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Most Major League Soccer defenders are used to answering questions about which opposing forwards are the toughest to defend, or which players they’re focusing on for upcoming games.
That often wasn’t the case for Seth Sinovic. The 11-year MLS veteran who announced his retirement from soccer Thursday would often have to answer questions about competition within his own camp.
Sinovic featured on the left side of Sporting Kansas City’s defense for nine years, playing a crucial role in the club’s 2013 MLS Cup victory and three U.S. Open Cup championships: 2012, 2015 and 2017.
But the second half of his career was characterized by a constant battle to keep his starting job. From 2015 until his departure in 2019, Sinovic scrapped with the likes of Amadou Dia and Jimmy Medranda — and even non-defenders like Yohan Croizet — for the starting left-back role.
Whenever a new player joined practice — even if it was just a trialist — Sporting KC players would rib Sinovic, saying that person was there to compete for his position.
But even when things looked bleak, Sinovic always stayed atop the depth chart.
“There are many times we brought other players in to see if they’re going to challenge for his spot,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said Friday. “He always found a way to be the number one guy over the years.”
Resilience defined the 34-year-old’s career, which included two stints with the New England Revolution.
But despite the constant challenge for his starting gig, Sinovic remains one of Sporting KC’s most accomplished and decorated players. He accumulated 257 appearances across all competitions (seventh-most in club history), scoring four goals and creating 16 assists in KC.
His goal against the Revolution in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals to help send Sporting to the next round — and his subsequent stomach-slide celebration at the corner flag — might forever live on in Sporting lore.
“I’m Kansas City, born and raised,” said Sinovic, who attended Rockhurst High. “So being able to play for my hometown team and have success in doing that has been great for me.”
Throughout his career, teammates waxed lyrical about him. In 2018, former Sporting KC captain, fellow KC native and longtime teammate Matt Besler described Sinovic as “extremely underrated.”
On Friday, current KC midfielder Roger Espinoza called him a “team-first guy” and a “great teammate.”
But at the end of the day, even locked in constant battles for his position, it never felt like work for Sinovic.
“We’re playing soccer for a living — most of the time it doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “It’s fun. You’re playing a sport that you grew up playing and everyone dreams about.”
Espinoza recalled Sinovic having a good relationship with Medranda. Thanks to Sinovic’s help, Medranda is now enjoying a successful season with the Seattle Sounders, Sporting KC’s opponent Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
“To all the young guys, he always held everybody accountable ... and himself, too,” Espinoza said. “Seth was an amazing teammate, a great person on and off the field.”
So what’s next for this recently retired player who will surely one day become Sporting Legend (Sporting KC’s hall of fame)?
For now, the answer is real estate.
Sinovic got into real estate about five or six years ago along with a couple of other Sporting KC players (including veteran Graham Zusi). He’s set to begin a new job as a commercial broker.
But a future still grounded in soccer isn’t out of the question, either.
“I’ve talked to (Sporting KC president) Jake Reid and (chief communications officer) Rob Thomson and a few other people over at Sporting, and it’s something that I want to do to stay involved with Sporting, to some degree,” he said. “But real estate is another big interest to me.”