Vermes available on the bench. There’s definitely some attacking talent there for the United States, but the defense would have their work cut out for them unless you have Feilhaber sit a bit behind Preki.

Gomez - Wolff

Henderson - Preki - Feilhaber - Zusi

Besler - Conrad - Lalas - Burns

Meola

The international roster was a bit more difficult as there were only 13 players. I went with a 3-4-3 though I could switch it to a 4-3-3 if I wanted to drop Roger Espinoza to left back. In goal, like on the US team, there is only one option with Luis Marin. The defense is made up of three from the early years of MLS, Samuel Ekeme, Richard Gough, and Uche Okafor. The midfield would certainly have bite with Jorge Claros, Roger Espinoza, and Felipe Gutierrez underneath Claudio Lopez who would sit a little deeper, similar to how he did at times during his run in Kansas City to play a bit of a playmaker. Up top I went with Omar Bravo, Mo Johnston, and Miklos Molnar, while Bravo spent time on the wing during his time in KC, neither Molnar or Johnston are really wingers but there was just too much talent to leave them out. On the bench that leaves Onandi Lowe as an attacking option along with Refik Sabanadzovic. The draw back for this lineup would certainly be the lack of width this team would get playing without any true wingers anywhere.

Bravo - Molnar - Mo

Claros - Lopez - Gutierrez - Espinoza

Ekeme - Gough - Okafor

Marin

What sort of lineup would you put out with the players available? Enjoy the rest of the World Cup.

Thad’s picks:

Mike and I came up with this idea so I am cheating in on his post to add my picks.

USA!

For the U.S. Mike probably came up with most logical lineup available from Kansas City players that appeared in a World Cup. I went with players that I have fond memories of their play and would have a fair amount of attacking flair.

Johnson as the lone forward but the whole midfield would have the freedom to go forward— let the back line clean up the counters. Henderson can run all day and his speed will help keep the left side protected. I know Vermes did not play defense for the U.S. but having seen him play in MLS and how intense he is now I would be willing to go with at center back.

Johnson

Henderson- Davis – Feilhaber – Preki– Gomez

Besler – Conrad – Vermes – Zusi

Meola

International squad

Tough because there are just not a lot of players to choose from. I went with a 4-2-3-1 with Mo up top. Molnar can play just under him and Bravo and Lopez can slide wide or come inside depending on the situation. If they can feed Mo he can hold up to get the others involved.

Espinoza returns to his roots as a left back but we know he can cover the mid or get up the wing if needed. Kansas City fans think of Gutierrez as a 10 (for good reasons) but he has played the 8 and the 6 with other club teams and Chile as well. With him and Claros protecting the back line defense should be good.

Mo

Bravo - Molnar - Lopez

Claros - Gutierrez

Espinoza - Gough - Okafor - Ekeme

Marin

Combined:

Just for fun, what if we used every KC player in one squad.

Bravo - Lopez

Espinoza - Feilhaber - Preki - Gutierrez

Ekeme - Besler - Okafor - Zusi

Meola

So rip my picks apart, but more importantly...

Let us know in the comments which squads you would pick.