Four years ago this month, Jon Kempin became the club's first homegrown player and the youngest signing to that point when he turned pro at age 17.
"This is a great day for our organization," Peter Vermes said at the time. "We had the opportunity to identify a talented player in the area, bring him into the (Academy) program and develop him to the point where we could sign him to a professional contract. Jon has incredible talent and now he has the opportunity to continue his development at a professional level and not have the pressure to perform on the field right away.”
Pressure to perform, like being told at halftime to warmup for your MLS debut and then facing a penalty kick for your first shot on goal faced.
Or lining up across from the League's top paid player, U.S. Men's National Team star Michael Bradley, in your first career MLS start.
Or following that with a 2,000+ mile trek to Central America three days later for a Champions League encounter in Nicaragua.
Kempin aced all three tests since being summoned back from his loan to USL PRO affiliate OKC Energy FC in the aftermath of an injury to starting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg and then stepping into the spotlight when Andy Gruenebaum was sidelined with a strained shoulder. Now 21, Kempin is the youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS match in team history and the youngest at his position to appear in MLS this season.
To quote Kempin on his first day as a professional, "Now is when the fun starts."
Established in 2012, Sporting Club Network aims to create a more personal relationship between its members, their local communities, Sporting Kansas City and its parent company, Sporting Club. Athletes, coaches and families within the Sporting Club Network are provided with exclusive opportunities to interact with members of Sporting Kansas City’s senior team, receive coaching and education instruction from the senior team technical staff, and be recognized at Sporting Park for their efforts to expand the game in their locality.
The end of the year reception gives Sporting Club Network members the opportunity to meet fellow members, exchange ideas and reflect on the many on-and-off-the field accomplishments achieved throughout the year. In conjunction with the annual reception, Sporting Club Network hosts the Kevin Gray Awards.
The Kevin Gray awards, presented by Pepsi, were established in honor of the late Kansas City Sports Commission President. Kevin’s passion for the game and his desire to see it grow in the Kansas City area are exemplified in the winners of his namesake. The Kevin Gray Player of the Year Award recognizes youth, as well as adult, players for their outstanding performance on the field. The Kevin Gray Coach of the Year Award is given to a Kansas City coach who has led his or her team to remarkable success. The final award, Soccer Ambassador of the Year, is presented to an individual whose commitment to the game and tireless effort in support of its growth reflects the ideals that the Sports Commissioner Gray embodied.
The Kevin Gray Awards, co-sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International, bestowed the following awards, as decided by a panel of soccer leaders in Kansas City:
- Male Youth Player of the Year – Jo Jo Piatczyc
- Female Youth Player of the Year – Cristina DeZeeuw
- Adult Player of the Year – Seth Sinovic
- Coach of the Year – Peter Vermes
- Soccer Ambassador of the Year – Robb Heineman
Gutierrez has a special connection to the club and the Kansas City area. He was a graduate of Blue Springs High School and was a two-time NSCAA All-American at Rockhurst University before joining the club in Major League Soccer’s inaugural season in 1996. He would go on to win the MLS Cup in 1998, four U.S. Open Cup championships and record 40 career playoff appearances (third most in MLS history).
At the conclusion of the reception, guests enjoyed the game and took in the electric atmosphere as they watched Sporting KC go on to beat the Galaxy by a 2-1 scoreline. The award winners, however, were given a truly unique experience as they were escorted onto the field and recognized for their achievements at halftime.
Thank you to all of our network members and guests for making this year's Sporting Club Network Reception and Kevin Gray Awards Ceremony such a memorable experience! To stay up-to-date on upcoming events and for all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow on Twitter and like the SCN on Facebook.
Sporting Kaw Valley has made an exciting addition to their coaching staff. Former Sporting KC midfielder and Grenada international Craig Rocastle is the newest member of Sporting Kaw Valley’s premier coaching staff and will fulfill a variety of roles within the club. Rocastle currently holds a National “C” Coaching License and will now serve as an Assistant Age Group Director in their Premier Division.
"Rocastle will bring with him a wealth of individual soccer related knowledge and experience," said Marcus Dudley, Sporting Kaw Valley’s Executive Director. "He truly understands what we're trying to build here at Sporting Kaw Valley.”
Sporting Kaw Valley partnered with Sporting Kansas City through the Sporting Club Network as an Academy Affiliate in 2013. Sporting Kaw Valley is dedicated to providing opportunities for fun and development in a family-friendly environment. Their goal is to enable youth players to enjoy the game of soccer, while realizing their full potential as a player. Today, they serve more than 2,200 players between the ages of 3-19, primarily in the Lawrence and Topeka areas.
To read more about this announcement, please click here. To stay informed on all things Sporting Club Network, follow the SCN on Twitter & like them on Facebook.
Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin started for the United States Under-21 Men's National Team on Wednesday in a 2-1 victory against Club Tijuana (MEX) Under-20's at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The 21-year-old Leawood, Kan. native kept a clean sheet for the opening 45 minutes before head coach Tab Ramos made mass changes at halftime and Kempin was replaced by Kendall McIntosh for the second half.
