The irony of me writing a reflection piece on Davy Arnaud is not lost on me. Davy Arnaud is the player most evident from the dark years of the franchise for me. He is a man who plied his trade in cavernous Arrowhead (the 2004 playoff highlights are awful just because of the lines and Chiefs logos) and also in tiny Community America Ballpark. He was the man who carried the Wizards through this period where they went from the league's laughing stock to the franchise with the shiny new stadium, name, and future. While I was away trying to find success and grandeur unknown given my disposition, Davy Arnuad showed up every day to situations that we now find laughable and carried the Wizards.
Sure, I still attended games and checked scores, but you must understand that I am firmly a 1990's Wizards man who found Sporting KC again. (Seriously, if I ever have kids, my wife will look dumbfounded when I tell her our child is a mini-Digital Takawira) It's as if I slept through these years, and woke to find that Arnaud had more appearances than any other KC player, more goals than everyone not named Preki, and the third most assists. I could in retrospect list off stats, but it would be unfair to statistically enumerate Arnaud's contribution to the squad.
Davy was one of those draft picks that people never forget, but at the time garner no interest at all. That is just the unfortunate fate of the MLS Superdraft, where those not selected in the first round are rarely thought of until someone looks back and screams "49 players were taken before this guy, GM's are morons." But who could blame them, he played at West Texas A&M, which after doing the prerequisite Wikipedia research of the institution seems only to exist to train B-list wrestlers. How Davy never became a professional wrestler after that school astounds me.
He was an afterthought for that first year rarely seeing the pitch, but he was the backup to a man rapidly approaching his swan song. While I know nothing of their relationship or playing time together, there is perhaps no man harder to follow but better to learn the MLS game from than Preki. Preki was not only a legend in KC, he was arguably the best player ever in MLS at that point when Arnaud replaced him due to injury in 2004. Arnaud not only exceeded expectations, he became the face of the Kansas City Wizards. His brace against the Galaxy in 2004 put the Wizards into their second MLS Cup final. Arnaud found himself poised to enjoy a brilliant career in Kansas City, but fate intervened and took that chance away.
Despite Arnaud's solid work, at this point the Wizards were a joke. People would forget they existed and others would say that they (and Columbus) were only in existence due to the influence of Lamar Hunt. They played in Arrowhead, essentially until more pressing matters evicted them and at Community America after earlier stadium deals fell through and finally were made to build Livestrong Park. The results on the field were not much better, and the Wizards struggled only making the playoffs twice and only winning once against Chivas in 2007. Yet Davy Arnaud carried this team onward again, the steady pivot upon which the hands of time turned.
It's ironic that a man who found his first playing time from the injury of a Wizards legend, found himself in reciept of the same medicine last season due to the revelation that was Graham Zusi. To say that we no longer needed Davy Arnaud, shows how far this franchise has come, but also dictates that we acknowledge the bridge that Arnaud provided between the Preki years and the current rebranding of Sporting KC.
I try to think of an athlete in the Kansas City area with a similar profile and I get lost. The best I can come up with is Tony Gonzalez. Both were exceptional players on poor squads, both were jettisoned when the franchise switched directions, and both will be remembered only fondly for the ways in which they made unpalatable products palatable. If not for Davy Arnaud, I probably would have gotten distracted and left the Wizards behind, and missed the opportunity to find myself seated in a rowdy crowd of thousands of partisan KC soccer fans. So much of what we are today as SKC fans comes to rest at the feet of Davy Arnaud and to that we should all be thankful.
Sports so often make us all into jilted lovers. For me particularly, Rich Gannon leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl, Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon winning playoff series, and winter sports teams simply abandoning KC. In this occasion, I can honestly say that I hope Arnaud contributes brilliant play to the Impact in the future (hopefully, not against us). No player has had a more unlikely rise to prominence nor provided the constant assurances that Arnaud gave us during his career in Kansas City.