Preki and Tony Meola were showered with cheers Saturday during halftime as the two former players were inducted as part of Sporting Kansas City’s inaugural Sporting Legends class along with former coach Bob Gansler.
Preki is the club’s all-time leader in goals (71) and assists (98), while Meola was the MLS MVP and MLS Cup MVP during the then-Wizards’ run to the 2000 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup championships.
Preki also played on that team, which was coached by Gansler.
Sporting Legends is an initiative aimed at reconnecting former club icons with the growing local soccer community. One new club legend will be added each year beginning in 2014 to what amounts to the team’s Hall of Fame.
Of course, being part of the inaugural class was special.
“I spent quite a bit of time, not in this building, but in this city building the team from scratch from the first day,” Preki said. “You just hope the people remember those days. Obviously, we won a few trophies when we were here. That always tops the cake.”
The club’s founder, the late Lamar Hunt, was a notable omission from the first class, but Meola expects him to get his due.
“If he’s not in this one, he’ll be in another one without question,” Meola said. “Without Lamar Hunt, there’s no soccer in Kansas City. Quite honestly, without Lamar Hunt, there might not be soccer in the U.S.”
During the early years of MLS, Hunt owned three teams and Phil Anschutz owned six, propping up the league and giving it a chance to grow into one of the world’s 10 best leagues within two decades.
“Just seeing what I saw the other night in the All-Star Game, it’s just an unbelievable experience and now you see how far the sport has come in this country and how far it’s come in the state of Kansas and the Kansas City area,” Preki said.
The names Preki and Meola were added to the façade of Sporting Park’s Victory Suite. Gansler’s name will be added Oct. 11 when he is in town for the U.S. men’s national team qualifier against Jamaica.
• Despite a bout with meningitis that left goalkeepr Jimmy Nielsen hospitalized Sunday night, he extended his club record by making a 79th consecutive start.
Nielsen’s streak is the fourth longest in MLS history.
• Three days after setting a Sporting Park record when 21,175 attended the MLS All-Star Game, an even bigger crowd was on hand for a top-of-the-table showdown with the New York Red Bulls.
The crowd of 21,304 made it the 28th consecutive sellout, including the playoffs, for an MLS match at 2-year-old Sporting Park.
• Late in second-half stoppage time, New York defender Kosuke Kimura, who entered the match in the 87th minute, was taken from the field by stretcher after a getting knocked unconscious when his head snapped hard against Seth Sinovic’s shoulder on a challenge.
“He’s alert,” Petke said. “He’s in an ambulance as we speak going to the hospital. He definitely has a concussion and he’s had concussions in the past, so it’s definitely something we take seriously.”