As momentum builds toward Major League Soccer’s 26th season in 2021, Sporting Kansas City players and coaches will look to lay the foundations for another successful campaign when preseason training unfolds this month in Arizona.
With newcomers joining familiar faces for the 2021 preseason presented by Children’s Mercy, SportingKC.com has launched the “Sporting Preseason Spotlight” web series to acquaint supporters with the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards who will help Sporting Kansas City compete for silverware in 2021. To read up on every player and visit the series archive as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/Spotlight.
Multiple times during his tenure as Sporting’s manager, Peter Vermes has shopped abroad for players who learned their craft in FC Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. Ilie Sanchez. Oriol Rosell. Jordi Quintilla. Toni Dovale. Cristian Lobato. Federico Bessone.
The list doesn’t end there. Defender Andreu Fontas arrived in Kansas City in August of 2018, bringing with him no shortage of pedigree in his native Spain. The center back is now entering his fourth MLS campaign—one he hopes will be his best yet.
Born and raised in Banyoles, Fontas developed at La Masia during one of the greatest periods in Barcelona’s illustrious history. Fontas split time between Barcelona and Barcelona B from 2008 to 2012, during which time the club won three La Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League titles under legendary manager Pep Guardiola. All the while, Fontas trained with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and a host of other world-class stars. Following his time at Barcelona, he moved on to Mallorca (2012-13) and Celta Vigo (2013-2018) in Spain’s top division before heading stateside for his stint with Sporting.
If 2020 was a year of adversity for everyone, it was a year of extreme hardship for the Spanish center back. Fontas spent the first half of the season recovering from an Achilles injury he sustained in 2019. Upon his return to training, he suffered another setback that kept him sidelined until October. When Fontas did play, he performed admirably. Across his three starts, Sporting allowed a single goal and collected shutout wins over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 24 and FC Cincinnati on Oct. 28. He completed over 90 percent of his passes and totaled 20 recoveries and 15 clearances while never getting caught out of position in central defense.
When Sporting parted ways with center backs Matt Besler and Winston Reid this offseason, the door opened for Fontas to shoulder an increased role in 2021. Sporting presently has four center backs to call upon—Fontas, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith and heralded newcomer Nicolas Isimat-Mirin—and if the Spaniard stays healthy for the duration of the season, he will almost certainly see his mileage increase from last year.
Making his lone 2020 home appearance at Children’s Mercy Park on Oct. 24, Fontas became the first MLS player since the dawn of the Opta era in 2010 to record a goal, two clearances, two interceptions, two tackles, 10 recoveries and 65 successful passes in a shutout victory.
He Said It
“It’s hard to say how difficult it was (in 2020). Not a lot of people know what I have been through. Injuries are the worst thing that can happen to a soccer player. It has been a very strange year with the virus—with not being able to train, then having to train at home. Only my wife and my daughters realize how I am feeling but maybe my wife is the only one who knows exactly what I’m feeling and going through…It’s been a long journey and I've put in a lot of work, and maybe this is the reward that I get from this difficult year.”
Fontas after scoring his first MLS goal and leading Sporting to a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 24, 2020, having missed most of the season through injury.
Did You Know?
In the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup Final, Fontas replaced captain Carles Puyol as a second-half substitute to help Barcelona to a 4-0 victory over Brazilian club Santos.