Seth Sinovic has a dirty little secret: He didn’t really want to come play for Sporting Kansas City.
It’s odd to think about now, given that Sinovic has played 51 games — all starts — in parts of three seasons since signing with Sporting KC in May 2011, but the unassuming, steady left back didn’t have much interest in joining his hometown team at first.
“My feelings were mixed at the time, because I’d seen where the organization had been the past few years,” said Sinovic, who started 18 games with New England as a rookie in 2010 but fell out of favor with manager Steve Nicol and was waived in March 2011.
Sporting KC was about to open its palatial new digs, Sporting Park, but at the time the club was still known league-wide for squeezing its games into the outfield at a minor-league baseball stadium.
Sinovic, 26, a Rockhurst High graduate who played collegiately at Creighton, also didn’t see many available minutes with veteran left backs Michael Harrington and Roger Espinoza already on the roster.
“He really wanted to go to Real Salt Lake,” Seth’s father, Bill Sinovic, confessed during an interview last summer.
Sinovic had a trial stint with Real Salt Lake after being waived by the Revs before Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes called. And now Sinovic has evolved into an integral piece for Sporting KC, the two-time reigning Eastern Conference regular-season champion and 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner.
Despite those initial reservations, Sinovic quickly surpassed Harrington on the depth chart and became the starter with Espinoza locking up his own starting spot in the midfield. Sinovic has been entrenched at left back ever since.
“Obviously, I lucked out, and it’s been a great situation for me,” Sinovic said. “I can’t even imagine not wanting to be here now.”
In fact, when Sinovic was left unprotected during the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft and selected by the Montreal Impact, he was distraught.
“Those were three really bad days,” Bill Sinovic said. “You’re upset when your kids are upset, because what do you tell him?”
Then came a second blessed call from Vermes.
Catching a Montreal-bound Sinovic during a changeover in Chicago, Vermes told a relieved Sinovic he’d been traded back to Sporting KC along with allocation money in exchange for veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud.
“The situation with Montreal, obviously I was very close to leaving here, and I was not happy at all about that,” Sinovic said. “That’s a pretty big change in a short amount of time, but I’m glad the way it has all worked out.”
For its part, Sporting KC is also glad — glad New England and Real Salt Lake gave up on Sinovic.
“He’s been underestimated by a lot of people,” said Vermes, who said Sporting KC planned to draft Sinovic in 2010 but got beaten to the punch by New England. “I think he brings a lot to the team. He’s a real consistent guy and a team guy, a real team guy, which is one of his best qualities, but he’s also extremely competitive.
“He’s a quiet dude and more of an introvert, so it takes him a while to get comfortable at a place, but I think he feels good about where he’s at with the team right now. He fits well with the group of guys we have and the way we play. I don’t know how he’d fit in somewhere else, but for us he fits in the right way.”
Sinovic may not turn heads with his play or personality, but what Vermes sees is the consummate pro – a coachable player with an MLS-caliber skill set who gets the job done day after day in training and games.
“He’s a plain Jane, a steady Eddie, and that doesn’t always catch anybody’s eye,” Vermes said. “He’s fast enough and has all the necessary skills enough, but he’s not (Aurelien) Collin — a boisterous guy doing the Collin’s Corner who can’t help but jump on your radar. But what you get is consistency and a guy who gives you everything he has every time he plays.”