Ike Opara scores game-winning goal against New York City FC on March 28 (VIDEO)
Sporting Kansas City defender (and H&R Block tax pro) Ike Opara -- fresh off appearances on The SBI Show on Monday and MLSsoccer.com's ExtraTime Radio on Thursday -- was a guest on Sports Radio 810 WHB earlier this morning with The Border Patrol hosts Steven St. John, Nate Bukaty and Jake Gutierrez. Listen to the full podcast embedded below as Opara discusses his return from a season-ending injury in 2014, his thoughts on the Final Four and a debate over his own basketball abilities.
What are the chances we can get Ike Opara in next years Slam Dunk contest?
— Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11) March 30, 2015
Opara is off to a hot start to his 2015 campaign, scoring two goals and anchoring a backline that has posted back-to-back shutouts. He was named the SBIsoccer.com Player of the Month for March after securing a spot on MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week in three of the first four opportunities.
The 26-year-old leads MLS in interceptions (25) and aerial duels won (23), while ranking second among all players in total clearances (36).
FOX Sports 1 returns to Sporting Park this weekend as Sporting Kansas City hosts the Philadelphia Union at 6 p.m. CT on #SoccerSunday. Check out their interview above with Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer, which was conducted by Grant Wahl and aired during America's Pregame in the buildup to the U.S. Men's National Team's 1-1 draw in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The first 10,000 fans inside Sporting Park on Sunday will receive a commemorative Dom Dwyer poster -- painted by Kansas City's own John Bukaty -- courtesy of match sponsor adidas. A limited number of tickets remain available via Ticketmaster.com and can also be purchased at the Sporting Park box offices on gameday while supplies last.
Dwyer scored in two of the team's three matches against Philadelphia last year en route to breaking the team's single-season scoring record with 22 goals. In 2015, the MLS All-Star is one of two Sporting KC field players to have played every minute this season and he leads MLS with 15 fouls won after four games.
#canMNT starting XI: Borjan (GK); Ledgerwood, Jakovic, Edgar, de Jong; Piette, Ricketts, de Guzman (c), Bekker, Tissot; Haber.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) March 30, 2015
Sporting Kansas City defender Marcel de Jong starts for Canada today in his 33rd career international appearance. The Canadian Men's National Team takes on Puerto Rico at Estadio Juan Roman Loubriel in Bayamon to close out a training camp that also featured a 1-0 win over Guatemala last week.
Today's match -- streamed live below -- is Canada's final tune-up prior to the start of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualiying in June. Canada will play Dominica in a home-and-away series on June 8 and June 16 with the winner advancing to the third round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Yankee Stadium. Kansas City versus New York. Lead of only one. Controversial call.
Where have we seen this before?
Fast forward more than three decades, swap old Yankee Stadium for new Yankee Stadium and switch sports entirely to set the scene for last night's (loosely, if at all, comparable) drama.
Seth Sinovic was at the center of the confusion in the 68th minute of the 1-0 win at New York City FC when referee Edvin Jurisevic whistled the Sporting KC defender for a handball inside the penalty area. The decision -- eventually overturned after Jurisevic conferred with assistant referee Brian Dunn -- brought immediate protests from Sinovic and teammate Benny Feilhaber, among others.
Sinovic took to Twitter postgame to commend the officiating crew for correcting the error.
Side note: refs don't always get praise in the #mls but props to them for talking out the potential hand ball in the box. Never touched me.
— Seth Sinovic (@ssinovic) March 29, 2015
And then brought things full circle...by reenacting the infamous pine tar incident of 1983 with fellow KC native Matt Besler -- who wears No. 5 in George Brett's honor -- playing the starring role.
Photo by Gary Rohman
Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler was a guest on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning, joining The Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John to discuss Saturday's match at New York City FC (6 p.m. CT on SKCTV) and his alma mater Notre Dame taking on Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen.
On the opportunity to play at Yankee Stadium...
"I can not wait. I think it's going to be awesome. (It's) one of the most historical stadiums in the world. We get to experience it and play there. I am really looking forward to it."
On the reduced field dimensions...
"It's a factor. Again, we're going to try to turn it and play it into a positive for us. The way that NYCFC plays right now is they keep a lot of possession. They like to keep the ball on the ground. With a smaller field though, it allows us to pressure the ball. And that's one of our strengths. When we're on our game and we're working hard and pressuring, there are not a whole lot of teams that can keep the ball against us. That's how we feel. We're going to go up there and try to use the field to our advantage to disrupt their rhythym."
On aiming for team's first win...
"There's definitely some urgency to get some points, we all realize that. In no way are we panicking. It's still so early in the season. It would be great to be sitting on nine points right now, but we're not. The great thing is we've seen improvement with our performances. Last Saturday against Portland was a great sign. If we can play like that and create the chances that we created, more times than not we're going to win games and we're going to be just fine."
On the fans support...
