Chris Lemons keeps finding opportunities to play soccer in Wichita, and though he has recently contemplated retirement, the B-52s defender has found it difficult to say no to earning money for something he’d be doing anyway.
Lemons consumes soccer. He’s the boys coach at Andover High and has played for nine teams professionally. He joined the B-52s after playing two seasons for the second version of the Wings, who disbanded this summer.
Lemons was a natural fit for Wichita’s expansion franchise in the Premier Arena Soccer League, and it keeps him from having to find a pickup game in the park or joining an adult league, which would be options if not for the B-52s.
“There’s tons of people that aren’t able or haven’t been able to play professionally that just love to play,” Lemons said. “I love to play, and that’s where my passion grew when I was a kid. Just being able to play the game, just being able to put the ball on my feet.”
Lemons missed most of last season with the Wings due to foot surgery and endured a rehabilitation process that made him unable to start this year. The injury and the fact that he turned 34 on Thursday have Lemons weighing retirement, though he said he won’t delve into that decision until the offseason.
The delay in weighing his options is to the B-52s’ benefit because Lemons has plenty to offer as a defender with occasional scoring capabilities, and as an important connection to Wichita’s soccer past and the game’s following here.
Those factors made Lemons a fit for the B-52s as coach Larry Inlow began roster construction this summer. Lemons offered a stabilizing presence even though he hadn’t completed rehab when the season began.
“I kind of decided that I’m probably done after this,” Lemons said. “We’ll see what happens, I’m not going to make any decisions. …When Larry was the head coach, we had obviously been talking. Knowing what he would do with the players he had and the players he would get … made me want to be a part of it.”
After two poor seasons that contributed to financial struggles with the Wings, the team folded when owner Wink Hartman was unable to find a buyer. It brought into question the viability of indoor soccer in Wichita, which has been unable to attain the standards set by the popular Wings teams of the 1970s and 80s.
But Lemons believes the game can succeed here, and that the familiar names can expand beyond locals such as himself, Inlow, and other Wichitans on the B-52s.
“Maybe the Wings didn’t stick around for financial reasons, but the support was there,” Lemons said. “You can see it with the B-52s and having that support carry over. It became an extremely important thing to bring soccer back quickly to keep the support that we have.”