As we all stay at home for what feels like the 23rd straight month in the last three weeks it’s time to continue looking at the best player to wear each jersey in Sporting Kansas City’s history. In this entry there are two Sporting Legends, one the best player to ever play for the club, there’s a future Sporting Legend, and there’s arguably the best player currently on the roster (though he’s limited by the number of games played with his new number). Here’s the latest Sporting Numerology.
Number of players to wear number: 9
Mike Sorber 1996
The first player ever allocated to Kansas City, Sorber was a US international at the time. For Sorber, he played in 23 games for Kansas City in his lone season with the club, all starts, scoring four goals, and adding five assists. He also started all five of KC’s playoff games that year, where he recorded two assists, as well as an assist in KC’s lone US Open Cup game.
Mo Johnston 1997-2001
The Sporting Legend moved to the number 10 jersey in his second season in Kansas City after not joining the club until May of their inaugural season. Over his five seasons wearing the jersey, Johnston made 120 league appearances for Kansas City, scored 25 goals and added 25 assists. He’s also responsible for one of the more memorable moments in the club’s early history when he challenged Danny Califf for a ball early in the game 3 “mini game” of the Western Conference finals. Johnston caught a cleat to the face but ended up knocking the ball to Miklos Molnar who scored to send Kansas City to their first MLS Cup final.
Francisco Gomez 2002-2004
Gomez had joined the club in 1999 as a Nike Pro-40 player but had only really started to get consistent time for the club the season before he moved to the number 10 jersey. Over his three seasons wearing the number 10 jersey Gomez made 69 league appearances for Kansas City, scored four goals, and recording seven assists. Like Diego Walsh who I mentioned when talking about the number 8 jersey, Gomez was seen as a replacement eventually for Preki. Like Walsh though he never escaped Preki’s shadow and Preki ended up outlasting him at the club as he was selected by Chivas USA in the expansion draft.
Carlos Marinelli 2007-2008
Brought in as an attempt to get more creativity in the midfield, Marinelli came with a lot of pedigree that hadn’t reached his early potential. His time in Kansas City was similar to his career projection up to that point. He started strongly, scoring on his debut for KC and looking dangerous against the Chicago Fire. That would be the only goal that Marinelli would ever score for KC over his two seasons. He appeared in 41 games over his two seasons and added eight assists to his lone goal. Injuries derailed his time in KC off and on as did a dust up between him and coach Curt Onalfo. He looked to have all the potential but never seemed willing or able to really reach it.
Santiago Hirsig 2009-2010
Signed late in the 2009 preseason, Hirsig made an immediate impact for KC when he debuted as a substitute in the season opener in 2009 helping set up Davy Arnaud’s second goal of the game in a 3-2 loss to Toronto. He was an ever-present presence in KC’s midfield in the 2009 season making 26 appearances, 24 of them starts. He scored his only goal for the club in a 3-2 win over Dallas in September but most known for his control in the midfield instead of his contributions to the attack. The 2010 season though was a different story for Hirsig who only made one appearance, a 45-minute appearance against DC United where he’d started the game but was pulled at half time as KC trailed. Since his playing days he’s still been important to the club in the role of a scout, helping to make initial contact between the club and new striker, Alan Pulido.
At the time of his signing on loan the signing of Jeferson was seen as a statement of intent by Sporting that they were going to be pushing for the top spot in the East with their home heavy schedule to end the 2011 season. The Brazilian was signed as a designated player on loan for the rest of the season, which left little danger of a failed signing on KC’s side, but it showed a willingness by ownership to push when the opportunity was there. Jeferson had a good debut, recording an assist in KC’s 4-2 win over Toronto and looking dangerous during his 90-minute debut. Unfortunately for Jeferson, that was his high point in KC, he made 10 appearances over the final 17 games in league play and the playoffs and didn’t record another assist or score a goal. He ended up losing his spot in the midfield to Graham Zusi who’d had a breakout 2011 season for KC.
Benny Feilhaber 2013-2017
Feilhaber helped Sporting finally get past the Houston Dynamo in his first season with Kansas City. Acquired from the New England Revolution for a couple draft picks and allocation money Feilhaber made 27 league appearances in his first season in Kansas City adding three goals and four assists. He also provided two assists in the playoffs, both series winning assists against New England and Houston. Over his five seasons wearing the number 10 jersey Feilhaber made 150 league appearances for KC, scored 29 goals and had 41 assists. The goals and assists both rank in the top 10 for the club all time. There’s also his 2015 season where Feilhaber was a league MVP finalist when he recorded 10 goals and 15 assists for the club.
Yohan Croizet 2018-2019
Brought in as the presumptive replacement for Feilhaber before the club traded Feilhaber to Los Angeles FC, Croizet’s time in KC hit a bump before a game was even played when Sporting was also able to acquire Felipe Gutierrez to play in the midfield. With Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez in the midfield as well that forced Croizet into different positions on the field from the wing, to a center forward, to even playing as a left back for Sporting. He never really established himself at any of those positions and his Designated Player tag caused frustration for many fans. Even though with TAM/GAM made the label less important, it still brought connotations of bigger contributions than Croizet brought. Over Croizet’s two seasons in KC he appeared in 52 league games and scored six goals. He also added two in the US Open Cup, including a cracker to beat Dallas in 2018. His time in KC was cut short in 2019 due to a falling out with Peter Vermes and his contract being mutually terminated for him to return to Belgium to play.
