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.
With two solid seasons under his belt at Sporting Kansas City, forward Khiry Shelton appears to have found the perfect fit in MLS. The talented attacker contributed valuably at New York City FC and later during a 12-month spell in the German Bundesliga, but Shelton's best soccer has come in a Sporting uniform. On the heels of a career campaign in 2020, he could be poised for his finest season yet.
In 40 career regular season appearances for Sporting, Shelton has a remarkable 24-8-8 record and a .700 winning percentage. The takeaway here? When Shelton plays, Sporting generally wins. This statistic spans the 2018 and 2020 seasons, as the versatile forward spent 2019 in Germany with SC Paderborn 07.
The Oregon State product was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and spent his first three professional seasons at New York City FC, where he racked up six goals and 10 assists in 54 regular season games. Part of his career at Oregon State was spent alongside Sporting defender Graham Smith.
Shelton hit a career-high with five goals last season and ranked near the top of the MLS charts in chances created from open play and duels won among forwards. He notably bagged two goals at the MLS is Back Tournament last summer and a few months later scored in a decisive 2-0 win at Real Salt Lake to help Sporting clinch first place in the Western Conference on Decision Day.
Capable of playing as a winger or a center forward, the well-rounded Shelton looks set to shoulder a pivotal role this season—especially of Sporting continues to win at an impressive clip with him in the lineup.
In Shelton's 40 career regular season appearances for Sporting, the club has posted a 24-8-8 record.
He Said It
“There’s a lot more to my game than just speed and strength. My passing ability, my vision of the game, my knowledge of when to (attack) and when to keep the ball. There are a lot of things that play into my game that people don’t take into consideration, but that’s not for me to (worry) about.”
Shelton during an interview with sportscaster Glenn Davis in August 2020.
Did You Know?
As part of a military family growing up, Shelton lived in Colorado, Texas and Germany before settling at Oregon State University, where he was one of the best college players in the country. Shelton, whose father is Black and mother is Caucasian, has been a leading voice for social change as a member of the Black Players for Change coalition.