At long last, Sporting KC has reached the MLS Cup final. They’ve been a regular contender these past few years but pretty much always fell to the Houston Dynamo. During the past three years, though, the team has experienced a pretty constant shift in personnel. In part, that’s the reality of pro sports, especially in MLS with a pretty rigid salary cap. In part, they’ve also done good business: fans will miss Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara, but Sporting KC at least sold them while their value was high.
The two key goals thus far for Sporting KC, defeating New England and Houston, have come from guys not even on the roster two years ago: Argentine Claudio Bieler and Englishman Dom Dwyer. Can you say turnover? Yessir. It seems like Peter Vermes relishes blowing up his team each summer, turning budding prospects into benchwarmers (albeit sometimes injuries play a role). Still, Sporting KC has not always bought well, and certainly not always sold high.
Here’s a list of past strikers to have donned the blue of Kansas City.
Not so (Omar) Bravo
Lot’s of folks were excited in 2010 when Sporting KC signed Omar Bravo. As a chicano who follows El Tri, I was not one of them. Bravo will always be the guy who missed a penalty kick in the World Cup and then failed in Europe, so I had pretty low expectations. My basic reading on Omar was that he had pretty good instincts and movement, competent finishing, and pretty good holdup play. He scored nine goals for Sporting KC, which was a recent haul. However, in 2011, a little over a year later, he returned to Mexico with Cruz Azul (and then thereafter loaned and transferred elsewhere).
On the Denilson DP scale, was he better than Nery Castillo? Yes. But he probably should have done more or at least stuck around for more than a year.
You’re a Yura Movsisyan
Yura Movsisyan was probably the first “NBA style” pick of the MLS draft. Why do I say that. Well, the NBA is famous for wasting lottery picks on untested highschoolers who haven’t started to shave, yet alone play college ball. MLS scouts got wind of Yura despite only playing a few games for Pasadena City College. Still, the hype carried him to a number 4 pick by the Kansas City Wizards. He struggled his first season as he learned the ropes of being a pro, scored a few goals his second year, and then headed to Real Salt Lake. He did okay at RSL, but made his name later in the Danish Super Liga: he single handedly prevented Randers FC from relegation. Then came a nice Russian Premier League payday.
Scott Sealy the Deal You probably don’t remember Scott Sealy. He’s easy to forget. Despite being a top prospect coming out of Wake Forest in2005, his career post-KC was a tangled web of too few appearances and too few goals. Still, he had a good stint at KC. In about three years, he belted in 28 goals in 88 appearances. More importantly, he was clutch. In the last agme of 2007 season, KC had to win to make the playoffs. Sealy notched two goals as the then Wizards defeated FC Dallas and advanced to the playoffs. His later spells at San Jose and the Israeli Premier League were not so happy.
Curtain Call for Claudio Lopez
I was pretty excited in 2008 when the Wizards signed Claudio “El Piojo Lopez.” He was a bit old, but had once been sold for over $40 million dollars, played in two World Cups for Argentina, scored directly off a corner during a Champions League game, and even won a league title with Club America in Mexico. I thought the Piojo could at least play in the hole and pull of some moments of magic as Guillermo Schelotto had done for Columbus. At the time, before the “re-brand,” the team played in a adjusted minor league ball park and I probably was grasping at any sliver of hope.
On the Cuauhtemoc Blanco scale of DP success, he was a solid contributor but a bit pricy. KC tried to re-sign him after two years (and 13 goals in 57 games), but he played hardball. He signed with the Rapids, played a year, and then had his contract not renewed.
Enter the Eddie Johnson
I was nervous when the Wizards acquired EJ in a trade from FC Dallas, neither excited nor upset. Why? On the negative side, he came with a pretty poor goalscoring record at FC Dallas. He also was a product of the Bradenton camp, who, at the time were known as “Bradenton Brats.” The read on EJ was that he had potential, but his confidence exceeded his talent and his work rate was below par. However, I had seen EJ’s potential with my own two years – in a World Cup qualifier in Alabama, I saw a confident EJ turn international defenders with ease, accelerate with grace, and mold the field to revolve around him.
His time at KC was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He still had lingering problems with his toe, so his first year was a struggle to stay fit. Goals did not come. However, his second year, he scored 15 goals in 24 games. That includes two (back-to-back) hat tricks against New York and New England. Nobody could coax the best out of EJ (not even Bruce Arena), but when his fitness, talent, and mentality aligned, the sky was the limit. He got a winter move to Fulham of the English Premier League, then, though, his career in Europe nosedived. Luckily for Sounders fans, though, he returned to MLS and found his goalscorng ways, (and the national team).
Herculez Going Going Gone Gomez
Yes, Herc was a Wizards player. Well, he was on the roster at least. To make a long story short, Gomez had a lingering ACL injury from his time at Colorado and, equally stressing, MLS coaches had followed Steve Sampson’s ill-advised tactic of playing Herc wide. At the time, Herc was a bit skinnier and coaches felt he lacked the aerial presence required of an MLS striker. In 34 appearances, he only scored a single goal. Allegedly, the Wizards coach didn’t even return he or his agent’s phone calls that off-season. On the bright side, he packed his bags, moved to Mexico, lit the nets aflame, and made the 2010 World Cup.
Josh Cried Wolff
Josh Wolff had two very productive stints with the Wizards. He also got plenty of caps for the US, appeared in a World Cup, and scored this goal vs. Mexico in 2001. He was probably the first “speedster” American striker, and blazed the trail for Charlie Davis and others to follow. His two-year stint in Europe at Munich 1860 was a flop (the then more physical German game probably ill-suited to his gifts), but he returned to welcome arms in KC. He notched 43 goals in 144 games, not quite a goal every two games but pretty close.
And, of course, in case you missed it, he scored this goal vs. Mexico in 2001.
Thus, the only constant in life is change and MLS is no exception. Some great players have flopped in KC, others have sprung onto greater things, and a few have come home to roost. So long as there’s a salary cap and Vermes’ tweaking, expect moves this summer regardless of the MLS cup final result. And the next. And the next.
IMAGES: MLS, Topps