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Sporting KC re-signs three veterans

Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Andreu Fontas are all back with new contracts

Zusi deep in pregame thoughts.
Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City has re-signed three of their most senior veterans. Sporting KC announced that Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Andreu Fontas are all back for next season. Zusi and Espinoza signed one-year contracts through 2023 with options for 2024 with the club, while Fontas was inked to a two-year deal through 2024.

Zusi is the longest-tenured player with one team in MLS history and this makes it even more likely that he will be a one club man before retiring. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Zusi has played as a winger, a box-to-box midfielder and as a right back and is known for some excellent passing and dropping passes on players feet across the field or right outside the box.

Zusi celebrating a spectacular goal
Thad Bell

He has had success at every level. He was drafted after becoming a two-time NCAA champion at Maryland. With Sporting KC he won the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

Zusi also experienced success internationally, scoring five goals and seven assists in 55 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) from 2012-2017.

Espinoza is chasing Zusi in all of the Sporting KC records and might be leading if he had not left to play for English side Wigan Athletic for a couple seasons. Espinoza helped Wigan to a win over Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup Final and earned three U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017. He just needs an MLS Cup to add to his titles.

Espinoza in the attack
Thad Bell

Espinoza started as a left back for the Wizards but was moved to midfield after the 2011 Gold Cup where he played in that spot for Honduras. Since then he has been know for strong and sometimes physical play in the midfield, making life tough for opponents to move the ball through the middle of the field.

Fontas struggled with injuries the first two seasons but grabbed the starting job over the last two years. Fontas honed his skills in FC Barcelona’s acclaimed La Masia youth academy. The native of Banyoles, Spain, played for both FC Barcelona and their B team. Fontas is known for his ability to play out of the back.

Fontas carrying the ball forward
Thad Bell


It was expected that either Fontas or Nicolas Isimat-Mirin would re-sign but probably not both. Isimat-Mirin’s option was declined but he was taken in the second round of the re-entry draft by Sporting KC. That was primarily to retain his rights in case another MLS team have an interest in him.

While Fontas is a highly skilled passer, he is not the swiftest, and at 33 years of age he is not going to get faster. He is at his best when players with more speed and athleticism are around in support. Both Kortne Ford and Robi Voloder can provide some of that support but do not be surprised if another center back is signed.

Fontas was on a $1,125,000 guaranteed contract last season and hopefully SKC negotiated a lower salary.

Both Espinoza and Zusi are 36-years-old and when they retire should immediately have their names put up on the wall. Both played at levels that show why they can still be top players in the league, but both also showed their age at times. Espinoza particularly looked amazing when he had rest or came off the bench. Zusi was consistent in games, but injuries seem to come more often now. The older players get, the more drastic the drop off in performance can be.

Last season Zusi had a $450,000 deal and Espinoza had $300,000 contract. Not sure they can go down much more but in Sam McDowells' article in the Kansas City Star, “these are not financially-preventive contracts to what else Sporting would like to accomplish this offseason, primarily finding a right center back and secondarily a young striker. They are supplementary. Fontas’ deal is also less expensive than his previous rate.”

Updated the quote above from Sam’s article. It was interpreted to mean that Zusi and Espinoza could be on the supplemental roster but that was not the intent of the quote.

Thanks to Sam McDowell for reaching out to make sure we were both more clear and more accurate.

Overall, until we know the exact dollar amounts of the contracts and the performance over the next season, it will be hard to judge.

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