Drive around the streets of Kansas City in the evenings or on the weekends and you will most certainly find soccer being played. Athletes of all ages and levels play the beautiful game while enjoying the benefits of teamwork, comradery and physical activity. With a new partnership between the Special Olympics and MLS WORKS, teams from around the league are partnering with local Special Olympics chapters to host exchange games in their stadiums in order to give athletes with intellectual disabilities a taste of what being a professional soccer player would be like.
On Saturday, Special Olympics Colorado traveled to Kansas City for an exchange game versus Special Olympics Kansas at Sporting Park. Both teams were given the first team experience – including a pregame meal, locker rooms complete with full team uniforms, a pre-game visit from midfielder Roger Espinoza and a special message from Manager Peter Vermes. Following the first team match, the teams were scheduled to take the field for warmups and be announced to the crowd before playing on the pitch in front of the supporters. This was before a series of thunderstorms delayed and ultimately cancelled the evening's games.
With Special Olympics Colorado traveling from Denver, both sides decided to meet on Sunday morning at the Sporting KC training facility located within Swope Soccer Village to play the much anticipated game. Both unified teams consisted of Special Olympians or “Athletes” and neuro-typical classmates or “Partners." Two 20-minute halves were played and the game was full of excitement with goals being scored throughout. Ultimately, Special Olympics Colorado traveled home with a 3-2 victory but not before both teams received commemorative medals and exchanged scarves.
In August, Special Olympics Kansas will travel to Colorado for the second half of the home-and-away series following the Sporting KC versus Colorado Rapids match on August 29. To learn more about the upcoming game or other Community events, please follow @VictoryKC on twitter or visit VictoryKC.org.
The Sporting KC Show cast of Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine was joined by ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman for tonight's hour-long episode on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Twellman, who was once offered a contract by the Kansas City Royals as a high school shortstop, will be in the broadcast booth at Sporting Park on Wednesday night alongside Glenn Davis when Sporting Kansas City hosts 2014 MLS Cup runners-up New England Revolution at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
Twellman ranks seventh on Major League Soccer's all-time goal scoring chart with 101 regular season goals, five of which came against Kansas City (e.g. this bicycle kick in 2002). His nine-year MLS career with the Revolution included MLS Best XI (2002, 2005) and MLS MVP (2005) honors, while also earning 30 appearances with the U.S. Men's National Team.
Listen to the full show embedded below and tune in every Tuesday for a new episode discussing all the latest news around Sporting Kansas City.
Last week, Sporting Kansas City and The Victory Project teamed up with Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer for the fourth annual calendar photo shoot at Sporting Park.
The calendar will be featuring players and "Hope Heroes" -- children who are currently battling or have survived cancer. Each “Hope Hero” not only has a month dedicated to them in the calendar, but they also posed with players including Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer, Kevin Ellis, Jalil Anibaba, Chance Myers and Marcel de Jong.
Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer is named after Braden Hofen, a courageous boy who has recently beaten a relapse from a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma. His mother, who was battling stage 2 breast cancer during the time of his relapse, started the non-profit organization to raise awareness and funds to help find treatments and cures for childhood cancers.
The 2016 Braden’s Hope Calendar will be available in the fall and proceeds will go toward The Victory Project and Braden’s Hope. To learn more about The Victory Project please visit VictoryKC.org or follow @VictoryKC on Twitter.
Photo via @DorseyRocky on Twitter
Sporting KC's 100th match at Sporting Park will have to wait until Wednesday after inclement weather forced the postponement of last night's game against the Colorado Rapids. It was the first such ocurrance in the stadium's four years of operation, though by no means the first time Mother Nature impacted the outcome of a matchday.
In fact, Kansas City played a part in the first abbreviated ending in MLS history in what is now one of five games for the club all-time that failed to be played in its entirety on the originally scheduled date:
- June 20, 1998: KC vs. D.C. United was cancelled in the 53rd minute due to severe weather at Arrowhead Stadium and was later replayed on Aug. 26.
- June 10, 2000: KC at D.C. United was suspended at halftime due to the lights failing at RFK Stadium. The 0-0 scoreline stood and Kansas City returned to RFK for MLS Cup 2000.
- September 16, 2001: The team's regular season finale against Colorado at Arrowhead Stadium was amongst 10 games cancelled league-wide in the aftermath of 9/11.
- Aug. 2, 2006: Thunderstorms postponed this fourth round U.S. Open Cup match between KC and the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois until Aug. 14.
- May 16, 2015: Severe weather prevented kickoff between Sporting KC and the Colorado Rapids with a rescheduled date to be determined for later in 2015.
While Saturday's match ultimately succumbed to a storm system which delivered flash flooding, tornado warnings and heavy lightning throughout the Kansas City area (resulting in more than 10,000 homes losing power), the initial weather delay was the fourth interruption at home since 2011:
- July 12, 2011: An 81-minute delay spelled trouble for Sporting KC in the team's first-ever loss at Sporting Park, a 2-0 defeat to the Richmond Kickers (USL) in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
- Aug. 8, 2012: Just over a year later, Sporting KC withstood a 43-minute delay en route to the team's U.S. Open Cup championship over the Seattle Sounders FC in a penalty shootout.
- Aug. 29, 2014: Sporting KC lost back-to-back matches at Sporting Park for the first time after dropping a 3-1 decision to Houston in a match that featured a 75-minute delay.
