Most of us are reaching the end of our second full week of staying at home and not going out. With the week coming to an end here’s another edition of Sporting Numerology. Today I’m looking at the numbers 6 and 7. With those numbers you have the current coach of both Sporting Kansas City and Sporting KC II, you have the goal scoring hero of the 2000 MLS Cup final, one defender of the year, 2 MLS Best XI selections, the club’s first ever designated player, and possibly the most popular current player on the Sporting roster.
Here are the prior editions as well.
Number of players to wear that number: 8
Sean Bowers 1996-1999
The Tower of Power had an extensive indoor career before joining the Wiz for their first season in 1996. He became a regular starter along the back line as well as a fan favorite in part because after every home game he would throw a jersey into the stands for a fan (I was lucky enough to catch one of them in 1996). Bowers played four seasons with Kansas City, making 111 league appearances and scoring three goals over those four seasons as a defender.
Peter Vermes 2000-2002
Acquired along with Matt McKeon from the Colorado Rapids before the season, Vermes played a pivotal role in the club’s run to the Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double for the club in 2000, playing every minute of all 40 of KC’s games across all competitions that year. Vermes also earned himself defender of the year honors and MLS Best XI in 2000 as the club set defensive records league wide that year. As he was reaching the tail end of his career, Vermes’ appearances dropped over the next two in KC, playing 20 league games in 2001 and just 13 in 2002 before retiring. He scored two goals for the club as well during his time while appearing in 65 league games for the club.
Jose Burciaga 2003-2007
Drafted by the club from Nike’s Project 40 in the first round of the 2001 MLS Superdraft, Burciaga suffered through injury issues his first couple years in the league. In 2003 when he took the number 6 jersey that Vermes had vacated with his retirement, Burciaga started to come good winning the starting left back position for KC. Over the next five seasons wearing the number 6 jersey, Burciaga played in 108 games and scored 13 goals from the left back position for Kansas City. His standout season was in 2006 when he had eight goals and eight assists while being named to the MLS Best XI and taking team MVP honors.
Lance Watson 2008-2009
Watson had been with the club for two seasons before he started wearing the number 6 jersey in 2008, unfortunately that season wasn’t much in terms of playing time for Watson as he made just three appearances, only one of them a start and played just 59 minutes. In 2009 though Watson had his most successful season with KC as he made 20 appearances for KC, 19 of them starts.
Pablo Escobar 2010
One of three Colombian players that MLS signed, and teams could file discovery claims, Escobar, a central defender, was picked up by Kansas City. Escobar challenged with second year professional Matt Besler for time along with Aaron Hohlbein. Escobar made seven appearances for Kansas City, all starts, but his last start saw him subbed out after just 10 minutes against Philadelphia. Shortly after, Escobar was waived and returned to Colombia.
Shavar Thomas 2010-2011
Thomas was acquired in 2010 from the Philadelphia Union shortly before Escobar was waived and prompted started partnering with Jimmy Conrad again at center back. Thomas started 16 of the final 18 games of the 2010 season for Kansas City. In 2011, Thomas made just three league appearances, all during the club’s road trip to start the season. He stayed with the club until the end of the season before having his option declined.
Paulo Nagamura 2012-2016
Brought in after the club’s successful start to the Sporting era, Nagamura eventually established himself in KC’s midfield along with Julio Cesar and Roger Espinoza as Graham Zusi moved from central midfield to the wing more. In 2013 as Espinoza departed for Europe, Nagamura stepped up to be the engine in the midfield covering all the space from one end of the field to another. Over his five years with the club Nagamura made 95 league appearances and scored five goals. His time in KC is most remembered for two things, his two goals, including the winner in KC’s dramatic 4-3 win over Vancouver in 2015 and for his nerve on penalty kicks in shootouts. In four shootouts for Kansas City during his time in KC, Nagamura made all four of his shootout attempts, including the winning penalty in 2012’s final against the Seattle Sounders. Scoring that one after he’d had his initial attempt saved by Michael Gspurning who had left his line early. Nagamura could be relied on to be calm and composed in those situations and put his penalties away into the corner.
Ilie Sanchez 2017-
The current player wearing the number 6 jersey, Sanchez is the man who has made Sporting’s style of play work since he joined the club. Ilie has been the lynch pin of KC’s style with his ability to distribute from the back and allow Kansas City to play the position style that they’ve preferred over the last few years. Sanchez has played in 101 of KC’s 104 games since he joined the club in 2017.
Best player to wear the number: This is a hard decision in my opinion, because if I go by my past responses I should be choosing Peter Vermes or Jose Burciaga because Vermes won a league award (2000 Defender of the Year) and was an MLS Best XI player while Burciaga was a Best XI player himself. At the same time, I feel like it’s incredibly hard to discount Nagamura’s and Ilie’s contributions to the team wearing the number 6 jersey. It’s hard for me to pick Vermes as well because of the four of those players, Vermes has by far the fewest games wearing the jersey. Even though he’s only played the 65 league games though, I think Peter Vermes was the most important player to their team of the four players that were in my finalists so he’s my pick for the best to wear the number 6.
