As Sporting Kansas City’s 2022 MLS regular season home opener looms, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 15-day countdown until MLS is back at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting begins its 2022 campaign with a visit to Mercedes Benz Stadium on Feb. 27 for a matchup with Atlanta United FC at 2 p.m. CT. Sporting will then host longtime rival Houston Dynamo FC at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 5 at Children's Mercy Park.
The 2022 Preseason Countdown will provide fans with key storylines to keep an eye on as we approach Sporting’s home opener. From player highlights and coaching spotlights to new features at Children’s Mercy Park, the 2022 Preseason Countdown will highlight the many reasons to be excited for what’s ahead.
Yesterday, we looked at the young homegrown talent of Sporting KC. Today, we will look at Sporting’s core group of veteran players.
Andreu Fontas #3 – Defender
Entering his fifth year with Sporting, Andreu Fontas comes into this season following a career year in 2021. The Spanish center back earned just one MLS Team of the Week nod in 2021 despite setting single-season MLS records in passes (1,729), successful passes (1,546) and touches (1,890). Fontas also led MLS in goals added value with a 3.68. Look for the 2021 Sporting KC Defender of the Year to ride the highs of last season and continue his impressive form.
Johnny Russell #7 – Forward
Much like a fine wine, the Sporting KC captain only gets better with age. In his fourth year with the club, Johnny Russell set a career mark in goals (15) and finished tied for the club lead in assists (eight). His impressive 2021 campaign included four appearances on the MLS Team of the Week and a historic streak in which he scored or assisted in a club-record 10 consecutive matches. Russell leads the team into the 2021 season ready to repeat his success.
Graham Zusi #8 – Defender
The longest-tenured Sporting player on the roster remained a key contributor in his 13th season in Sporting blue. Graham Zusi’s 2021 included 24 starts and five assists from the right back position. He added a goalazo in the playoffs to top off his impressive campaign. This offseason he re-signed with Sporting and is looking to add another trophy to his already impressive collection.
Khiry Shelton #11 – Forward
Khiry Shelton is entering his fourth season with Sporting and continues to be a big part of the club’s recent success. When Shelton plays Sporting has a 65.5%-win percentage and averages 1.86 points per match. Shelton has the fourth-best win percentage among MLS players with at least 70 regular season appearances. The forward is the only active forward with 350 duels won in less than 65 regular season starts. Shelton is ready to play as the physical number 9 and continue to play a role in Sporting's success.
Roger Espinoza #15 – Midfielder
Roger Espinoza inked a new contract with the club this offseason and is ready for his 13th season in Kansas City. The FA Cup winning midfielder made 32 appearances at center-mid for the club last season, stepping up in a major way when Sporting was dealing with injuries. This offseason he and his wife, Lo’eau LaBonta were honored as United Soccer Coaches Honorary All-Americans. Espinoza bolsters a strong midfield group for Sporting KC and provides that veteran leadership.
Daniel Salloi #20 – Forward
2021 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Finalist Daniel Salloi was on an absolute tear last season. He had a team-leading 24 goal contributions (16 goals, eight assists), was an eight-time MLS Team of the Week member, Player of the Week in week 28 and an MLS All-Star. He was Sporting’s MVP and a key piece in one of Sporting’s most potent offenses in club history. Watch out for the Hungarian international as he looks for a repeat of this past season’s accomlishments in the 2022 campaign.
Tim Melia #29 – Goalkeeper
Sporting KC’s shot-stopper, Tim Melia remained one of the best and most consistent goalkeepers in 2021. Melia posted seven clean sheets in 28 matches played and won 15 matches for Sporting. His 59 clean sheets since 2015 are the most in MLS over that span. He comes into the 2022 season looking to become the first keeper in MLS history to win at least 10 games in eight consecutive seasons.