- May 16, 2015: After delaying kick off for nearly 75 minutes, MLS determined in its discretion to postpone the match after considering all relevant factors and circumstances.
In the end -- which came close to 8:45 p.m. CT in a break between two patches of storms -- Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman took to Twitter to look ahead to the rescheduled fixture with all options open.
Hey...I'm sorry that happened. We'll make it up 2 u. Any ideas how? #winning obviously...but any others welcome
— Robb Heineman (@RobbHeineman) May 17, 2015
— Robb Heineman (@RobbHeineman) May 17, 2015
It is the dream of many children to grow up and be a professional athlete. Some get the chance to live out their dream but many don't. The Special Olympics organization gives athletes facing intellectual disabilities the same opportunities in sports that their peers have. One way in which the organization does this is through Unified Sports.
Special Olympics Unified Sports® is a program that brings together athletes with intellectual disabilities and their peers without intellectual disabilities (called partners) on the same team for training and competition. Age and ability matching of athletes and partners is defined on a sport-by-sport basis.
On Sunday, a Unified Team from Special Olympics Kansas and a Unified Team from Special Olympics Colorado will play each other in an exchange game at Swope Soccer Village (6310 Lewis Rd., Kansas City, Missouri). MLS WORKS, the league’s Community Relations arm, started this new initiative in 2013 and has many MLS teams participating around the league. Each exchange game features Unified Teams from the local Special Olympics chapters.
Each team will exchange gifts and good luck cards, which is a Special Olympics tradition to encourage good sportsmanship. They will also get a full pre-game ritual of warm-ups on the field, lineup announcements and a national anthem, also reflecting a professional atmosphere. Once the game has ended, the players will each receive a commemorative medal during an on-field ceremony.
Last year, the Unified Team from Special Olympics Kansas (a Sporting Club Network member) traveled to New York to play an exchange game vs Special Olympics New Jersey at Red Bull Arena. They arrived a day early and had a couple of surprises in store, including a baseball game in Yankee Stadium to watch the Kansas City Royals take on the New York Yankees. This year both the Unified Teams were out at The K on Friday night to watch the Royals take on the Yankees again.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza -- who contributed the game-tying assist on Dom Dwyer's goal in last weekend's 1-1 draw at D.C. United -- was a guest on The Sporting KC Show last night with hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Listen to the full podcast embedded below for their thoughts on the road result and the club's form heading into an important stretch on the schedule with four of the next five games at home...
Now 27 (in jersey number and age), Espinoza moved to Denver from his native Honduras as a 12-year-old and will play a key role as Sporting Kansas City hosts the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night at Sporting Park. The 2010/2014 World Cup veteran and former MLS All-Star has earned Team of the Week recognitions on three occasions this season since returning from England, where he won the 2013 FA Cup with Wigan Athletic two years ago this week.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder and MLS Player of the Month (April) Benny Feilhaber leads the League for most assists in 2015 with five. His top-notch perfomances on the field may have been spurred by his newest good luck charm, 10-month old daughter Sofia Feilhaber. Crystle Lampitt from 38 the Spot sits down with Feilhaber in this week's Sporting Spotlight to chat about the adjustment to fatherhood and a potential return of The Benny Feilhaber Show. Catch the full interview below:
On Monday, the Boulevard Members Club was transformed into a fully functioning dental clinic. Tooth decay is the most common chronic illness facing children and for the second year, The Victory Project partnered with TeamSmile to provide uninsured children in our area access to free dental care and education. With the help of over 100 volunteers -- including local dentists, dental assistants, hygienists and 3rd/4th-year students from the UMKC School of Dentistry -- nearly 230 kids received care.
TeamSmile, an organization with its roots in Kansas City, provides everything from x-ray’s to dental procedures, including teeth pulling and fillings. Each child's visit is completed with a cleaning and education on the importance of good dental hygiene. The students attending Monday's event also got the chance to meet World Cup veteran Graham Zusi and former KC defender Nick Garcia, who acted as a distraction leading up to the time when they began their examinations.
This week's edition of The Sporting KC Show aired last night on Sports Radio 810 WHB with goalkeeper Tim Melia joining hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine inside Jazz, A Lousiana Kitchen. Listen to the podcast below as the trio discussed Melia's club debut in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday and the team's upcoming match at D.C. United on Saturday (6 p.m. CT on 38 The Spot and SKCTV).
Melia is one of five finalists for Major League Soccer's Save of the Week. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. PT tonight on MLSsoccer.com.
Sporting Park is known for its infectious energy on game days. This past Saturday it was home to a different kind of energy when The Victory Project hosted its inaugural Yoga on the Pitch fundraiser.
Over 150 local yoga enthusiasts of all ages and levels joined Sporting KC players in an hour-long class in the middle of the pitch. Yoga was led by lululemon athletica ambassadors and Pop-Up Yoga KC with funds raised benefitting both The Victory Project and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society through Man of the Year Candidate Hunter Re.
Participants received a commemorative event tank top and were also able to get autographs from Sporting KC players in attendance, including Graham Zusi, Jacob Peterson, Krisztian Nemeth, Servando Carrasco and Bernardo Anor.
To learn more about The Victory Project and future fundraising events, please visit VictoryKC.org or follow us on Twitter.