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1996 'The Wiz' team to be honored during Sporting KC's match against Inter Miami CF

Diego Gutierrez
Posted at 5:46 PM, Apr 09, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The humble beginnings of the Major League Soccer and Sporting Kansas City are fondly remembered by their founding players.

“As a player that was there from day one, I can probably say that I honestly couldn’t have envisioned the level of success that we have today, the level of growth," Former KC Wizards player Diego Gutierrez said. “We lived at a time back then when we were trying to survive. We were trying to get people interested in the next match.”

Sporting Kansas City's next match against Inter Miami FC, hosted at GEHA field at Arrowhead Stadium, will act as a way to honor the team’s first season with plans to honor key players before kickoff.

Sporting KC’s history started under The Wiz, which quickly changed to The Wizards in the club's second season.

The excitement of the team’s first win in 1996 was felt in the stands, but the reality of a new professional league was filled with less glamor and glory.

"I remember taping our ankles off the back of a pickup truck. People laugh about that, but we were leasing whatever field space we could get for this professional team, this new thing that was coming about," Gutierrez said. "It took a few years for us to sort of get going as a league and to invest in the infrastructure that having a professional sports league requires, but over time it just became better and better and better.”

The Wizards hosted fans at practice and held events to keep their sport trending upward. Gutierrez was happy to put in the work for his hometown.

“I was the homegrown player before the homegrown player. So I came out of Kansas City and I went to college in Kansas City, and I got to play for my hometown team, so nothing but grateful," Gutierrez said.

The Wizards put plenty of shots in the back of the net, earning both individual and team accolades over the years.

“All of us together collectively formed a great group of fine years. A lot of the guys involved back then are still involved today," Gutierrez said of his teammate who he will walk beside during their recognition ahead of kickoff this Saturday.

KSHB 41's Abby Dodge asked Gutierrez about his favorite moment from 13 years in the league, and he didn’t list MLS Cup appearances, travel with the national team or a goal that sent his team home with a win.

“I truly enjoyed the day to day. I enjoyed having fellowship with my teammates and getting to know their families," Gutierrez said. "I have always said the biggest treasure this game will ever leave you is the people you meet and the journey you make along the way."

The full interview with Gutierrez can be viewed below:

Former Kansas City Wizards' Diego Gutiérrez anticipates Saturday match against Inter Miami