Earlier today, Sporting Kansas City announced the opening of the voting for this year’s Sporting Legend inductee. This year the process is a write-in ballot with voting going through until June 23rd. The inductee with become the 10th person selected to the Sporting Legends hall of honor. They’ll be the first inductee since Mo Johnston was inducted in 2017. With voting here, I thought I’d take a look at players that should be up for consideration this year.
Sporting’s criteria is that retired players and retire or active coaches are eligible for selection as a Sporting Legend. For me I have a few other bits of criteria I look at for selection. In terms of longevity anyone that has appeared in fewer than 100 games for me is not up for consideration. Players have to have had a handful of memorable moments with the team and finished their career high on statistical categories (goal scoring/assists for midfielders and forwards, goals against average, wins, and shutouts for goalkeepers, mixture of those qualifications for defenders). With all that here’s a look at the candidates in my opinion to join Preki, Tony Meola, Bob Gansler, Peter Vermes, Lamar Hunt, Chris Klein, Kerry Zavagnin, and Mo Johnston.
Davy Arnaud (2002-2011)
Arnaud finished his career with Kansas City as the club’s all-time leader in league appearances with 240, he was third all-time in league starts with 213, he finished his career tied for second all-time in appearances in all competitions with 273 and third for starts in all competitions with 234. He finished his career third all-time in league minutes (19,399 minutes played) and minutes in all competitions (21,607).
During the middle of questions about the club’s future in Kansas City, Arnaud became the poster child for the later rounds of the MLS draft, Arnaud was taken in the 5th round of the draft, the 50th pick overall out of West Texas A&M and worked his way from a fringe player on the roster to becoming a club leader and captain in his final season with the club in 2011, the team’s first as Sporting. He was regularly one of KC’s leading scorers over that stretch, scoring 43 league goals, finishing his career tied for second with Josh Wolff. He became the second player in club history to score 50 goals in all competitions, finishing his career with 52 goals in all competitions.
He was also a source of assists for the Wizards, finishing his career with 35 in league play, good for 3rd all-time at the time and 40 in all competitions, both times finishing behind current Sporting Legends, Preki and Klein. Arnaud earned a handful of caps for the US team (7), the majority of which came during the 2009 Gold Cup when the US sent what would be described as a “second team” to the tournament. Arnaud scored his only international goal in a 2-2 draw with Haiti.
While statistically he seems a good candidate he was also a fan favorite for his desire on the field. He played with passion every time on the field and he was always one that would thank the supporters. I always remember his hattrick against Dallas at Arrowhead in 2004 and his clutch performance scoring both goals in the 2004 Western Conference final against the LA Galaxy to send Kansas City to their second final.
Nick Garcia (2000-2007)
Garcia came into the team after the disaster that was the 1999 season. The second overall pick in the 2000 Superdraft, Garcia announced his presence in the 2000 season playing every minute of Kansas City’s 40 games that season along with current head coach, Peter Vermes. He’d go on to play 224 league games for Kansas City and 273 in all competitions; both club records at the time he left the club in a trade with the San Jose Earthquakes after the 2007 season.
He started all 224 of those league games and 272 of the 273 across all competitions, both of which were again club records when he left the club. He also held the club record at one time for minutes played in league play (20,158) and in all competitions (24,650). He was also the club leader in red cards in league play (5) and in all competitions (7) before Roger Espinoza made both records his. Garcia appeared six times for the United States, five of them coming in 2003.
Like Arnaud, Garcia was never a star player, he wasn’t flashy, and he just went about his job, a workman like attitude. It was something that was a staple of many players that spent a lot of time in Kansas City during that stretch. His battles with Carlos Ruiz when he was with the LA Galaxy were always fun to watch (for those that remember Aurelien Collin vs Steven Lenhart, think similar but dirtier). Garcia did so well against the Guatemalan that he was called up for a World Cup qualifier specifically expecting to mark Ruiz (who ended up not playing in the game). I’ll also remember the pure excitement I had when he scored his one and only professional goal against D.C. United.
Jimmy Nielsen (2010-2013)
Nielsen immediately endeared himself to fans when in one of his first interviews, when asked about what he thought of fans calling him “Casino Jimmy,” a nickname he picked up because of a gambling issue he’d had. He responded that he didn’t care what people called him and that they could call him a “f****** idiot” if they wanted to. A great way to endear yourself to a fan base that was a little confused by the signing at the time because the club still had Kevin Hartman.
Nielsen went on to make 128 league appearances (12th all-time when he retired), 142 in all competitions (17th), all starts for the club (9th and 14th all-time when he retired). He played 11,497 minutes in league play (8th all time) and 12,847 in all competitions (14th all time). What makes him a Sporting Legend candidate though occurred in net where he finished his career as the club’s all-time leader in league wins (57) wins in all competitions (65). He holds the club record for shutouts (45 in league 52 in all competitions), and has the lowest goals against average in team history in league play (.99) and the lowest of anyone who’s played more than a single game in all competitions (.95). He was the club captain for the club’s 2012 US Open Cup win and their 2013 MLS Cup win, allowing him to retire a champion.
Nielsen like the others had his memorable moments, from the previously mentioned interview to his cheat sheet for penalty kick shootouts; to his playing MLS Cup 2013 with broken ribs like the other two he absolutely fits the criteria.
There are other players that I’d be willing to hear arguments made for, players like Josh Wolff or Jack Jewsbury, but the previous three mentioned are the top three in my book to be the next Sporting Legend inductee.