As a 19-year-old sophomore at Oregon State University, Khiry Shelton’s eyes were opened. During a brief training stint with Sporting Kansas City, the forward was exposed to the energy, intensity and winning mentality of Manager Peter Vermes and his MLS team.
Fast-forward five years, and Shelton has traded the sky blue of New York City FC for the sporting blue that permeates Children’s Mercy Park. And with that positive college experience still sharp in his memory, the 6-foot-3 attacker couldn’t be more excited.
“I saw the culture, and I saw what the guys here brought to the table,” Shelton said of his training sessions with Sporting KC. “When (the trade) happened, I was stoked. I’m so excited to be here and ready to get started.”
Shelton’s trade to Sporting KC became official in mid-December, ending a three-year spell with NYCFC where he recorded six goals and 10 assists. He enjoyed a particularly strong sophomore campaign in 2016, finishing with four goals and nine assists.
Where and how Shelton fits into Sporting KC’s attack remains to be seen. And that, Shelton asserts, is what makes him such a valuable addition.
“I’m very versatile — I can play up top, I can play on the wing, I can play attacking mid,” Shelton said. “What I bring to the game is speed, power, technical ability, combination play. A lot of it I’ve developed over the past couple of years. I’m a student of the game.”
Shelton was one of the most prized prospects out of college, going second overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft to an NYCFC side that had just entered the league. He racked up 19 goals and 15 assists during a four-year college career at Oregon State, exploding for 10 goals and 12 assists as a senior in 2014. He now hopes to bring that scoring pedigree to Kansas City as the club pushes for its eighth straight berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
In addition to establishing his role the pitch, Shelton has begun gelling with his new teammates and coaches. He has already ventured to the world-famous Joe’s Kansas City barbeque restaurant with fellow forward Kharlton Belmar, and as Shelton proclaimed, “I fell in love with it right away.”
“I’ve felt very welcomed, and that’s made it easier on me,” Shelton said. “I don’t have to worry too much about getting incorporated and blended with the group.”
“The guys have been great. This is my new family, and I’m here to help in any way I can.”