With two World Cups and one Olympic games to his name, this Sporting KC midfielder doesn’t mind the climb up the mountain of success, as the view from the top is amazing.
Story by Ann Butenas | Photos by Gary Rohman
Standing at an impressive 19,710 feet high and noted to be the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is known to be a tricky climb, but it certainly met its match on December 31, 2016 in Sporting KC’s midfielder, Roger Espinoza.
“I spent New Year’s Eve on the summit of Kilimanjaro,” recalled Espinoza, who completed the ascent up that majestic wonder, and whose professional journey as a soccer player has led him to realize every mountain is within reach if you just work hard enough and keep climbing.
“My philosophy in life is if you want something, you have to be willing to work hard for it,” he said. “I don’t mind working hard.”
And work hard, he does. He spends his days working out and training with the team and that training doesn’t stop when the work clock does. On the day of this interview, he had just returned from a yoga class, a practice he enjoys as it keeps him fit and mindful.
A native of Honduras, Espinoza came to the U.S. with his family at age 11 and settled in Denver, Colorado. During his junior year at Ohio State University, a school to which he transferred after being recognized as the runner-up for the National Junior College Player of the Year at Yavapai College in Arizona, his desire to play soccer professionally could not be tamed. Fast forward a bit and Espinoza was drafted 11th in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft by the Kansas City Wizards franchise, since rebranded as Sporting Kansas City. Espinoza has played nine out of 11 seasons with Kansas City, and only briefly interrupted that time with a two-year season with Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League.
Professionally, Espinoza has developed an impressive list of career highlights on his resume: an FA Cup winner; a 2012 Olympic participant; a two-time World Cup player; and a three-time U.S. Open Cup Champion. Espinoza, who will turn 32 in October, seems to have found his sweet spot with Sporting KC, and it’s no secret he is a fan favorite. However, it is usually his English Bulldog, Chulo, who seems to steal the spotlight off the field.
“When he was little, I got a skateboard, put him on his leash, and pulled him on it,” explained Espinoza. “He eventually got it and one day I just heard him pushing himself around on it.” Clearly, this dog’s got game! Fortunately, Espinoza found a home in which Chulo can easily roll around on his board. With roughly 1,400 square feet of smooth surfaces on which to skate, Chulo has found his own sweet spot. (Plus, according to Espinoza, it keeps him off the furniture!)
The concrete craftsmanship, open ceiling, inviting living space and clean, simple lines of this two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium greatly appealed to Espinoza, who believes in simplicity and traveling lightly. He prefers to not keep or bring a lot of material things with him throughout the journeys of his life, and condo is a perfect fit for Espinoza and Chulo. The open floor plan is just right for entertaining, and the foosball table is definitely a conversation starter.
So, do you let your friends win when you play a game?
“This table gets used a lot,” laughed Espinoza, who jokingly admitted that, yes, he usually wins when he is challenged to a game. “Hey! It’s my table! It’s only fair that I win!”
Not to be missed are three photographs striking a perfect balance of color and design against a clean and confident bare wall. Espinoza took those photos himself. Two of them are from his adventures in Africa, one of the Serengeti and one of elephants roaming in Serengeti National Park. The other photo on the far right depicts a memory from a road trip he and Chulo enjoyed in the Pacific Northwest. However, Espinoza will probably never give up his professional talents to pursue a career behind the lens.
“I am actually more of a traveler than a photographer,” he mused, referencing his passport, which is apparently his favorite book. “Last year, I went to Thailand and Australia. I still want to travel so much more and would really like to visit Antarctica someday.”
Prior to purchasing this Midtown residence, Espinoza lived in a house, but his busy schedule left him little time to attend to all of the various demands home ownership requires of someone.
“I decided to go with a condo, as it is easier to maintain than a house, so I asked my real estate agent (Julie Kempin of ReeceNichols), to help me out and she found me this place,” smiled Espinoza. “She is really good at finding exactly what you want.”
Espinoza greatly appreciates how this place has lightened his load.
“It is so much easier to clean, and when it is time for me to move, having less stuff just makes it that much easier to do,” noted Espinoza, who would much rather collect experiences anyway and carry those memories with him wherever he goes, and he credits Kansas City with being a part of that collection of experiences.
“This is a great place to live as there is little traffic; it is affordable; it offers a great lifestyle; there are so many things to do; and above all, the people here are happy and kind. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place with happy and kind people?” he smiled.
Espinoza is happy to be a part of Kansas City, both professionally and personally. He loves the opportunity he has to play with Sporting KC and he also embraces the vast and varied culture of his adopted hometown. When not on the soccer field or just relaxing at home, Espinoza enjoys concerts at the Sprint Center, roaming around the Plaza, Westport, the Crossroads, the River Market and downtown. A sportsman at heart, he loves to support the other athletic teams in Kansas City and will enthusiastically cheer on the Chiefs and the Royals.
Then there is the culture of food. Espinoza has no shame in admitting to a bold and adventurous palate.
“I love food,” he said. “I and enjoy trying everything here in Kansas City, from barbeque to Asian and Hispanic cuisines. There are so many places in Kansas City to enjoy different types of food.”
Being part of a high-profile team has many benefits, and sometimes being recognized among a crowd of people while out and about can either be a curse or a blessing. Espinoza doesn’t mind, however, when fans introduce themselves.
“Kansas City is a town where you can play (professional) sports and still go out and about as the people here are very respectful of you,” he reflected.