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Sporting Numerology Part One

A look at the best players to wear each number in Sporting’s history. Today the numbers 0 and 1.

2013 MLS Cup-Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

With COVID-19 having put sports and much of people’s normal lives on hold for the next 30ish days there’s certainly a lack of Sporting Kansas City news to write about. So instead of going silent I decided to do something I’d thought about doing for this season instead. It’s Sporting’s and MLS’s 25th year, and over that time there have been hundreds of players appear on Sporting’s roster.

With that in mind as part of the 25th year of MLS, I’m going to start looking at every player to wear any specific number for the club and who is the best player to ever where that number. I’ll look at a few numbers each time, depending on the number of players to wear each of the numbers. When rating the players, I will only be looking at their time in Kansas City wearing that specific number. So, for example, Roger Espinoza has worn three different numbers during his time with Sporting (15, 17, and 27), on each number I will only be looking at his time played with that number. So, there’s a possibility that Espinoza could be on the list three times. There are some players who I am missing a number for, specifically league goalkeepers for some years, while other years I do have the number for the league goalkeepers. For each number I’ll be referencing each player, the years they wore the number, and give some statistics for each one and will then select for who I consider the best player to wear the number for KC.

With those specifics out of the way, let’s start at the beginning.

Number 0

Number of players to wear the number: 1

Mike Ammann 1996-1997

Ammann is the only player to ever where the number 0 for the club. He wore the number for his first two years with the club before moving to the number 1 jersey for the 1998 season. In 96 Ammann played in just four games, two of them starts finishing with a 2-1 record in those games. He also played in the second half of the club’s first US Open Cup game, a loss to the Colorado Rapids. In 97, Ammann set the club record for wins with 21 as KC topped the Western Conference.

Best player to wear number: With only one player to wear the number this is an easy choice, Mike Ammann.

Number 1

Number of players to wear the number: 13

Pat Harrington 1996

The starting for the club’s first game, Harrington finished with a 4-4 record for the club in nine games. Two of his nine wins came via the league’s shootout after a 90-minute draw.

Mike Ammann 1998

While Ammann had a great 97 season, 98 was less of one, he went 11-16 in league play with two shootout wins as the team’s primary starting goalkeeper again. It was his last season with the club as he was traded to the New York/New Jersey Metrostars in the offseason

Tony Meola 1999-2004

Meola came to Kansas City in the aforementioned Ammann trade along with Alexi Lalas but missed most of the 1999 season with an injury that he picked up playing on the field in preseason. In 2000 though he returned and put together arguably the best single season in league history for a goalkeeper, going 18-8-8 in league play with a team record 16 shutouts in league play and a .92 goals against average. He cleaned up with the league’s MVP award, Goalkeeper of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and then capped it off with MLS Cup MVP as Sporting won their first trophy. Meola continued as KC’s starting goalkeeper through the 2004 season where he picked up an injury and was replaced by Bo Oshoniyi. When he left KC at the end of the 2004 season, he was the club’s leader in shutouts (37), wins (49), and goals against average (1.22).

Bo Oshoniyi 2005-2006

In 2004, Oshoniyi made Meola expendable with a 5-2-2 record, five shutouts, and a .89 goals against average in his nine starts for the club and led them to MLS Cup 2004. When Oshoniyi was handed the number 1 jersey in 2005 he didn’t have a bad season, finishing with an 11-9-12 record and 45 points along with seven shutouts for KC. Unfortunately, KC didn’t make the playoffs that year, at the time it was the highest point total for any team to not make the playoffs. The 2006 season didn’t get any better for Oshoniyi or Kansas City, he went 9-12-8 with five shutouts and a goals against average of 1.41.

Kevin Hartman 2007-2009

Hartman replaced Oshoniyi as Curt Onalfo came in and became the club’s fourth head coach. Over three seasons with the club, Hartman recorded 22 shutouts with a high of 10 in 2008. He finished with a record of 30-35-25 over his three seasons, playing every league season in that stretch. Twice he helped lead Kansas City to the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, including helping them reach the Western Conference finals in 2007 after shutting out the top seeded Chivas USA over 180 minutes.

Jimmy Nielsen 2010-2013

Nielsen helped lead the resurgence of the franchise under Peter Vermes over his four years with the club. He went from not making the playoffs in 2010 to hoisting MLS Cup as the club’s captain in 2013. He almost tied the club record for shutouts in 2012, finishing with 15. He had double digit shutouts in three of his four season and finished his career with 45 shutouts, a record that Tim Melia only passed against Houston in KC’s last game. He finished his career with a goals against average under a goal a game .99.

Eric Kronberg 2014

Kronberg’s lone season as the starter for KC was cut short by injuries as he only played in 20 of the club’s 34 games, finishing with a 7-8-5 record. He did record seven shutouts in those 20 games and had a goals against average of 1.1. His play that season though is remembered for two big moments, both of which cost KC, a goal against New England in his first game back from injury when he got caught out of position on a shot from distance by Jermaine Jones and then in playoffs not coming for a high, lofted cross in the 90th minute of the playoff game against the New York Red Bulls.

Luis Marin 2015

Marin was brought in after KC completely cleared house in the goalkeeper department after the 2015 season. Starting the season Marin went 2-2-4 in the first eight games finishing with three shutouts but also allowed 12 goals in those eight games for a 1.5 goals against average. His last game for the club was a 4-4 draw with the Houston Dynamo where he didn’t make a single save.

Alex Riggs 2015

Trey Mitchell 2015

Combining this pair because they were brought in as single game loan signings for the US Open Cup (Riggs) or as the MLS pool goalkeeper (Mitchell). Both sat on the bench for KC in the one game each that they were on KC’s roster as KC only had two goalkeepers on their roster after terminating Marin’s contract.

Jon Kempin 2016

KC’s first homegrown goalkeeper was given the number 1 jersey in the 2016, but he didn’t play a single league game for KC that season. He spent most of the season with the Swope Park Rangers. He played two games for Sporting that year, both in the CONCACAF Champions League going 0-1-1 with a goals against average of 2.5 in his final season in Kansas City.

Adrian Zendjeas 2017-2019

Like Kempin, Zendejas didn’t play a lot of league games for Sporting, in fact he only played one in 2019, a 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati. He spent most of his time either with Swope Park or backing up Melia. He did make a couple US Open Cup appearances as well as one Champions League game in KC’s 2019 run.

Richard Sanchez 2020

The latest player to wear the number 1 jersey, Sanchez made his debut for Sporting KC II in their only game so far this season.

Best player to wear the number: When I started thinking about doing this list and Sporting’s history, I knew the number 1 jersey would be one of, if not the hardest selection to make. It really comes down to two players, Meola and Nielsen, both won an MLS Cup, both won Goalkeeper of the Year. Meola won an MVP award though. In theory that should give him the lead, but for me, Nielsen had the better start to finish career for the club. And while that is due in no small part to the players around him as well, the best player to wear the number one jersey for KC is Jimmy Nielsen.