"Our fans are unbelievable. They show up every week and give everything they have. Last Saturday, it felt like a different atmosphere. When the ball went out of bounds for a corner kick, you could just feel the energy in the stadium pick up because everyone believed we were going to create a chance. More times than not on those set pieces, we did. For whatever reason, the ball just didn't want to go in."
On preparing to face David Villa...
"He is really shifty. He's not the biggest guy. He's probably not the fastest guy either. But his center of gravity is low. He's got unbelievable balance. And he can go either way. As a defender, that's sometimes some of the hardest people to guard...With David Villa, he's very unpredictable. Because he so's talented, he can do a lot of different things. That's what makes him difficult."
Covitz accepting the Joe McGuff Sports Journalist of the Year Award in 2011
Congratulations and well wishes to Kansas City Star sports reporter Randy Covitz on his recent retirement.
During his 34-year career at the newspaper, Covitz's byline appeared next to many of the most memorable moments in the city's modern soccer history -- from covering the Comets and Attack at Kemper Arena to writing about the Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium to stories filed on deadline from Sporting Park.
He sat in the Soldier Field press box for the opening game of the 1994 World Cup and traveled to Detroit the next day for the United States first match at the Pontiac Silverdome. He delivered the news to Star readers that Kansas City was awarded a Major League Soccer team in 1995 and his preview piece ran on the day of the team's inaugural game less than a year later.
On this day in 1996, Covitz published an in-depth look at American soccer on the cusp of Major League Soccer's first season. The article included interviews with club owner/founder Lamar Hunt, as well as Ron Newman (the first coach in MLS history), on the return of professional outdoor soccer to Kansas City for the first time since 1970 when the Kansas City Spurs played in the NASL.
"Times have changed enormously," said Hunt. "...It won't be done overnight, but it's a different time, a different era."
Click here to read the full feature.
Covitz continued to cover the sport and it's local stars in recent years, from Peter Vermes being named manager in 2009 to his induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2013 -- after previously reporting on the Hall of Fame elections of Preki (2010) and Bob Gansler (2011) in the years between.
Prior to joining the Kansas City Star, Covitz served as the Columbia Missourian sports editor and spent seven years on staff at the Memphis Press-Scimitar in Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism in 1971.
Sporting Kansas City defender Jalil Anibaba was a guest on The Sporting KC Show last night, joining hosts Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine at Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen to discuss the team's draw against the Portland Timbers last weekend and to preview Saturday's match at New York City FC. Listen to the full podcast embedded below and available each week on 810whb.com.
Anibaba -- acquired in the offseason from the Seattle Sounders -- was one of three players to make their Sporting KC debuts in the scoreless draw along with Servando Carrasco and Soni Mustivar.
On the defensive end, he contributed to the club's first shutout of the season by winning seven of his nine duels (including all four aerials) with three clearances, two interceptions, two recoveries and one tackle won. Offensively, he led all players with three shots while also logging 66 touches, 29 successful passes and two dribbles completed.
His performance earned the praise of Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes and fellow defender Ike Opara.
Photos by Jamila St. Ann
Sporting Kansas City continued preparation today for the team's first-ever trip to Yankee Stadium, where they will take on Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday live on SKCTV. Check out the slideshow above -- courtesy of Jamila St. Ann -- with images from today's training session at Swope Soccer Village.
Saturday's match will be the focus of tonight's Sporting KC Show from 7-8 p.m. CT on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Hosts Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine will be joined by Sporting KC defender Jalil Anibaba during the show, which will air live from Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen at the Legends (1859 Village West Parkway) in Kansas City, Kansas. Tune in on 810 AM, 810whb.com or via the station's free mobile app and join the discussion by calling 913-3-810-810.
Listen to the latest edition of The Sporting KC Show embedded below as hosts Dave Borchardt, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine were joined by Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury and Sporting KC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin for last night's episode on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Once teammates in Kansas City, Jewsbury and Zavagnin previewed this Saturday's match-up at Sporting Park.
Jewsbury -- a Missouri native -- played his first eight professional seasons in KC after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 MLS SuperDraft. He is one of only six active MLS players to appear in more than 300 regular season matches and has been a member of the Timbers since their inaugural MLS season in 2011. Only Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe have more MLS appearances for the club.
A limited number of tickets remain available, including standing room only tickets, via Ticketmaster.com for Saturday and the first 10,000 fans inside the gates will receive Sporting KC flags courtesy of H&R Block.
A new edition of The Sporting KC Show aired on Sports Radio 810 WHB tonight as hosts Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine discussed Sporting KC's 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls and looked ahead to Saturday's match at FC Dallas. This week's episode was highlighted by interviews with defender Ike Opara -- who scored on Sunday in his return from a season-ending injury in 2014 -- and FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead.
Listen to the show in its entirety below...
In addition, Manager Peter Vermes was a guest on The Program with Sports Radio 810 WHB's Soren Petro on Monday. Vermes spoke in-depth about a variety of topics, ranging from the result against the Red Bulls to the debuts of Luis Marin and Krisztian Nemeth to the scouting work involved at the youth levels through the Sporting KC Academy.
Hear those comments and more in the 23-minute segment below...