Brad Davis arrived in Kansas City this week, and on Thursday, he spent much of the morning searching for a new home. For the past 10 MLS seasons, while a member of the Houston Dynamo, Davis considered Kansas City among the most hostile of rival territories.
Not anymore. Or so he hopes.
Sporting Kansas City acquired Davis from the Dynamo on Thursday in exchange for two MLS SuperDraft picks — a second-round pick in 2017 and a third-round pick in 2018.
Davis, 34, is a six-time MLS All-Star and a World Cup veteran, and his 122 career assists rank third in MLS history. He won two MLS Cups with Houston.
“I might have to walk in the locker room on the first day with some boxing gear on,” he joked during a conference call Thursday.
Davis, an outside midfielder, is Houston’s all-time leader in appearances, starts and assists. He led the club to seven playoff appearances — which provided the setting for some contested battles with Sporting KC.
Houston defeated Sporting KC in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals and the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals before Sporting KC returned the favor in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals on its way to the MLS Cup championship.
The consistent playoff meetings percolated a rivalry between fan bases, along with the players on the field. In 2015, a Houston player was ejected in all four matchups between the two clubs. Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza received a two-game suspension for “violent contact” toward Davis during a U.S. Open Cup match.
“I’m a guy that’s just passionate on the field,” Davis said. “If you really know me off the field, I’m a pretty laid-back guy. That stuff doesn’t bother me whatsoever. I get on with it. I take it as guys competing and wanting to win.”
Davis, who attended Chaminade High School in St. Louis, played with Sporting KC veterans Matt Besler and Graham Zusi on the U.S. men’s national team in the 2014 World Cup.
“We’ve had some epic battles, but now I look forward to playing with a great competitor and a winner,” Besler said via Twitter.
A crowded midfield awaits Davis’ arrival. Benny Feilhaber and Espinoza are near-locks to earn opening-day starting jobs, and the club has continued its negotiations to bring back defensive midfielder Soni Mustivar, who is out of contract.
Davis potentially could play on the wing in coach Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 lineup, though Zusi and Krisztian Nemeth are the favorites to start there.
“By no means do I feel like I’m going to be given a spot. I don’t think anybody should feel like that,” Davis said. “You want to go in fighting for positions. You want competition. I think that breeds success.
“There are plenty of midfielders on the team, but we’ll find a way. It will play itself out.”
Indeed, Davis could have supplied a useful piece in 2015, when Sporting KC navigated a whirlwind of injuries, including a three-month absence from Espinoza. The team will also add CONCACAF Champions League games to its 2016 schedule.
At 34, Davis will become Sporting KC’s oldest player, but the productivity has remained steady. He has tallied at least four goals and nine assists in each of the past seven seasons. He had 16 assists in 2011 and was a finalist for the league’s MVP award.
“Brad’s competitiveness, experience and leadership have always stood out,” Vermes said. “This is another move that not only bolsters our roster, but (it) will also bring a different dynamic once preseason starts in a couple of weeks.”