Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles will give Sporting Kansas City the chance to add another piece to its roster ahead of the 2017 season.
To be sure, it’s an opportunity that Manager Peter Vermes will look to capitalize on. After all, several of Sporting Kansas City’s most prominent players — see Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi — joined the club through this very mechanism.
On the eve of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, we took a look back at five of Sporting KC’s biggest draft steals in club history. The following players have contributed invaluably to the team’s success over the last two decades despite being overlooked on draft day.
Kerry Zavagnin – 2000 3rd Round (30th overall)
Rules were different in the early days of the MLS Draft. Kerry Zavagnin was actually taken in the 1997 MLS Supplemental Draft by the Colorado Rapids, but dipped into the lower divisions of American soccer in 1998 and 1999. His return to MLS required him to enter the 2000 SuperDraft, where Kansas City hit a home run in round three.
Zavagnin was an immediate contributor under head coach Bob Gansler, helping Kansas City secure MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield titles as a rookie. He is currently the club’s all-time leader in games, starts and minutes played across all competitions. Now an assistant at the club, Zavagnin was inducted into the Sporting Legends Hall of Honor last year.
Davy Arnaud – 2002 5th Round (50th overall)
Kansas City didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in the 2002 draft, but it didn’t prevent Gansler’s staff from selecting one of the club’s all-time greats. In the fifth round, Kansas City rolled the dice on unheralded midfielder Davy Arnaud out of West Texas A&M. The rest, as they say, is history.
After a slow start to his professional career, Arnaud blossomed into one of the league’s most well-rounded players. He logged at least 24 appearances every year from 2004-2010, featuring in an MLS All-Star Game and guiding the side to an Open Cup championship. Arnaud remains Sporting KC’s all-time leader with 240 regular season games played. He also ranks in the club's top three in minutes, goals, assists, shots and fouls suffered.
Jack Jewsbury – 2003 5th Round (43rd overall)
It’s hard to imagine that 42 players were taken ahead of Jack Jewsbury in the 2003 draft, but it greatly benefited Sporting KC. Jewsbury ended a stellar 14-year MLS career in October after winning the 2004 Open Cup in Kansas City and the 2015 MLS Cup in Portland.
A native of Springfield, Missouri, Jewsbury enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2004 and remained a consistent starter for the rest of his stay with the team. He currently ranks ninth in Kansas City history with 218 appearances in all competitions, having recorded 15 goals and 22 assists over eight seasons.
Graham Zusi – 2009 2nd Round (23rd overall)
In hindsight, the 2009 MLS SuperDraft — held on Jan. 15 in St. Louis — was probably one of Kansas City’s biggest moments ever prior to the 2011 rebrand. On that day, the club acquired two future MLS Best XI and World Cup veteran players. The first was Matt Besler, taken eighth overall in the first round. The second was Graham Zusi, who actually fell all the way to No. 23 in the second round.
Like Arnaud, Zusi would take a few seasons to acclimate to MLS. But once he did, he became one of the league’s best midfielders. After earning 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year honors, Zusi broke into the U.S. Men’s National Team and played a lead role in delivering three major trophies to Children’s Mercy Park between 2012 and 2015. Zusi enters 2017 with 29 goals and 60 assists in all competitions, ranking second on the team’s all-time assist chart.
Dom Dwyer – 2012 1st Round (16th overall)
Five forwards — five! — were taken ahead of Dom Dwyer in the 2012 draft, which happened to take place in Kansas City. Peter Vermes took full advantage, taking a player who has since enjoyed a meteoric rise up the club’s scoring charts.
Dwyer showed flashes of brilliance in 2013, scoring tons of goals on loan at Orlando City before returning at the end of the year to record the game-winner in the 2013 Eastern Conference championship. In the three seasons since then, Dwyer has been one of the league’s most prolific strikers. His 61 goals in all competitions trail only Preki (81) on Kansas City’s all-time ledger. Another big year in 2017 could propel Dwyer to the summit.