Obscure Metro Files: Kevin Knight and Nansha Kalonji
July 29, 2005
Sometimes, we like to pretend 1999 never happened. But how could we; every time the team loses two in a row, the yahoos cry out that this (whatever season we're in) is as bad as 1999. How quickly do we forget; nothing, NOTHING can ever come close to 1999. Under the tutelage of the mysterious wonder worker Bora Milutinovic, the MetroStars won a total of four games all year. Four out of 32. OK, by MLS rules, they won seven, but three of those came in a shootout. And there was a period of 12 -- TWELVE -- matches without even a shootout win, a loss in the Open Cup to the Cristian da Silva and Rob Johnson-led Staten Island Vipers, the 6:0 drubbing by the Kansas City Wizards. The horror. The horror.
Allow us to take a breath, for all those memories came flooding back. Now where were we? Oh yes, Obscure Metro Files. Today we look at two players that made 1999 so unmemorable: Kevin Knight and Nansha Kalonji.
Kevin Knight was drafted in the second round of the college draft, and since the first round draftee, John Wolyniec, was cut soon after training camp, was the highest selection remaining on the roster. But even with Metro struggling, it took Bora until June to put Knight in; interestingly, it was in central defense, a position Kevin, a midfielder in college, had never played before. The Metros lost to Dallas 5:2 on his debut, a result indicative of his performance. Knight played a few games, lost his job, came back to play a few down the stretch; eleven games total, eight of them starts. And on the worst team in MLS history, on the worst defense in MLS history (don't worry Chivas USA, even you are not as bad), he was arguably the worst player. Pretty lame.
After being cut by the Metros that off-season, Knight ended up with the A-League's Richmond Kickers, where he has been since. Incredibly, he has grown into one of the division's best defenders, while also spending some time in midfield. Knight was also a scab during this year's US national team labor dispute. Good for him, we guess.
The rumors of Nansha Kalonji's impending arrival to Metro started the previous offseason, as there were reports of an African defender nicknamed "Nosh" practicing with the Metros, and playing well. "Nosh" became Nansha, a Belgian/Congolese who played locally at Ramapo College (some Metro fans can tell you stories about hanging out with Kalonji without knowing of his soccer prowess, and of the rustic van that he drove) and for the Central Jersey Riptide. He was taken by the Metros in the third round of the supplemental draft, and made his debut in the fifth game of the season. Although he did play some a defender, Milutinovic more often utilized Kalonji up front, partnering the immortal Eduardo Hurtado. And while Knight never scored a goal for Metro, Kalonji did; his one and only tally came on May 8th in a 2:1 loss to DC. Possessing some raw speed but completely unpolished, Nansha played 19 games, nine of them starts, and added two assists to his lone strike. He was cut in the offseason, on the same day as Knight, November 23rd.
Kalonji later played for the Carolina Dynamo in the USL and now is the head coach for the Scarlet Raiders at Rutgers-Newark. Interestingly, their official website claims that "a broken leg ended a three-year career with the MetroStars for Kalonji in 2001". Quite amazing; maybe his memory of the 1999 season has been clouded. We can only hope it could do the same for the rest of us; the less we try to remember that horrible year, the better. In fact, we're already regretting this very column.