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This week’s Sporting Spotlight shines brightly on Kansas City’s own Jon Kempin. KMCI-TV 38 the Spot host Crystle Lampitt chatted with the 22-year-old homegrown goalkeeper to learn more about his dedication to soccer.
Kempin, who turned pro in 2010, is currently enrolled at Johnson County Community College in pursuit of a business degree. Kempin also speaks about his new Christmas gift: a puppy affectionately nicknamed “Chewy."
Tune in every Monday morning for the newest Sporting Spotlight on 38 The Spot or check out their YouTube playlist to catch up on previous segments.
For this last Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight, all eyes turn toward Nick Besler, the 2011 Kevin Gray Male Youth Player of the Year. Since receiving the honor following his record-breaking career at Blue Valley West High School, Besler has enjoyed plenty of soccer success both at the University of Notre Dame and now with the Portland Timbers. A three-year starter while at Notre Dame, Besler certainly made an impact in the midfield for the Irish, notching spots on the All-ACC First Team and NCAA All-Tournament Team in 2013. Nick also served as team captain during his senior season, which only added to his already impressive soccer résumé. Despite all of these individual accolades, though, Besler believes that there is one team achievement that stands above the rest.
“The national championship I won my junior year is what I'm most proud of," Besler said of Notre Dame's victory over Maryland in the 2013 final. "While I have won individual awards as well, there is that feeling of accomplishing something together as a team that is much more rewarding. Winning a national championship is something that I will never forget."
The Irish won by a 2-1 scoreline and Besler assisted the goal that tied the game in the 40th minute. The following year, Notre Dame earned a #1 seed in the College Cup and advanced to the third round before falling 1-0 to eventual winners Virginia.
Although the team came up a bit short in 2014, Besler graduated from Notre Dame with his sights set on a professional soccer career—and rightly so. This past January, Nick was selected fifth overall by the Portland Timbers in the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, which made him the highest MLS draft pick in Notre Dame history. The previous owner of that distinction was Nick’s older brother, Matt -- the Sporting Kansas City team captain and World Cup veteran was selected eighth overall in 2009. Of his relationship with his brother, Nick says that “Matt has been a great role model for me…and the way he goes about his own career has been the thing that I've noticed the most.”
With regard to his time with the Timbers thus far, Nick pointed out that the main difference he has observed between college and professional soccer is the speed of play.
“Everything has to be quicker at this level,” he said, “[but] I feel like I have adjusted well to the new city and the new team.”
Looking ahead, Besler says that “my plan is to keep growing as a soccer player and continue to improve. Right now, I will continue to get minutes with [the Timbers’ USL developmental side] T2 and hopefully I will have an impact with the first team.”
Best of luck to Nick in the future! If all goes well, we at Sporting KC will look forward to potential Besler v. Besler match-ups whenever the Timbers come to town. Click here to read more about the Besler brothers’ “First Family” status within the Notre Dame men’s soccer program.
Our second Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight of the week features 2012 Kevin Gray Adult Player of the Year, Adrianna “AD” Franch. Originally from Salina, Kansas and a South High School graduate, AD boasted an impressive soccer background even before moving on to college and becoming a professional not long after. During her high school career, AD was a three-year member of the Kansas Olympic Development Program and earned All-State, All-Southwest Region and All-League honors as the starting goalie for the Cougars.
Franch, who as a child used to be called the “next Bri Scurry," then went on to become one of the most decorated players in Big 12 soccer history. Starting for Oklahoma State University all four years, Franch helped the Cowgirls secure back-to-back Big 12 Championships in 2009 and 2010. On an individual level, AD was named to the All-Big 12 Conference First Team four times, was a three-time All-American and currently holds the Oklahoma State career record for shutouts with 38 -- a number that ranks sixth all time in NCAA history.
