Why SKC Players Never Stay in Kansas City

Sporting KC players can laud a great experience in KC as a foundation for thriving soccer careers
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, March 26, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

Sporting Kansas City staff and supporters love their players, especially if they have been able to represent the city and club well.

However, sometimes there comes a special circumstance where players leave. And when that happens it’s hard to let go, but it does happen.

At the end of the 2012 season, rumors were swirling surrounding centerback Matt Besler. The now-captain for Sporting KC, who is also from Kansas CIty, had been receiving some interest in overseas clubs including then-Premier League, now-Championship team, Queens Park Rangers. Although the jump up to an English-based club would have given exposure to the current defensive mainstay for the USMNT, Besler opted to re-sign with Sporting Kansas City.

Although Besler chose to say in MLS and gain experience in the States, others who have played with Sporting KC/Wizards have veered to overseas and foreign options.

Most recently, forward Kei Kamara, a fan favorite with his Chipotle love, goal celebrations and forward ability – on the wings as well as in a striker position – signed for Championship club Middlesbrough. Although Kamara was at first missed from the Sporting squad, especially with a larger-than-life persona and an offensive mindset, the team ended up just fine by winning the 2013 MLS Cup. Kamara was part of 4 MLS teams in his time in America, but once he landed in KC, something clicked and he thrived at Sporting KC, playing for 4 years while notching 38 goals in his time with KC.

In 2013, the overseas bug hit the Sierra Leonean as he ended up on a loan spell with the Premier League’s Norwich City. After the loan was finished Kamara came back, with much excitement, to Kansas City, but with the taste of the English game still fresh, he decided to go to Boro, where he is still on contract.

One of Kamara’s former teammates at his time at Sporting KC, Roger Espinoza, also took the leap across the pond and landed at Wigan Athletic, also in the Championship. At the time that Espinoza moved to Wigan, the Honduran international was in peak form and eventually – in the span of a few months – helped Sporting Kansas City win the US Open Cup in August 2012. And once he joined Wigan, Espinoza added his solid skills to garner a trophy for the Latics in May of 2013, the coveted FA Cup. Espinoza honed his skills with his defensive midfield mindset at Sporting Kansas City, and while on the Honduran National Team, and even to present day, his skill, tenacity, and aggressiveness is certainly missed in the midfield. Losing someone like Espinoza – somewhat of an unsung talisman – is a hard spot to fill, but current defensive midfielder Uri Rosell has stepped up in adequate fashion.

A handful of other players who have had some success overseas after playing in Kansas City include the US Men’s National Team forward Herculez Gomez; Mexican journeyman and national team player, Omar Bravo; and Azerbaijan’s only American player – and Kansas City native – Will John.

Although the 3 aforementioned men were more bit players rather than having a large role on the team, each had their jumping off point to more robust seasons elsewhere (Gomez), a continuance of a career ‘revival’ (Bravo), and a club from which to start an overseas journey (John).

One player to keep a watch out for, especially after the World Cup and the USMNT’s progress through group stages (and hopefully beyond), is Zusi. He trialed with Premier League team West Ham United in January of 2013, and even though Zusi did not receive an offer after going back to Kansas City – where the Maryland product has played in all of his MLS seasons dating back to 2009 – there are possibilities that foreign teams may put their ears to the ground and seek him out, regardless that his most recent contract, signed in 2013, is through 2017.

As of right now, any rumors of Besler, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, or any other player for Sporting KC, are just that: rumors.

Taking into account the players who will most likely gain interest from overseas teams in the coming months, Sporting Kansas City players, staff, and even fans should look positively to the future to what the team is now, what the team may look like if said players receiving interest end up jetting overseas, and what it could be in a few years when certain Academy players who also have received recent looks (Erik Palmer-Brown) are playing regularly. Although not probably seen as a hotbed for international soccer scouts and teams to pick up players, the quality of play, character through both adversity and success, and the growth of skills that Sporting Kansas City players often exude are assets of a soccer player that are intriguing to other teams.

NEXT UP: March 29, 2014 –Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 6 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.