Wednesday's scrimmage was the highlight of the training camp, the first for the U.S. U21's with an eye toward qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Kempin now returns to OKC Energy FC ahead of their home opener against Orlando City SC on Saturday. Kempin has started three games during the team's inaugural USL PRO season with one shutout and 10 saves, and was named an honorable mention on the USL PRO Team of the Week yesterday.
The Sporting Club Network is happy to announce two additional tour stops added to this spring’s #MLSCupTour of the Midwest.
Later today, the Cup will be making an appearance at the Sporting Blue Valley Benefit Game at the Overland Park Soccer Complex from 7-8:30 p.m. CT. Each spring, Sporting Blue Valley holds this annual benefit game where the premier coaches play one of the top teams in the club to raise money for the Sporting Blue Valley Scholarship Fund. Admission is free to the game with donations highly encouraged. The event is open to the public and fans are invited to stop by and support the local community while also having the opportunity to take their picture with the MLS Cup and see Sporting KC players, Matt Besler and Chance Myers. The Cup will be on display by the Fieldhouse pavilion near Field 1 where the exhibition game will be played.
On Tuesday, April 29th the Cup will continue its trek across the Midwest, as it will be taken to Columbia, Mo. for a Sporting Club Network Mini Clinic in conjunction with Sporting Columbia SC. The clinic will be taking place at Pride Park from 5:30-7 p.m. CT and the Cup will be on display for pictures. All are welcome to come take a picture with the Cup during this time!
For other MLS Cup Tour dates and locations, click here and to follow all of the adventures of the Cup, visit the Tour Storify page and include #MLSCupTour for your chance to be featured! Beyond that, be sure to follow the Sporting Club Network on Facebook and Twitter.
Since scoring the team's first goal of the year, homegrown defender Kevin Ellis has been in the spotlight for Sporting Kansas City throughout the opening month of the 2014 season. The Kansas City native and Sporting KC Academy product has started five games across all competition in 2014 and on Saturday, was featured in the Sporting Park videoboad series "Two Lies and a Truth" presented by The Parking Spot.
Take the test by watching the video below and for more, check out previous episodes quizzing fellow defenders Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin.
In August of 2013, during the Academy Affiliate Weekend, the Sporting Club Network named the very first Academy Affiliate All-Star Team with representatives from over seven different cities throughout the Midwest. During their time in Kansas City, this select group of young players received training from SKC senior team coaches at the team's training facility and competed in an exhibition game against Sporting KC's very own U14 Academy team.
With the success of the first Academy Affiliate All-Star Team, the program has been expanded in 2014. Now, the Sporting Club Network hosts two Academy Affiliate All-Star Experiences each year with the first one having taken place in late March. Eight Academy Affiliate clubs had the opportunity to select their top U14 and U12 male players to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Over 40 All-Stars were selected from over 10 major Midwestern cities to come to Kansas City to participate in a unique and exclusive opportunity.
To view pictures from the 2014 Spring Academy Affiliate All-Star Experience and learn about what these players got to be a part of, view the Storify below. Additionally, to stay up to date on all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow them on Twitter (@SportingKC_SCN) and like them on Facebook.
This weekend marks the start of the Spring Academy Affiliate All-Star Experience, hosted by the Sporting Club Network. Over the course of this weekend, players from eight of the nine SCN Academy Affiliate clubs will be represented as they train at Swope Soccer Village under the guidance of the Sporting KC Academy coaching staff, which has recently made some significant additions to their team. In addition to experiencing training at the same facilities as SKC’s Academy and senior teams, these players will even get a chance to compete against the Sporting Kansas City Academy teams in a series of exhibition games Sunday morning.
These U12 and U14 Academy Affiliate All-Star teams will be drawing players from over 10 major cities throughout the Midwest, spanning as far as Nashville, Tenn. to Minneapolis, Minn. And if the training opportunities and a chance to test themselves against Sporting KC’s Academy players wasn’t enough, these two teams will get to have a number of special game day experiences as Sporting KC takes on San Jose Earthquakes tomorrow night.
Any and all Sporting Club Network members are invited to attend the exhibition games, which will be kicking off on the championship field of Swope Soccer Village at 9 a.m. (U14) and 10:30 a.m. (U12). And as these players compete on the field, all fans in attendance will have the opportunity to take their picture with the MLS Cup, as part of the SCN’s #MLSCupTour. It will be on display from 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the same location of the fields. Admission is free and open to public and games will be played on the Academy Champion Field in Swope Soccer Village.
We encourage everyone to come out, take a picture with the Cup, and support some of the best youth players from all over the Midwest. For additional MLS Cup Tour dates and locations, click here and to follow all of the adventures of the Cup, visit the Tour Storify page and include #MLSCupTour for your chance to be featured! Beyond that, be sure to follow the Sporting Club Network on Facebook and Twitter.