It would have been easy to understand if Sporting Kansas City newcomer Gadi Kinda needed time to settle into the team.
He joined the squad for preseason training in January having spent the vast majority of his life in Israel. His English was limited. The culture change was drastic. Then came one of the most transformative developments in modern history—the COVID-19 pandemic.
None of it prevented Kinda from enjoying a brilliant start to his MLS career. The 26-year-old was nothing short of superb in the early stages of the season, bagging a pair of goals and adding an assist in wins over Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Houston Dynamo. He was the only player to earn MLS Team of the Week honors in both Week 1 and Week 2, pacing the squad with an indefatigable two-way presence on the pitch.
In doing so, Kinda also became one of four newcomers in club history to score in each of his first two regular season appearances for the club.
The pandemic interrupted Kinda’s torrid run of form, but four months later he was slotted back into Manager Peter Vermes’ starting lineup at the MLS is Back Tournament in Walt Disney World. He assisted Khiry Shelton’s momentum-shifting goal in a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rapids on July 17 and provided noticeable sparks in a 2-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake on July 22 and a Round of 16 triumph over Vancouver, where goalkeeping heroics from Thomas Hasal prevented the Israeli from bagging his third goal of 2020.
Kinda has featured in all five regular season matches this season, starting four, and is one of just two Sporting players—alongside Alan Pulido—to have at least two goals and two assists in 2020. And while he may not have been on the radar of fans and pundits entering the year, his success shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Born in Ethiopia before moving to Israel at age 3, Kinda spent the first seven and a half seasons of his professional career at FC Ashdod, landing his Israeli Premier League debut in 2011 as a 17-year-old. He became a regular starter by 2013 and was an integral contributor at the club until his move to Beitar Jerusalem in 2019. Over the next 12 months, Kinda started in 30 of 31 appearances across all competitions and established himself as a star in the Israeli Premier League. Before his move to Sporting, the playmaker ranked fourth in the league with a team-best seven goals while also leading Beitar Jerusalem with four assists in 2019-20.
If his first seven competitive appearances for the club are any indication, Kinda will be a vital contributor for Sporting in the weeks and months to come. Vermes’ side will play 18 additional league matches between now and Decision Day on Nov. 8 to round out the 23-game regular season. The Audi MLS Cup Playoffs will then begin on Nov. 20 and culminate with the 25th MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
Kinda and Sporting currently reside at the summit of the Western Conference with 12 points and a 4-1-0 record, one point ahead of their first opponent when the regular season campaign resumes on Aug. 21. Minnesota United FC remain unbeaten at 3-0-2 and will host Sporting a week from tomorrow in a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus. The fixture will serve as a rematch of a wild MLS is Back Tournament contest on July 12, which saw Minnesota strike twice in second-half stoppage time to seal an unlikely 2-1 win. Sporting will also welcome the Loons to Children’s Mercy Park on Sept. 13 in the third head-to-head meeting between the clubs this year.