Over the last week, Sporting Kansas City added two free agents in left back Ben Sweat and returning midfielder Uri Rosell. However, it’s impossible not to associate them with the rather dubious history with free agency that Sporting KC have had up to this point. So let’s take a look at who SKC have signed previously and lay out why this time will be different.
Sporting KC’s Past Free Agent Signings
Despite what some have thought, Kansas City simply haven’t signed a lot of free agents in their history. It’s often thought that someone like Brad Davis, who was acquired via trade, was acquired through free agency. However, there are only three free agent signings in KC’s history in the league: Justin Mapp, Brad Evans and Rodney Wallace.
Justin Mapp - 2016
Stats: 6 games played, 0 starts, 43 minutes
Sporting KC’s first ever free agent signing (as it didn’t exist in MLS for most of the league’s history) was their ‘best’ one. That bar is incredibly low, but Mapp, who struggled with injuries all season, contributed more in MLS than anyone else. No, he didn’t score any goals or add any assists, but he got the most MLS minutes. Again, the bar is low. Mapp was 32 at the time.
That very year, SKC owner Robb Heinemann, also indicated the team wanted Dominic Oduro to join too, though he didn’t sign. We’ll never know what that speed could have done or if he could have stayed healthy.
Brad Evans - 2018
That’s right, Evans never got onto the field. The most he did was four loan appearance to the then Swope Park Rangers where he played 283 minutes. However, 2018 was a hell of a year for the club, so it was often joked he was making a difference in the locker room. That could be true, it’s very hard to know. But his on field contributions for the first team did not exist. He was 33 for that season.
Rodney Wallace - 2019
Stats: 1 GP, 1 GS, 27 minutes
Rodney Wallace joined in what was a doomed 2019 season. He was injured in his only start and never returned. It could be argued that Wallace actually was more impactful than Mapp though. No, he didn’t have as many MLS minutes, but he did play in a CONCACAF Champions League game (in Panama if memory serves), so he technically got more minutes. He was 31 years old during that season. The youngest signing until now.
Why Things Will be Different
The biggest difference, as I explained on the Shades of Blue Podcast the other day, is MLS free agency rules are different now. To become a free agent in MLS, a player just needs five years of league service and to be at least 24-years-old. That’s down from needing to be 28 and have eight years in the league. Because of that, an increasingly younger batch of players were eligible to become free agents.
That said, Sporting KC didn’t sign particularly young players. As of this writing, Ben Sweat is 30 and Uri Rosell is 29. So while they are younger, it’s not a huge change from the ages of the prior players.
However, as someone who doesn’t really gamble, I’d be willing to bet a significant sum of money that Sweat and/or Rosell contribute significantly more than the first three free agents. Partially because the bar is so incredibly low. They just have to exceed a combined seven appearances, a single start and 70 minutes. A single start is likely to do that in and of itself. Plus, they are on two year guaranteed deals (with an option for a third), so they’ll have more of a chance to contribute.
It’s entirely possible that neither Rosell or Sweat are going to become their starters at their respective positions. Even then, they would be higher quality backups and should early sub appearances and rotation starts if they can stay healthy. That’s the big thing... health. The prior three signings haven’t had it. And Sweat is coming off an ACL tear, so there is no guarantee he returns to form. Though, I feel confident it’ll go better this time for these two. The ultimate question is, how much better? The 2022 season will have to tell us that.