Sporting KC will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first game coming up on April 13th. The match on that day will actually be a replay of the club's first match as the KC Wiz from 1996 against the Colorado Rapids. Ahead of that game, Sporting KC is doing a poll for fans to pick the Best XI in the club's history, starting with goalkeepers, then up the field to defenders, midfielders, and forwards. The goalkeeper poll is already over and the defender one is currently up. As someone who has seen each of the players brought up live for Kansas City, I figured I'd give my vote from each one of the groups as KC puts the rest of their polls up.
To start I'm going to back up and start with goalkeepers. The list for KC included the likes of Tony Meola, Jimmy Nielsen, Bo Oshoniyi, Kevin Hartman, and others. For me the list of goalkeepers really only comes down to two players, Meola and Nielsen, while the rest of the field wasn't bad for KC, those two are head and shoulders above the rest of the group at goalkeeper. Both are arguably two of the best no just for KC, but throughout the 20 seasons of MLS so far. If you'd have told me back in 2010 that I'd even be debating whether Meola was the best goalkeeper in club history after 20 seasons I'd have told you that you were crazy, but that's exactly what I'm doing. Meola is the only goalkeeper to win the league's MVP award back in 2000 when he swept MVP, goalkeeper, and comeback player of the year when he recorded 16 shutouts in league play, allowed just 29 goals for a goals against average of just .92. He played in a club record 156 games in goal for Kansas City. He finished his career with a 1.22 goals against average for Kansas City and was the career leader for KC in basically every goalkeeping stat until Nielsen came along.
Nielsen topped Meola's career stats, posting a goals against average of just .99 over his four seasons, besting Meola's 2000 GAA twice, and topping Meola's career shutout total. I never would have thought that I would see Meola's numbers topped, especially so quickly, and yes you can argue that Nielsen's defense was better through his KC career than throughout Meola’s entire career, but that's also not giving Nielsen enough credit. In the end, while Meola is a Sporting Legend and certainly deserving of the honor, Nielsen will be there sooner than later as well and in this situation I got to give the starting goalkeeper position in KC's best XI to Nielsen.
Once the defender poll has officially closed I will post my vote on that.