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A closer look at new Sporting KC signing, Kortne Ford

How many stats can I fit in one article?

MLS: 2020 MLS Headshots USA TODAY Sports

After what seemed like an eternity with no news, Sporting Kansas City decided their fans needed to ride a rollercoaster of emotions this week. It started with the news that designated player, Alan Pulido, would likely be out all season. But the week ended on a positive note when the team announced the signing of free agent, former Colorado Rapid, former Sporting Kansas City academy player, and Kansas native, Kortne Ford.

Ford’s personal journey is full of tragedy but his perseverance is inspirational. That’s an article for another time. We’re going to take a deep dive into our newest signing to get a sense of what he’s bringing to the team in 2022.

Ford broke into the Colorado Rapids in 2017 as a Homegrown player, playing 20 matches (19 starts) and logging 1700+ minutes. Ford played as a right-sided center back for a Rapids team that finished 10th out of 11 in the West. Colorado conceded 51 times that season but it was an anemic offense that doomed them. The 51 goals against landed Colorado in the middle of pack for defense.

The data on Ford’s performance is more abundant for his sophomore season. In 2018, Ford played in 15 matches, starting 14, after injuring his knee to start the season. Predominately playing at center back, Ford also lined up at right back. After debuting in July, Ford played 1,100+ minutes and registered zero goals or assists. Ford’s pass completion rate that season was 80+ percent overall (just under 90% completion on short passes and 62% on long passes).

For comparison, in 2021, Andreu Fontas completed 90% of his total passes, 93% of his short passes, and 81.5% of his long passes (with substantially more attempts). It may not be fair to compare a 22-year-old center back who played for a bad Rapids team to a 31-year-old graduate of La Masia, but it gives context to Ford’s passing range. Competent but not likely to hit the pinpoint long balls that Fontas used to help kickstart our attacks.

Ford’s defensive numbers paint the picture of a player who is comfortable defending 1 v 1. Opponents attempted 10 dribbles against Ford in 2018. He had seven tackles for a 70% tackle rate (thankfully, that’s easy math). For context, in 2021, there were 58 attempts to dribble Fontas, who had 27 tackles for a 46.6% tackle rate. However, Ford had a low successful pressure percentage - defined as the number of times the team wins back the ball within five seconds of applying pressure. Ford’s 20% successful pressure percentage is half of Fontas’ 2021 performance. A number of factors come into play with successfully winning the ball back, so this may not fall exclusively on Ford’s shoulders, but he’ll have to adapt to Vermes’ system to learn the team’s pressing triggers and increase that percentage.

Unfortunately, Ford’s last MLS action came after 90 minutes against the San Jose Earthquakes on October 21, 2018. Ford suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the entire 2019 season and underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and a tib-fib joint. After rehabbing and attempting to come back for 2020, Ford suffered a series of setbacks and underwent a second knee surgery that kept him out of his second consecutive season. And like that, a once bright career was severely derailed.

Ford finally made his return to the pitch in 2021, playing 13 games with San Antonio FC on loan from Colorado. Ford played over 1,100 minutes and went the full 90 in each of the 13 matches he played. He scored four goals with SAFC on 12 shots. Advanced data for the USL is difficult to come by, but it was a promising return to the pitch for Ford.

Ford likely slots in as Nicolas Isimat-Mirin’s backup. He’s tall, rangy, and still has room to improve. Ford, if he can stay healthy, has the potential to grow into a very strong center back for an MLS squad. To reach that potential, he’s going to need to improve his passing, pressures, and interceptions, but Peter Vermes has previously unlocked the potential in young center backs like Ike Opara and Matt Besler.

This is an excellent flier to take on a player hungry to prove himself and recapture the momentum he had as a homegrown player in 2017-18. With a minimal hit against the cap, this is a high upside, low downside roster move that brings a hometown kid back to Children’s Mercy Park.

Would love to hear your thoughts about this signing down in the comments. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. Don’t forget to download and listen to the Shades of Blue Soccer Show for all of the wit and banter that didn’t make this article.