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A Deeper Look at New Sporting KC Signing Ben Sweat

MLS: Austin FC at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Sporting Kansas City made their first free agent signing since 2019 when they added left back Ben Sweat. Soon, we’ll take a look at SKC’s dubious history of free agent signings, but first, let’s take a more analytical look at the Sweat signing. We’ll look at his stats, salary and other metrics to see where he fits into this team. Let’s get to it!

A Quick Pro Career Retrospective

Sweat took a more traditional way into MLS, in terms of American sports at least. He was a 2014 first round draft pick (14th overall) of the Columbus Crew. He only had one appearance for Columbus but spent most of his time on loan with the Dayton Dutch Lions in the USL. He was released ahead of the 2015 season and ended up in the NASL with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (now of the USL Championship).

He stayed in the NASL two seasons before earning a trial with NYCFC and signing back into MLS for the 2017 season. He spent three years in New York before being drafted by Inter Miami CF in the expansion draft and the following year traded to Austin FC. Austin declined his deal at the end of the 2021 season and that’s how he finds himself with Sporting KC today.

Career Professional Stats

Ben Sweat Pro Stats

Year Team GP GS Minutes Goals Assists YC RC
Year Team GP GS Minutes Goals Assists YC RC
2021 Austin FC 2 2 93 0 0 0 0
2020 Inter Miami 23 20 1688 0 2 6 0
2019 NYCFC 20 20 1475 0 1 4 0
2018 NYCFC 32 28 2528 0 2 5 0
2017 NYCFC 29 28 2446 1 6 3 0
2016 Tampa Bay Rowdies 9 9 771 0 0 2 0
2015 Tampa Bay Rowdies 27 27 2368 0 0 3 1
2014 Dayton Dutch Lions 6 6 540 0 0 1 0
2014 Columbus Crew 1 1 90 0 0 0 0

Looking at the stats and the ACL injury obviously hampered his 2021, but he played most of 2020’s shortened season. He had another injury in 2019 with NYCFC and fell out of favor but before that was a regular starter for them. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s what Peter Vermes expects from him this year.

A Salary Comparison

2021 MLS Salaries:

  • Ben Sweat: $250,000
  • Luis Martins: $340,000
  • Amadou Dia: $135,000

So Ben Sweat tucks right in between SKC’s 2021 starter Luis Martins and his backup, Amadou Dia, in terms of pay. There is no salary data available for the 2020 MLS season, but Sweat got a bit of a raise from 2019, when he made $200,000. If we go back a year further, when Sweat was on his original MLS contract, where he only made $67,500.

That final salary is from his time with New York City FC, which obtained him after he spent a couple seasons in the NASL after not catching on with his initial MLS club, the Columbus Crew. It makes sense he’d be on a cheaper deal coming out of the lower divisions of American soccer before proving himself and earning raises. I’d expect his salary to be in the neighborhood of his 2021 number since he’s coming off an injury. Speaking of injuries...

The Last Time We Saw Sweat

Unfortunately, Ben Sweat’s last appearance in an MLS game was nearly a ago. He was playing in the home opener of the Colorado Rapids. He left the game with what would be a season ending injury just 23 minutes into his second game with his new club Austin FC. That was on April 24th, 2021, and he hasn’t played since. Austin spent $100,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) for about a games worth of minutes (plus a quarter of a million in salary).

MLS: Austin FC at Colorado Rapids
Apr 24, 2021; Commerce City, Colorado, USA; Austin FC defender Ben Sweat reacts as he is stretchered off the field after suffering an injury against the Colorado Rapids during the home opener at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Height

Ben Sweat: 6’2”

Luis Martins: 5’9”

Amadou Dia: 5’10”

Height isn’t the end-all, be-all, but there is something about being tall on a set piece to win a clearing header. There are smaller guys that are incredibly athletic and out leap bigger guys, but it sure doesn’t hurt. If Zusi returns, he’s only 5’10” and Pierre is 5’9”. Adding to the height that already exists at central defense will be something.

International History

It’s brief. He started and played all 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Peru in 2018 for the United States and subbed on in the prior friendly against Columbia for a mere 15 minutes. Prior to getting that full national team call, he was a part of the U-20s in 2010. I think it’s safe to say he won’t be getting anymore call-ups as the US skews younger and younger.

Highlights and Videos

It’s not easy to find left back highlights. Here is what SKC released, which is very similar to what Miami put out when they said goodbye.

Miami put out a package of “highlights” from 2020. He can float a ball into the box, but we all know SKC don’t really get onto the end of a lot of headers, so it’s unclear how that’ll work out. I’d love to see more highlights of combing quickly with teammates, since that’s what he’ll be asked to do in Kansas City (oh, and run non-stop).

Just like he planned it.

And here is a nice profile on Sweat from 2017 with NYCFC by CBS New York (they weirdly blocked embedding of this video, it’s probably why it has 79 views).

NYCFC also put out a video of Sweat’s journey to the USMNT, from his youth days all the way up to his pro career at that point. It includes interviews from his wife, his parents, his brothers, former coaches and more.


Final Analysis

Sweat won’t be the only left back on this team. He’s currently one of two fullbacks (with Kayden Pierre) and a team needs more depth than that along the backline. For comparison, they had five in 2021 (Zusi, Martins, Dia, Lindsey and Pierre). The question becomes, is Sweat expected to be the starter or will another player of a higher caliber be brought in?

Six of eight international roster spots are currently filled. Does the team use one of those on another left back? They did for years with Martins. They could always be on the verge of getting green cards and opening up more space.

The team will certainly sign someone else and at the worst, Sweat will be an MLS veteran depth piece pushing for minutes. As the schedule gets congested for a few midweek MLS games, the US Open Cup and the (last) useless Leagues Cup, bodies will be needed. And likely Vermes will trust a player like Sweat, or fellow signing Uri Rosell, to sub into games or rotate in as a starter at the absolute bare minimum.