Felipe Gutierrez 2020-
Has yet to appear in a game in his new jersey because of a knee injury.
Best player to wear the number: This really isn’t a hard pick even though one current Sporting Legend and one future Sporting Legend both wore the number 10. For me the best player to wear the number 10 for KC was Benny Feilhaber, two US Open Cups and an MLS Cup, plus an MVP finalist, he beats out Mo Johnston. Johnston does have another chance to make the list with the number he wore in 1996, 26.
Number of players to wear number: 12
Preki 1996-2000, 2002-2005
The Sporting Legend made 218 league appearance in his career for Kansas City, he’s the club’s all-time leading scorer in league (71) and all competitions (81) as well as the assist leader (96 league, 102 all competitions). He’s also still the only two-time MVP in MLS history (1997, 2003). He was also a three-time MLS Best XI selection, and a US Soccer Hall of Famer.
Dave van den Bergh 2006
Joined Kansas City midway through the 2006 season and immediately jumped into the starting XI for the club. Played and started in 13 of KC’s final 14 league games to close out the 2006 season. He scored three goals and added two assists in that stretch as KC chased a playoff spot that they were unable to get.
Kurt Morsink 2007-2009
A favorite of Curt Onalfo during his tenure with Kansas City, Morsink made 42 appearances over his first two seasons with Kansas City, 13 of those were starts for the club. He also recorded three assists for the club. In 2009 though Morsink saw his time drop significantly as he only made five appearances in his final season with the club with just two starts. He was traded to DC United in the offseason where he joined back up with Onalfo.
Ryan Smith 2010-2011
Smith showed flashes in his first season with Kansas City of the player who was an Arsenal product and an English youth international. He made 26 appearances for Kansas City, 25 of those starts in that first season, scoring three goals and adding seven assists. He missed the final three games of the 2010 season to take care of family issues. The 2011 season though was the opposite for Smith though as he only made seven appearances across all competitions. Those seven games came in a seven game stretch in late April to early June. By late June Smith was back in Europe and never played again for the club after a 0-0 draw against Toronto on June 4th.
Soony Saad 2011
Acquired via a weighted lottery Saad made just four appearances for Kansas City in his one season wearing number 11. He did become the club’s youngest goal scorer for a time, scoring on his 19th birthday in his MLS debut against the Portland Timbers.
Bobby Convey 2012-2013
One of a trio of players brought in before the 2012 season to try to help Kansas City improve on their trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. Convey started the season strongly as did Kansas City with their 7-0-0 start to the season Convey started every one of those games. He started the first 11 games of the season before injuries held him out and he played just five more times the rest of the season. He scored one goal and added two assists in those 16 games. Convey made just three appearances for the club in 2013 before being traded to Toronto FC.
Sal Zizzo 2014
Zizzo’s time in Kansas City is more well known for his time with Benny Feilhaber on the Benny Feilhaber during the 2014 season. On the field though Zizzo made 19 appearances for Kansas City in his lone season in KC recording three assists. He scored one goal for the club in the CONCACAF Champions league that year in a 3-0 win over Real Esteli.
Bernardo Anor 2015
Another player brought in with high hopes of contributing whose time in KC was cut short due to injury. He made just 13 appearances for Kansas City in 2015, four of those starts. He missed the vast majority of the middle of the season with an injury. He spent the entire 2016 season on loan with Minnesota United in their final season in the NASL.
Brad Davis 2016
One of the faces of the Houston Dynamo teams that was a big rival to Sporting, Davis was traded to Kansas City ahead of the 2016 season for a couple of draft picks. Davis played just one season in Kansas City before retiring. Davis was limited a bit due to injuries, but still managed to play in 24 games for KC but only managed two goals and one assist for the club. He did manage to score a goal in the US Open Cup against his former club as well.
Diego Rubio 2017-2018
Rubio returned from the ACL tear that cut short his 2016 season with a strong two year run for Sporting wearing the number 11 jersey. Over his final two years in KC, Rubio played in 36 games and scored 14 goals in those games. He also added eight assists in those games. He was never the club’s primary starter, making only 20 starts, and just nine in 2018 even though he only finished behind Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell on the goal scoring charts. that year.
Kelyn Rowe 2019
Rowe was expected to be a key contributor for Sporting as they looked to improve on their 2018 run to the Conference Finals as well as improve depth with the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League run. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out for Rowe in KC, he never got into a groove. Rowe made 14 appearances for KC, only seven of them were starts and he only recorded two assists before he was traded to Real Salt Lake for the international spot KC needed to add Luis Martins to the roster.
Khiry Shelton 2020-
Shelton’s return to Kansas City after a year in Germany has been a good one for KC, in the two games that have been played so far, he has half his goal total from his 2018 run with the team.
Best player to wear the number: I could have done this number by just describing Preki’s career with KC and for everyone else just say “not Preki” and be done with it. The Athletic has even named Preki as the best player to wear number 11 in all of MLS. Preki is the best player to play for Kansas City in their history. It will likely be a very long time before a player surpasses him as the best player to wear number 11 for Kansas City.