Davy Arnaud knows a thing or two about being a long shot.
Perhaps, then, it was fitting that Arnaud would make his first start since June and tie Kerry Zavagnin’s club record for appearances on the same night that Sporting Kansas City took a huge step forward in their quest to go from worst to first in the Eastern Conference.
Wednesday night marked Arnaud’s first start in more than three months, an absence due to sports hernia surgery, but he didn’t show any signs of fatigue or rust in Kansas City’s 2-1 victory despite only making one extended appearance in the reserve league prior to putting in 77 solid minutes against the Crew.
“In a real game, it’s always different, but I felt really good,” Arnaud said. “I felt strong. I felt fit. I didn’t get as tired as maybe I thought I would. When these big games come, the adrenaline is going. You’ve got to be really tired to feel tired.”
After chomping at the bit for the last month as Manager Peter Vermes eased him into the rotation, it was clear from the opening whistle that Sporting’s captain was eager to make a contribution to the climb to the top of the table that he’s watched from afar since early this summer.
Playing next to Graham Zusi and Julio Cesar in the midfield, the 31-year-old only reinforced his role as Sporting’s emotional leader and spark plug, adding an assured, veteran presence in the middle of the park.
“A big part of our success tonight is due to him being on the field,” Vermes said. “There is no doubt in my mind. Not only was his energy fantastic, but he picked some really important moments to get some fouls for us, which calmed the game down a little bit.”
It was the kind of performance – gutty, determined and effective – that Kansas City fans have come to expect from the player who arrived in 2002 as an afterthought before slowly building himself into the face of the franchise.
The fact that it came on the day he moved into a tie at the top of the club record book and sent Sporting to first place in the East just made it that much sweeter.
“It’s an honor,” Arnaud said. “It’s a huge honor. To join somebody like Kerry, who when I was first here I looked up to and have always looked up to, I couldn’t think of a better place to do it.”
Asked what made Arnaud so special, what allowed him to make a deep impact on an organization and fanbase for so many years, Zavagnin thought for a second before reminiscing on the midfielder’s early days in MLS.
The years just clinging to a roster spot. The sacrifice and uncertainty of playing on an apprentice contract. But most of all the work ethic and determination to make what initially seemed like a long shot evolve into a legacy.
“He’s been such an important piece of the organization for so long,” Zavagnin said. “I remember the first day that he got here, a bright-eyed, wide-eyed kid from West Texas A&M that was just trying to scrape it and make the team.”
Arnaud’s made it alright. One appearance at a time.