MLS Cup: Myers thriving for Sporting KC after rough start to career

Sporting KC right back Chance Myers endured a rough first three seasons as a pro, but the former No. 1 pick overcame physical hurdles to become one of the best defenders in MLS.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After six years in Major League Soccer, Chance Myers has established himself as one of the best fullbacks in MLS, justifying his selection as the first overall pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Although his career is soaring now, with a U.S. Open Cup winner’s medal in his collection and his first MLS Cup final appearance set for Saturday, Myers initially endured struggles that threatened to jeopardize everything.

A skillful, speedy fullback coming out of UCLA, Myers joined the then-Kansas City Wizards in 2008 as a 20-year-old not quite ready for the physical rigors of the pro game. His rookie season saw him face the reality that he was going to have to get stronger if he was going to be able to compete.

“When you get to this level, you realize that you can’t just get by with skill, you have to be able to handle the physical part of the game,” Myers told Goal USA. “Early on I realized I was going to have to get stronger to compete and play at a good level.”

Myers also had to deal with the pressure of being the No. 1 overall pick, and when he managed just 16 appearances in his first two years, whispers of "first-round bust" began to circulate around Kansas City and the league, which made for a rough start to the career of a player who had only just turned 22.

“I think people thought because he was the number one pick that he was going to come in and be Superman, and it was pretty unfair on him,” said Wigan Athletic defender Roger Espinoza, Myers’ former KC teammate who was drafted the same year. “It’s not easy to make the jump from college to the pros. It was tough for both of us, and we both had to put in a lot of work to get stronger and tougher, and with Chance he had some physical things that were holding him back too.”

Added strength didn’t completely solve Myers’ early struggles, but neither he or the Wizards could pinpoint the problem until the team decided to run him through diagnostic testing that uncovered a physical ailment that was holding him back. Myers was battling two issues, a deviated septum and a form of asthma that was limiting the intake of oxygen into his system.

“For a while I knew that something had to be wrong because no matter how hard I worked I would still get tired faster than I should, and hit a wall physically,” Myers said. “When the tests came back it was a real relief because it explained a lot.”

After undergoing surgery for the deviated septum, and taking medication to combat the asthma, Myers became a completely different player, which was to be expected after seeing his oxygen intake increase by between 50 and 60 percent. A broken toe halted his full recovery, but once he did regain fitness, Myers began working toward reaching his full potential, which included eventually becoming the starting right back for the team known now as Sporting Kansas City.

After managing just 13 starts in his first three seasons in MLS, Myers has started at least 24 matches each of the past three seasons. In 2012, Myers reached a new career high for assists with seven, and this year saw him score the first two goals of his professional career. He combines good attacking qualities with a strong defensive foundation, and partners with left back Seth Sinovic in one of the best fullback tandems in MLS.

“He’s got the qualities to play on the international level,” Vermes told Goal USA. “He hasn’t had a look yet, but when you talk about the things you want from a right back, Chance can give you all the characteristics you look for on that level. He’s definitely someone worthy of a look.”

Six years after being a 20-year-old rookie struggling to adapt to the physical rigors of the pro game, Myers is now a seasoned veteran and the second-longest serving player on Sporting Kansas City. His game has grown, and he’s ready for Saturday’s MLS Cup Final, which will be the biggest game of his career.

“It’s going to be a fun game," said Myers. "(Real Salt Lake) plays good soccer and I think we play really good soccer as well. It’s a matchup of wits. Both teams bring a lot of attacking flair in a different aspect. Each team does it differently and I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”