Number of players to wear that number: 10
Nyanforth Peters 1996
Peters never played for the Wiz in their inaugural season.
Diego Gutierrez 1997, 2002-2005
Drafted in the first MLS College Draft in 1996, Gutierrez was drafted out of Rockhurst. He switched to the number 7 before the 1997 season but missed it with a torn ACL. Gutierrez then was selected by the Chicago Fire in their expansion draft and didn’t return to KC until 2002 when KC made a trade with Chicago. Gutierrez proceeded to play 91 times in league play over the four seasons in Kansas City scoring three goals. He was also the club’s captain when they lifted the 2004 US Open Cup defeating his old team the Fire in the final.
Brian Loftin 1999
A Kansas City native more well known for his time with the KC Attack than with the Wizards, Loftin did not play a game for Kansas City though.
Miklos Molnar 2000
Molnar was KC’s big offensive weapon of the 2000 season even though he played over just half of the 32 league games. He was the club’s leading scorer in 2000 with 12 goals in those 17 appearances. He added another five in the playoffs, including the winner in the MLS Cup final against the Chicago Fire. He’s still loved for that one season and questions of “what if” still remain from his retirement at the end of the season, but for one glorious year he was the key for Bob Gansler’s score a goal and shut things down with the best defense in the league strategy.
Mark Santel 2001
Santel, like his predecessor wearing number 7 spent just one season in KC after being acquired via trade with the Dallas Burn. In his lone season in KC, Santel appeared in 21 games, seven of those starts, and scored one goal. He also scored a goal in the US Open Cup that year and played in four of KC’s six international games that year in the Copa Mercanorte.
Eddie Johnson 2006-2007
Johnson came to Kansas City from FC Dallas before the 2006 season and it’s safe to say that he had a very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde couple years in KC. He scored just twice in 19 games in 2006 and only played in one of Kansas City’s final five games of the 2006 season. He did also miss time while with the US national team at the 2006 World Cup. The 2007 season was a completely different story for Johnson though as he seemed to find his spark again and scored 15 goals along with six assists while playing in 24 of KC’s 30 games that year. His 15 goals were the second most in a single season for KC up to that point. At the end of that season he left and joined Fulham in the Premiership.
Claudio Lopez 2008-2009
The first designated player ever for the Wizards, Lopez was a late addition in the club’s preseason trip to Argentina. Over his two seasons in KC, Lopez played in 57 of KC’s 60 games scoring 13 goals and adding 15 assists in those two seasons. In a period of transition for the club as they moved into Community America Ballpark Lopez still showed he was still the player who’d played in the World Cup for Argentina and played in “The Cage.”
Chance Myers 2010-2016
After having given up the number 7 jersey to Lopez when he arrived at the club, Myers took the number when Lopez departed after the 2009 season. Myers still struggled to get time in his third season as a pro, but he started to turn a corner in 2010 as he appeared in 15 games for KC, six of them starts. Unfortunately for him that year involved him moving between the right back position and the right-wing position and it looked like the former number one overall pick might end up being a bust.
In 2011 though Myers turned things around and with Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, and Seth Sinovic formed arguably the best back line in MLS for several years. From 2011 to 2013 Myers played in 85 league games for Kansas City as Sporting won a US Open Cup and an MLS Cup with Myers as the starting right back. In 2014 though the injury issues came back up as he ruptured his Achilles tendon after only seven appearances. In 2015 Myers returned and started another US Open Cup final but was still limited to just 13 league games. His final season in KC in 2016 Myers played in just 11 games and only six starts as Saad Abdul-Salaam took over the majority of the duties at the right back position.
Gerso Fernandes 2017
Fernandes wore the number 7 for just one season but he had a strong showing in that one season, appearing in 32 of KC’s 34 league games and scoring eight goals for KC. He added another two in the US Open Cup in route to Sporting winning their fourth in the tournament.
Johnny Russell 2018-
Russell has had a strong start to his career in KC, playing in 60 league games over his two plus seasons in KC, scoring 19 goals and adding 20 assists in that time frame for the club. He quickly became a fan favorite and is easily one of the faces of the club at this point.
Best player to wear the number: This is a tough one that I feel like my recency bias is getting in the way a bit and I want to give it to Johnny Russell, and I think if I don’t give it to him he’s extremely close to taking it from whoever I do end up picking. Myers could be a decent choice, but he was much better as part of the unit as a whole that was KC’s back line between 2011 and 2013. Molnar was one season, but I’ve already shown a willingness to select a player with just one season, and the 2000 season isn’t as successful without his goal scoring ability. In the end though I’m going to go with the club’s captain for the 2004 US Open Cup run, Diego Gutierrez was an underrated player in the history of the club and certainly deserves his place among some of the best in club history. That said, come back to me in another year or so, add a trophy in there and Russell likely takes this spot.