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Sporting Numerology Part 3: 4 and 5

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In this edition of Sporting Numerology I take a look at the players who have worn the numbers 4 and 5 for Sporting KC.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing to move through the best player to wear each number for Sporting Kansas City we move on to numbers 4 and 5 today. For the rules remember to refer back to my first post.

Prior editions

0-1

2-3

Number 4

Number of players to wear the number: 13

Scott Uderitz 1996, 1998-1999

Like many of the players that Ron Newman brought to MLS in 1996, Uderitz was an indoor soccer player before joining the Wiz in 1996. He established himself as a regular starter in KC’s team in 1996, making 28 appearances, 24 of them starts, scoring 2 goals. He missed the entire 1997 season with an injury before returning in 98. Returning from his injury though Uderitz never fully established himself again with the Wizards, making 18 starts in 1998 and just 2 in 1999.

Richard Gough 1997

While Uderitz was out in the 1997 his number was taken by Scottish international, Richard Gough. “The Lion Heart” made just 17 appearances for KC in the 1997 but was good enough to be voted to the MLS Best XI in 1997, his only season in Kansas City.

Brandon Prideaux 2000-2001

In 2000 Brandon Prideaux seized an opportunity to become the starter in KC’s backline with Peter Vermes and Nick Garcia as KC did the Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double. Prideaux started 31 of KC’s 32 games that year and all 7 of KC’s playoff games as well. Prideaux had a solid 2001 as well playing in 23 games for KC, starting 22 of them.

Mike Burns 2002

Brought in before the 2001 season in 2002 he switched to number 4 after Prideaux was traded to DC United. He played in 24 games, starting 21 of them in his final professional season. He was still a regular contributor through the season but as the playoff’s starter, Burns ended up on the bench, making just one appearance in KC’s three game series loss to the LA Galaxy.

Carey Talley 2003

Talley continued the tradition of a player who’d joined the year before taking the number 4 when the previous wearer left. Talley had joined the club in 2002 and in 2003 took the number 4. Talley played in 20 league games for KC, starting 13 of them. He started the season as a regular in the lineup before missing out in the middle of the season before coming back for KC’s playoff run where he was a regular starter.

Shavar Thomas 2004-2006

Thomas joined KC from FC Dallas before the 2004 season and immediately jumped into the starting lineup for KC with Jimmy Conrad at center back, allowing Nick Garcia to slide out to the right back position. Over his three years with Kansas City wearing the number 4, Thomas started in 70 games and scored two goals as a center back. Unfortunately for him he didn’t make a single playoff appearance for the club and didn’t play in KC’s US Open Cup final win in 2004 against the Chicago Fire.

Amir Lowery 2007-2008

Lowery spent a little over a season with Kansas City but never appeared in a competitive game for the first team. He played a number of times with KC’s reserve team back when there was a reserve league for MLS clubs.

Abe Thompson 2008-2009

Thompson was acquired in a late flurry of moves KC made in the 2008 season (they also acquired Herculez Gomez a couple days earlier). Thompson immediately stepped into the lineup coming on as a substitute in his first game and then starting the final 7 league games and two playoff games that season. His 2009 season went the opposite way for Thompson as he only started one league game and made 7 substitute appearances. His lack of goals as a forward was a point fans at the time decried him for (similar to comments made about Khiry Shelton in 2018). He did score one goal for the club, a penalty kick in a US Open Cup round of 16 match against the Minnesota Thunder. He ended up being traded late in the season along with allocation money for KC to acquire Kei Kamara.

Craig Rocastle 2010-2011

Brought in along with Guadeloupe international Stephane Auvray, Rocastle started slow for the club, he didn’t make his first league start for the club until June and ended up getting sent off just 57 minutes into his first start. He came back though and was a regular for the rest of the season for Kansas City. He appeared in 23 games, starting 18 of them and recorded three assists. In 2011 Rocastle appeared in six of KC’s first 10 matches, all part of their long road trip to start the season but didn’t appear for the club after that.

Kevin Ellis 2012-2017

The second homegrown player in Sporting’s history, Ellis worn the number 4 longer than any other player. He played in 68 league games for Kansas City, scoring five goals in that stretch. He added another 21 games and three goals in all competitions over his career with KC. Starting as an outside back with the first team, Ellis slid into the center back position in the 2014 season after the injuries and suspensions left Vermes with few options. Ellis performed admirably in that position and for long periods of 2015 and 2016 he was the club’s starting right center back next to Matt Besler.

