Gansler recalls some fond times in Kansas City

10/15/2013 10:03 PM

10/15/2013 10:03 PM

Nice to see that Bob Gansler will be honored before Friday’s Sporting Kansas City game against D.C. United.

Gansler is part of the inaugural Sporting Legends class as the team pays tribute to club icons and and reconnects the players and coaches instrumental in the club’s founding with the local soccer community.

Preki and Tony Meola were recognized in August and now it’s Gansler’s time.

He coached the Wizards from 1999-2006 and oversaw 86 victories, the seventh-most in MLS history. The Wizards made five straight playoff appearances from 2000 to 2004, appearing in two MLS Cups. They won the MLS Cup in 2000, the same season they won the Supporters’ Shield.

The Wizards also won the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

This, of course, came after Gansler coached the U.S. team to the 1990 World Cup, the Americans’ first appearance in soccer’s biggest tournament in four decades.

“You dream about going to the World Cup, preferably playing than coaching, but coaching wasn’t too bad,” Gansler said. “What was the highest thing in the land here? Obviously, it’s Major League Soccer.

“To get an opportunity in ‘99, we brought back some familiar faces. We traded for Peter (Vermes) before the season started along with Matt McKeon, these were guys I coached before. (Chris) Henderson and (Chris) Klein, who I had seen before, Meola and (Kerry) Zavagnin, who I’d watched through ODP (the Olympic Development Program). So we got some familiar folks who were not only talented but once again had intangibles in hand.

“We knew they were hungry. We knew there were anxious to make their mark in this league, whether they were young guys coming in like (Nick) Garcia and Kerry, or guys who had been in the league for a while and things hadn’t gone sparkling. Yeah, it was a nice moment.”

Although he’s not one to toot his own horn, Gansler’s fingerprints are all over soccer in this country. It’s kind of amazing to think back to the start of Major League Soccer in 1996 and see that none of the 10 teams hired the coach who helped the United States break its World Cup drought.

“It was a nice way to end a coaching career to get a chance at the ultimate level of U.S. soccer,” Gansler said. “I thought I was capable enough to be there in the beginning in '96, but didn’t get that opportunity. I was extremely happy, proud and keep thanking the Hunts and Doug Newman, who was the general manager at that time who brought me in, to get that opportunity.

“I felt I knew how, I just didn’t get the chance.”

Fortunately for soccer fans in Kansas City, the Wizards gave Gansler that chance because he helped bring about some of the best moments in franchise history.

And Friday should be a nice moment for Gansler.

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