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Sporting KC 2020 Year in Review: Khiry Shelton

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What is Khiry’s best position?

SOCCER: NOV 22 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Round One - San Jose at Sporting KC
Sporting Kansas City forward Khiry Shelton (11) celebrates after converting his penalty kick during an MLS playoff match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City on November 22, 2020 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS.
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 MLS season has come to an end and much like we did in 2019 for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to look back at how each player performed. Keep in mind the stats look diminished for many players, but just 21 regular season games were played in this COVID shortened season (instead of the typical 34). For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.


The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2020 with a controversial figure — Khiry Shelton.

2020 Stats

Games Played (Started): 20 (17)

Minutes Played: 1,447

Goals: 5

Assists: 1

xG (expected goals): 4.84

Positions Played: All three forward positions (LW, RW, CF)

2018* Salary: $119,745.00

*Khiry wasn’t in MLS in 2019 (so I used 2018 numbers) and he re-joined the team ahead of the 2020 season. It’s likely he got a raise, though how much won’t be known for a while. He was a regular starter and I imagine he was paid like one.

2020 Salary: Unknown

Contract Through (Option Years): 2022 (2023)

Best Moment of 2020

I’m going to cheat (like I always do) and pick a stretch of games. Khiry Shelton scored in three of the first four games of the season (with a four month COVID gap in there). All the fans and pundits saying he can’t score goals (myself included) had to be silenced a bit. Shelton was suddenly showing his worth, even if the goal scoring form wouldn’t last.

Worst Moment of 2020

Alan Pulido signing? Khiry would never say this, but on December 9th when Shelton re-joined the team, he had to think he was the starting striker, right? Then December 10th happened. Alan Pulido was signed to the richest deal in Sporting KC history and suddenly Shelton didn’t know where he fit in. He admitted he was unaware of the Pulido news in an interview but PV said he saw Khiry as a winger. When he lined up on the right, it worked out pretty well. When he was forced to move to LW (and even play CF) he couldn’t find his footing in 2020.

Interesting Stat

Five. The number of goals Khiry banged into the net in 2020 (banged might be a bit strong, especially that 5th one that he knew nothing about on Decision Day against Real Salt Lake — Thanks Ilie). While “goals aren’t everything” they are awfully important. You can open up all the space in the world for your teammates with your runs and hold up play but if they can’t score enough, you have to chip in. In 2020, Khiry did a lot more of that (he scored just twice in 2018).

When you line up at striker, you have to score goals. Khiry did a lot of that to start the season but he had a two month and 11 game drought to end the season before getting a lucky deflection off his unknowing heel in the regular season finale.

Fan Vote: Keep, Banish or Wait

Keep: 83.5%

Release/Sell: 16.5%

Just a half a point higher than Gerso’s vote total from yesterday. Khiry Shelton — or should I say Kirby Sheldon — was once again a controversial figure in 2020. In 2018 he was defended heavily for doing all the little things that don’t show up on the stats sheet. And maybe that’s true again as the only regular season game the team failed to score in all year, Khiry didn’t play (but they did score, the ref just got it wrong).

I came around on Khiry this year, but then I started to question it as the year wore on. He had clearly gotten more confident in front of the net and his touch improved dramatically, but I just can’t help but wonder if his best position is at right wing, where KC already have a guy. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

I think Shelton may be best served as a spot starter who closes out games with his work rate and keeps Johnny Russell from running himself into the ground. Hell, maybe since he’s so good at defense the team should just convert him to fullback. I’d say center back because of his height, but he still oddly isn’t great with his head. Hopefully he’ll focus on that this offseason and come back amazing in the air or at least show the improvement he showed with his feet in 2020.

Sure we pick on the lack of goal scoring down the stretch, but he didn’t seem like the same player that started the year. There were rumors he was hurt, just not enough to miss games. Maybe he gutted through some injuries and a fresh Khiry will return in 2021 when, presumably, the schedule won’t be as congested and the whole team will be better for it.