Brad Evans 2018

Suited up a handful of times for Sporting, but never played a game for the first team. He did play a handful of games for the Swope Park Rangers at the time and reportedly Vermes wanted to bring him back in 2019 but he opted to retire instead.

Andreu Fontas 2019

After playing minimal minutes in 2018 after being acquired in the middle of the season, Fontas came into 2019 as the presumed starter for Sporting after the departure of Ike Opara in a trade with Minnesota United. Fontas looked comfortable and strong at the center back position as KC cruised by Toluca in their round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League game, but an injury in the MLS opener against Los Angeles FC sidelined him for a short period of time. When he returned Fontas looked to struggle greatly with the pace of MLS and KC’s defense seemed to fall apart. Fontas made 10 starts in 13 appearances for KC in 2019, only two of them came after KC’s 5-1 loss to LAFC at home on July 3rd. He ended up having surgery on his Achilles in October of 2019 and has yet to fully resume training.

Roberto Puncec 2020-

Puncec seems to have established himself as the starting center back next to Matt Besler in the early portion of the 2020 season ahead of Botond Barath and the injured Fontas.

Best player to wear the number: This seems to be the first number that really struggles for a true stand out who has worn the number. Shavar Thomas and Kevin Ellis have both played a lot of games at the position, but both were overshadowed by better players playing with them as their center back partner (Jimmy Conrad and Matt Besler). Going back to the criteria I used with the number 3 jersey and individual accolades, I’m going with Richard Gough even though he barely played half the games in 1997 his selection to the MLS Best XI is more than any other player can claim who’s worn the number 4 jersey. The closest is probably Ellis and his starting the 2015 US Open Cup final and Prideaux with the double in 2000.

Number 5

Number of players to wear the number: 5

David Moxom 1996

Moxom never played a game for Kansas City in a competitive game in their 1996 season.

Goran Hunjak 1998

Known more in Kansas City for his time with the Kansas City Attack/Kansas City Comets, Hunjak spent just one season with Kansas City in 1998. Hunjak played in just twelve games that year, starting two. He recorded one assist and returned to the indoor game that winter.

Brian Johnson 1999-2001

The 1997 first round pick for the Wizards moved to the number 5 jersey for the 1999 season. In that season Johnson played in 26 of KC’s 32 games, starting 19 of them and was third on the team in assists with 5. That was his most successful season wearing the number 5 jersey as from there his minutes and games played started to fall. In 2000 Johnson played in 18 games but started only four of them and recorded two assists. He did appear in three of the team’s playoff games in their run to MLS Cup. In 2001, he played even less, playing just three times for KC, the last on June 30th of that year. He ended up spending time on loan with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds before being released at the end of the season.

Kerry Zavagnin 2002-2008

The Sporting Legend had joined the club in 2000 but didn’t switch to the number 5 jersey until the 2002 season. When he retired at the end of his playing career Zavagnin had made 179 league appearances wearing the number 5 jersey, 170 of those were starts. He also scored five goals wearing the jersey and lifted the 2004 US Open Cup.

Matt Besler 2009-

After Zavagnin retired at the end of the 2008 season, his jersey went to first round draft pick and KC native Matt Besler. Since that time, it’s been Besler’s number and he’s become the club’s all-time leader in every longevity category the club has. He’s the all-time leader in starts (278 league, 330 in all competitions), appearances (286, 340), and minutes (24,871, 29,767). He’s also won four trophies (three US Open Cups, and one MLS Cup), two of those while being the club’s captain. And he’s done it all in the number 5 jersey.

Best player to wear the number: Only five players have ever worn the number, making it the fewest players of any number I’ll be doing until I get to the number 29 the decision really comes down to two, Kerry Zavagnin and Matt Besler. Between the pair they’ve worn the number 5 jersey for 19 of the league’s 25 years. You almost have to feel bad for whoever takes over the number 5 jersey after Besler, because unlike the person who took over the number 11 jersey after Preki left (Dave van den Bergh), the next player to wear the number 5 jersey has to replace two Sporting Legends. For the best player to wear the jersey though I have to go with Matt Besler, Zavagnin had a fantastic career with KC, winning three trophies, but only one of those trophies was won while wearing the number 5 jersey. Even if Zavagnin had worn the number 5 his entire career though I think by this point Besler has surpassed him.