Continuing to work through the best player to wear each number in Sporting Kansas City’s history. Today it’s a look at numbers 14 and 15, and with this number you have one of the first players allocated to Kansas City, the club’s second all time leading scorer, three KC natives, and a couple future Sporting Legends.
Number of players to wear number: 9
Frank Klopas 1996-1997
The second player allocated to Kansas City back before the league started, Klopas lasted just one season more than the originally allocated player, Mike Sorber. Over his two seasons in KC Klopas played in 49 games for Kansas City. He scored seven goals and had 11 assists. He wasn’t much of a factor in KC’s playoff run in 96 as he made just three appearances in the five games, all as a substitute totally only 40 minutes.
John DeBrito 1998
DeBrito in his second season in Kansas City moved to the number 14 jersey after Klopas’ departure for Chicago. In his second season DeBrito made nine appearances for Kansas City, three of them starts.
Michael Green 1999-2001
One of the Project-40 players allocated to Kansas City before the 1999 season along with Francisco Gomez, Green didn’t have much success with Kansas City over his three seasons with the club. Green, a defender, made just three appearances for Kansas City, all of them coming in his final season with the club in 2001. He spent more time with MLS’s Pro-40 team in the A-League than he did playing with Kansas City.
Carey Talley 2002
Talley’s first season in Kansas City was his most successful in a KC uniform. He appeared in 24 games after being acquired from DC United, 19 of those were starts. He scored three goals for Kansas City as well. He also scored a goal for Kansas City in their 2002 Champions Cup run.
Jack Jewsbury 2003-2010
”Action Jackson” wore the number 14 jersey for his entire eight seasons in Kansas City, making 195 appearances in league play for KC. For the stretch from 2006 to 2009 he was a regular starter for Kansas City making 103 starts over those four seasons (he made 142 total over his career). He scored 14 goals and had 20 assists over his time with the Wizards and was occasionally given the captain’s armband for KC as well. His biggest goal for KC came in the 2004 playoff run when he scored the third goal of a 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. The 3-0 win overturned a 2-0 loss in the first leg in San Jose that put KC in a deep hole heading home.
Kevin Ellis 2011
Sporting’s second ever homegrown player signing, Ellis wore the number 14 jersey for his first season in Kansas City, but made just a single appearance in all competitions, making a 27 minute substitute appearance against the Chicago Fire Premier in the third round of the tournament.
Dom Dwyer 2012-2017
Drafted with the 16th pick of the 2012 Superdraft, Dwyer, a Generation Adidas player, had a slow start to his KC career making just two appearances in his rookie year (only one in league play). In 2013 he spent much of the season on loan to Orlando City where he broke the USL’s single season goal scoring record. After his success there he came back to KC and eventually displaced Designated Player, Claudio Bieler as the club’s starter at center forward. He struggled to score upon his return though scoring just twice in 16 league games in 2013. He did score the winning goal against Houston in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final though. The next season, 2014, Dwyer set the club’s single season scoring record scoring 22 goals in 33 games. Over his career Dwyer played in 128 league games, scoring 57 goals and adding nine assists. In all competitions he scored 67 goals, only Preki has scored more goals for the club in league play and in all competitions.
Khiry Shelton 2018
Probably the most underrated player of the 2018 season among casual fans because he was a forward who didn’t score a ton of goals. He only scored two goals and had five assists in his 20 games in the 2018 season, 15 of those were starts. His hold up play and play off the ball though was visibly absent in KC’s play in 2019. One of those players whose contribution wasn’t fully seen by many people until he wasn’t there anymore.
Nicolas Hasler 2019
Brought in as right back depth for KC after Jaylin Lindsey went down with a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the season. Hasler didn’t look out of place in the games he played, in fact most fans would say that they thought he deserved more of a look at the 2019 season spiraled away from Sporting. Unfortunately for Hasler he made just nine appearances for Kansas City in 2019, seven of those were starts. He ended up recording one assist during his time in KC.
Best player to wear the number: The debate for this number is among two players, Jack Jewsbury who made close to 200 appearances for the club in league play and Dom Dwyer the club’s second leading scorer. In the end while I have great memories of the times Jewsbury was on the field, you can’t deny the player who has the club’s single season goal scoring record and is second all-time in goals, the best player to wear the number 14 is Dom Dwyer.
Number of players to wear number: 9
Samuel Ekeme 1996
The former Cameroonian international was drafted by the Wiz in the 15th round of the inaugural MLS draft. He played in 23 games for KC in their first season, 19 starts. His time as the season wound down though reduced, he made just four appearances in KC’s final 10 MLS games, and only one of those was a start. After the season he returned to indoor soccer but stayed in Kansas City with the Attack.
Paul Rideout 1998
Rideout played just one season with Kansas City, making 27 appearances in league play, starting 23 games. He scored four goals and added three assists over the season.
