Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Case for Sporting Legends

Today Sporting KC announced five former players for the club who are up for election to become the second class of Sporting Legends, a hall of fame type program created to honor the greats that have played for KC throughout the years. Last year the club elected Preki, Tony Meola, and Bob Gansler to the first class. This year the player elected to become a Sporting Legend will be decided by fans in a vote on the team's website and social media. The top vote getter will be unveiled later this summer. So I figured I'd take a look at the five players up for selection and who should be selected.

First for me, I can't vote for people that are still a part of the club. So sorry to Peter Vermes and Kerry Zavagnin, but the two of them fall off the selection process for me. Both I think will end up becoming Sporting Legends eventually. I think the two will go in for different reasons though. For me, I'm not sure that Vermes playing career here alone is worthy of being considered a Sporting Legend. Vermes played less than 80 league games for KC, the fewest of the five players available. He was named defender of the year in 2000 and was an MLS Best XI pick that year. But honestly I'm not sure that he's a club legend on that alone. What he's done as technical director and head coach will be what carries him to that status.

For Zavagnin his play on the field speaks for itself and should make him a Legend. He is the team record holder for league minutes played at 20,516, minutes in all competitions at 25,290, appearances in all competitions at 291, and starts in both league (228) and all competitions (281). He's second on the team in league appearances at 237. But like Vermes I just can't vote for him when he's still a member of the club, and technically he's still never left since 2000, transitioning from a player in 2008 to an assistant in 2009.

So with those two off the table in my opinion my vote comes down to three remaining players, Jimmy Conrad, Mo Johnston, and Chris Klein. All three will eventually be added to the list but it comes down to who should be in the second class. Two of the three, Conrad and Klein captained the club for at least a short period of time with the club. The two are also comparable when it comes to appearances in all competitions, (230 for Conrad, 235 for Klein), league appearances (204 for Conrad, 200 for Klein), starts in all competitions (228 for Conrad, 216 for Klein) and league play (203 to 183). Klein as the more offensive minded player obviously finished with more goals he was second on the team when he left with 39 in league and 43 in all competitions, he's since fallen to fourth in both. Compared to Conrad's 17 goals (both league and all competitions) which are both team highs for defenders. Klein is also second on the team all time in assists with 45 league and 52 in all competitions. Comparatively, Conrad helped to anchor the 2004 back line that was one of the best in MLS history at that time.

The last nominee, Johnston burst onto the scene for KC in 1996, scoring two goals in his debut, a 6-4 win over the Columbus Crew. By the time he retired after the 2001 season, Johnston was at the time the team's second leading scorer in league play with 31 and in all competitions with 32, he's since dropped to sixth in both of those categories. He also added 28 league assists, 32 in all competitions. When he retired he was the team leader in minutes played in both league play (12,600) and all competitions (14,182). He also ended his career as the leader in league (149) and all competition appearances (169), same for starts (142 league, 157 all competitions). And he is also part of one of the great images in team history with his bloody face in the 2000 Western Conference finals after taking a boot to the face in the process of helping to set up Miklos Molnar's series winner in a mini game, sending KC to MLS Cup.

For me this is a tough decision. Conrad is arguably my favorite KC player of all time (my son's name is Conrad). Meanwhile, Johnston was one of my original heroes while growing up watching the team play. And Klein was one of the players I tried to model my play on the wing after when I played myself.

In the end, as I said, all five of these players will eventually be Sporting Legends, but for this vote I'm going to vote for the player that gave the most legendary moment in their legendary career, and that's Johnston. That play of him taking the boot to the face is forever etched in my mind watching it happen from my parents seats at Arrowhead. He deserves to go in in this class.

An aside.

While I vote for Johnston of the five players available to choose from, I continue to be disappointed that the team's original founder, Lamar Hunt is not included or inducted yet as a Sporting Legend. We were told last year that Hunt deserved to be in a class of his own. To me there's no reason at all why Hunt should not be a Sporting Legend yet.

1 comment:

Stan Johnston said...

Agree with all of your comments. I will also vote for Mo. Being in the Cauldron for the 2000 LA game and going nuts along with everyone else after Mo's assist to Molnar is something I will never forget.