India National Team star Sunil Chhetri, the first Indian to ever join an MLS club, made his debut Tuesday night for the Kansas City Wizards. Chhetri, 25, played the opening 45 minutes in a 1-2 loss to the Colorado Rapids in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match. Chhetri started in an advanced central midfield role supporting striker Josh Wolff.
“He was okay," Wizards Manager Peter Vermes said. "He was good in possession, but he wasn’t getting close enough to the goal. We’ve got to figure out different ways to get him closer to the goal.”
Chhetri agreed to terms with the Wizards March 25, becoming just the 8th player of Asian birth to join Major League Soccer. His P-1 Visa was approved the following week, and his International Transfer Certificate was processed Monday, allowing Kansas City to add him to the 24-man roster. After Tuesday's contest, Chhetri focused on the team.
“It was disappointing that we lost the match," he said. "I thought I had some good touches, but it’s going to take some time, and I’m going to go back to the training field and train hard.”
Chhetri becomes just the third Indian-born professional athlete currently in American professional team sports, with Pittsburgh Pirates minor-league pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel being the other two. NFL Linebacker Brandon Chillar of the Green Bay Packers and former NFL wide receiver Sanjay Beach are both of Indian descent as well.