Scott Vermillion 1999
The Kansas City native was allocated to Kansas City through the Project-40 system. The 1999 season was Vermillion’s second and final season in Kansas City, he played in 24 games for KC that year, starting 22 of them before being traded to the Colorado Rapids along with allocation money for Matt McKeon and Peter Vermes.
Kerry Zavagnin 2000
In Zavagnin’s first season in Kansas City, acquired in the third round of the MLS Superdraft that year, he played in all but one game for Kansas City across all competitions, playing 39 of KC’s 40 games in 2000. He added two goals and three assists in league play and added another two assists in the playoffs.
Roy Lassiter 2001-2002
Acquired from the Miami Fusion in exchange for Chris Henderson, it was hoped that Lassiter would fill the gaping hole in KC’s offense left after the retirement of Miklos Molnar. At the time it wasn’t the worst idea in the world, Lassiter was the all-time leading scorer in MLS with 81 goals in the league’s first five seasons. He did end up being the team’s leading scorer in 2001, scoring seven goals in league play and adding another three in the Copa Mercanorte. He scored those seven goals over 23 games, 19 of them starts. His 2002 run with the team was cut short when he was waived in May after making two league appearances and three appearances in the CONCACAF Champions Cup all without a goal.
Josh Wolff 2003-2006
Acquired from the Chicago Fire for KC’s first round draft pick in the 2003 draft, Wolff had struggles his first year in KC with injuries. He made just 13 appearances for KC, scoring two goals. Over the final three years of his first stint in Kansas City though Wolff scored 25 goals in league play and was the club’s leading scorer in both 2004 and 2005. He also added 17 assists over those three seasons in 67 appearances. He formed a good partnership with Davy Arnaud in the club’s run to the US Open Cup and MLS Cup final in 2004. His final season in KC during his first stint was limited to just 16 starts due to the 2006 World Cup and Wolff missing time while on national team duty.
Aaron Hohlbein 2007-2010
A third-round pick in the 2007 supplemental draft Hohlbein’s MLS career started slowly making just five appearances in his first season. In 2008 Hohlbein split time with 2006 second round pick Tyson Wahl pairing Jimmy Conrad as KC’s center back pairing. He appeared in 14 games that season all starts. His and Wahl’s performance led both to being left available in the expansion draft for the Seattle Sounders knowing they’d be able to keep at least one of them. With Wahl selected by Seattle, Hohlbein made 22 starts in 2009. Late in the season though he lost his starting spot to Matt Besler and only made three starts in the final 11 games of the season. His final season in KC didn’t go well for Hohlbein as he was behind both Besler and Pablo Escobar in partnering Conrad. His only start of the season was a disastrous 3-0 loss to New York in the first game after the World Cup break that year. Overall Hohlbein played in 32 games and scored two goals in his career with KC.
Roger Espinoza 2011-2012, 2020-
Starting the 2011 season Espinoza looked to be settling himself into the left back position for Kansas City after his play there in the previous season, but after a successful Gold Cup with Honduras where he played in the center of midfield, Espinoza moved to the position for Kansas City and went from being a solid, if unspectacular player to becoming a major presence in the midfield, being the destroyer to Julio Cesar’s controlled defensive midfield position. Espinoza became one of the most hated players in MLS among opposing fans for his play, but he combined his play with KC with his play for Honduras at the Olympics to earn him a move to Wigan after his contract expired after the 2012 season. Espinoza has returned to the number for the 2020 season where he’s started both games so far this season giving him 52 appearances wearing the number 15 jersey along with two goals and five assists.
Seth Sinovic 2013-2019
Sinovic moved to the number 15 jersey in 2013 after Espinoza’s departure and the arrival of Claudio Bieler who took the number 16 jersey. Sinovic had already established himself as a starter for Kansas City and over his seven seasons wearing the number 15 jersey, Sinovic saw off challenger after challenger for his starting left back position. From Marcel de Jong to Amadou Dia to Jimmy Medranda, it seemed by the end of every single season when it came to a must win game Peter Vermes was putting Sinovic’s name down on the team sheet to start at left back. Sinovic made 160 appearances for KC wearing the number 15 jersey, 150 of them being starts. He also started all three cup finals that KC played in during that stretch. He also scored his single league goal wearing the jersey and added 10 assists during that time.
Best player to wear the number: This number is hard to choose mainly because it’s hard to look at all the players here and only look at their time wearing that jersey. You have players like Kerry Zavagnin and Josh Wolff who are Sporting Legends but Zavagnin is more well known for wearing another number and only spent one season wearing the jersey. Wolff is hurt by his career with KC being split among two numbers. Roger Espinoza is like Wolff in that while he had success wearing the number 15 his numbers are split over multiple numbers. In the end I think the best player to wear the number is also the most decorated wearing the number, Seth Sinovic was a constant on the back line for Kansas City during his run with the number 15 jersey and beats out the others because their best years with the club were split over multiple numbers.