Sporting KC today announced the nominees for the 2015 Sporting Legends class. The announcement reads like this year we may only get a single player added to the group of names on the wall outside the Victory Suite. If true, I think it's the best move for the Sporting Legends program as a whole. I understand the first class being big because it is the first year, but it really should just be a single entry each year. This allows the process to be extended longer instead of getting all the worthy candidates in early and then wondering if they'll elect someone who really doesn't deserve it, or wait years for the likes of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to retire so they can be added to the wall.
This year there are four nominees in the class, Mo Johnston, Chris Klein, Ron Newman, and Kerry Zavagnin. Johnston, Klein, and Zavagnin were all up for election last year but missed out while Jimmy Conrad, Lamar Hunt, and Peter Vermes went into the club. Newman is up for the first time. I'll go ahead and make the case for each of the nominees.
Like last year with Vermes and Zavagnin, I can't vote for a player still currently with the team as part of the technical staff, so while Zavagnin is the all time leader in appearances in all competitions (291), starts in all competitions (281), starts in league play (228), tied for the most playoff appearances (23), played the most league minutes (20,516), and the most minutes in all competitions (25,290) I just can't feel like I can vote for Zavagnin at this time even though he really does deserve to be a Sporting Legend in the future.
That leaves us with three; Johnston, Klein, and Newman. Johnston joined the team early in the 1996 season and announced his arrival with a two goal performance in KC's 6-4 win over the Columbus Crew. Johnston's 31 league goals was good for second when he retired after the 2001 season, he's now sixth on that list for KC. His 32 in all competitions has him in seventh place overall. His 28 league assists and 32 in all competitions is good for fifth overall on both lists for KC. He finished his career with 12,600 league minutes and 14,182 in all competitions, both were team highs when he retired, since he's fallen to ninth and twelfth respectively. The same holds true for his appears where he finished with 149 league and 169 overall but has fallen to tenth and twelfth on both lists now.
Klein appeared in 235 games in all competitions for KC which was good for second all time for KC when he left the club. He's now fifth on that list. His 200 league appearances is good for sixth for KC. He's currently sixth in minutes played in league play (16,381) and in all competitions (19,437). His 39 league goals and 43 in all competitions are both good for fourth all time for Kansas City. His 45 assists in league play is good for second all time for KC while his 52 in all competitions was just recently knocked to third by Graham Zusi.
Newman was Kansas City's first coach, in fact on October 11th, 1995 he was named the first coach in MLS history when he was made coach of the KC Wiz. Over the course of three plus seasons with KC, Newman compiled a 50-50 record for KC, with no draws in the league's first four seasons, Newman picked up 14 shootout wins to go along with 36 regulation wins for KC. He set a club record for league wins in a season with 21 in the 1997 season when KC won the regular season Western Conference.
For me, my vote is going to Chris Klein. The current LA Galaxy president's longevity with KC is clear in the stats, but his goal scoring and assist totals are still impressive for Kansas City. While Johnston probably has the more iconic moment for KC of the two with his bloody face after the 2000 Western Conference finals, but I feel that this year Klein gets the nod for me.