A Sporting Kansas City legend retired from the game yesterday, former team captain, Davy Arnaud retired from professional soccer yesterday after 14 MLS seasons due to concussions. Arnaud, who spent most of his career with Sporting KC/KC Wizards, had spent the last four seasons split between the Montreal Impact and DC United. When Arnaud left Kansas City he did so as the club's all-time leader in league appearances, third in appearances in all competitions, third in starts in league play and all competitions, third in minutes played in league and all competitions, second for goals scored in league play and in all competitions, and was club captain for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. A long list of accomplishments that should see him elected as a Sporting Legend in the near future on those stats alone, but it's not just the stats that made him a legend in the minds of Sporting KC supporters, it was more than that. For those that jumped on the bandwagon that is Sporting KC a little later, Arnaud's role in the team may not be as well known, but he truly is a club legend.
Arnaud was selected in the 5th round of the 2002 MLS Superdraft, the 50th overall pick, with the likes of Erik Ozimek and Christof Lindenmayer drafted around him. The odds of him making the Kansas City Wizards roster, let alone having a long career were not overly in his favor. While rookies in MLS now make much better wages, the lowest being between $50,000 and $60,000 when Arnaud broke into the league players closer to $10,000 a year as a professional player. Players took second jobs, coached youth soccer in the area, and most times usually burned out quickly to take a job in a profession that would pay them more. Arnaud though stuck around through those early years, making just three appearances in his rookie year. His sophomore season though he made 18 appearances making seven starts for KC in league play. His breakout season though came in 2004, thanks to injuries to both Preki and Igor Simutenkov; Arnaud started all 30 of KC's games, scoring nine goals. He then added two goals in KC's run to MLS Cup that year, and another three in KC's run to their first US Open Cup championship for a total of 14. That season he'd spent most of his time as a forward partnering Josh Wolff up top for Kansas City. After the 2004 season though Arnaud started to drop further back on the field. He spent plenty of time over the next few years at forward, but his primary position shifted to the attacking midfield and wing position depending on how Kansas City was playing. He started at least 22 games for KC from 2004 all the way through 2010 scoring from a high of nine to a low of four in those years, always getting over 2,000 minutes played in each of those seasons.
In 2010, Peter Vermes, newly named permanent head coach of the club named Arnaud the club's captain, which he was for his final two seasons with the club. The 2010 season though was a little rough on Arnaud as he picked up three of his four career red cards in that season. In 2011 Arnaud missed quite a bit of time with injury and only started 16 games of the club's first as Sporting KC. He still started 16 games and played in 22, but failed to score a goal for the first time since his rookie season in 2002 as he'd moved further back on the field and was playing more of a box-to-box role. In the offseason, Arnaud ended up being traded to the Montreal Impact so that Kansas City could re-acquire Seth Sinovic, who had been selected by Montreal in the expansion draft. It was a move that frustrated some fans who really wanted to see Arnaud be a "one club player" spending his entire career in Kansas City. For all parties at the time though it was a good move, Arnaud had lost his spot as a starter as KC moved in a different direction with the team and Arnaud was able to become a starter with Montreal and scored the first goal in the club's history. After two years in Montreal Arnaud was traded to DC in exchange for an international spot where Arnaud played out his final two years. He missed a lot of time late in the season last year due to the concussions that ended his career. In the end, Arnaud was one of the league's true success stories going from making basically pennies to ending his career making over $200,000 a season.
Internationally Arnaud was able to break into the US team in 2007 after continual good performances for KC. In total Arnaud played seven times for the US team, most of those coming at the 2009 Gold Cup, where he scored his only international goal in a 2-2 draw with Haiti in the group stage.
All of this is why Kansas City fans loved Arnaud. He was a guy that "came good," someone that worked their way from the bottom and made it to the top. He was never the most skilled player for Kansas City or any of the other teams he played for, but it was his determination and drive on the field that really helped him to succeed. It was his workman like, blue collar style of play that worked really well with a KC Wizards team that really didn't have a "star." And that style also worked extremely well with the fans. He played with a fire that few players could do, he was intense, sometimes to a fault, and a drive to lift the team. When I got involved in the Cauldron originally back in late 2004 and 2005, Arnaud was one of the first players (along with Jimmy Conrad) that really endeared themselves to me as a fan in the group. He seemed to understand the importance of the small group of diehards in the corner. He returned the love that the Cauldron gave to KC fans. Arnaud will go down as one of the greatest players to play for Sporting KC and it's completely deserved.
While it will never go down in the record books, he's arguably scored one of the biggest goals in Kansas City history as well, in front of over 50,000 people at Arrowhead he scored to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead over Manchester United on their way to a 2-1 win in 2010. Certainly arguments can be made that the goal really helped to put the then Wizards on the minds more of sports fans in the city.
And who could forget the yearly Davy Arnaud/Jack Jewsbury best friends stories and videos (FYI Jewsbury won it 6 to 3).