Thanks to these remarkable statistics, AD immediately began getting looks from the U.S. Women’s National Team coaches. In 2010, her sophomore year, she was called up to the U-20 squad to compete at the World Cup in Germany and in 2012, she played on the U-23 team that won the Three Nations Tournament in Norway. Later that same year, Franch was invited to train with the senior U.S. WNT in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London. Balancing national team duties with her responsibilities as a leader on the Oklahoma State women’s team was not easy, AD remarked, but all of her efforts proved to be worthwhile as Franch was drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in January 2013 by the Western New York Flash. She was the sixth pick overall and the first goalkeeper selected by any team.
“Knowing that I achieved one of my biggest dreams and being able to say that I am professional soccer player was [one of] my proudest accomplishments,” AD said of the moment.
Just a few short months later, Franch made her professional debut for the Flash, making eight saves in the game and earning Player of the Week honors from Equalizer Soccer. After the match, Western New York head coach Aaran Lines said, “I see the future national team goalkeeper of the U.S.”
From there, AD’s success only continued. At the end of her rookie season, Franch was both a regular season titleholder and had also been named to the NWSL Second XI. Unfortunately, in March 2014, Franch suffered a torn right ACL during the first week of preseason and was forced to miss the entire 2014 season.
Following an 18-month recovery period and break from competition, Franch has recently signed with Norwegian Toppserien club Avaldsnes IL, officially leaving the Western New York Flash. According to AD, many emotions accompanied her long-awaited return to professional play.
“I was excited to get back, proud of the work put in to come back, and had a sense of relief to finally be back,” she told us.
Long term, Franch intends to continue pursuing further soccer success and says that “watching the World Cup makes me excited and motivated to keep making strides for the next one [in 2019].”
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our last Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight on Notre Dame grad and Portland Timbers rookie Nick Besler! To stay up to date on all things Sporting Club Network, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
Sporting Kansas City players recently visited Breakout KC -- newly opened in the River Market area -- and were able to escape Room 13 in 55 minutes and 30 seconds. Matt Besler had so much fun trying to breakout, the team captain wants to do it again! And you can join him as he tries to beat the the time clocked a few weeks earlier.
Do you want to breakout with Besler? Enter for your chance to be part of the World Cup veteran's team.
— Breakout Kansas City (@BreakoutKC) June 11, 2015
— Matt Besler (@MattBesler) June 11, 2015
All submissions must be in by 12 p.m. CT on Friday. Seven lucky entrants will be randomly selected for 60 minutes of hang-time with the three-time MLS All-Star and U.S. MNT centerback. Good luck!
On April 5th, 2013, The Victory Project hosted its first honoree, Xander Reynolds, in the Victory Suite at Sporting Park. The then eight-year-old was the guest of honor at the team’s match against D.C. United, which also marked the official launch of the foundation.
Less than a month after being honored -- thanks to donations from Sporting KC fans -- Xander’s mother was able to use the $3,000 raised during the game to purchase the Topaz CCTV reading device he needed to complete classwork at home. Xander has a brain tumor that has caused blindness in one eye and severely diminished vision in the other.
Now 10 years old, Xander continues chemotherapy treatments after experiencing a relapse last year. Treatments are going well and this summer Xander is spending a week at Camp Quality, which gives kids battling cancer a chance to be kids again. This afternoon, he also participated in a photo shoot at Sporting Park with Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi for the 2016 Braden’s Hope calendar(pictured with his mother Debra Reynolds).
Since its inception, the Victory Project has raised over $230,000 to help children in Kansas City. To find out more about the Victory Project, please visit VictoryKC.org or follow @VictoryKC on Twitter or @VictoryProjectKC on Instagram.
Sporting KC, The Victory Project and the Recreation Council of Greater Kansas City hosted a Soccer Ability Clinic at Swope Soccer Village on Thursday.
During this event, participants learned introductory skills with Sporting KC players and local volunteers. The development camp was for people of all ages and ability levels, particularly persons with disabilities including “developmental disabilities, physical disabilities/injuries and cognitive disabilities.”
Following the camp, attendees were able to obtain autographs from Jon Kempin, James Ansu Rogers, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Jimmy Medranda.
Fresh off his first MLS start and first professional assist -- a clever backheel for Graham Zusi in Sporting Kansas City's 4-0 win over FC Dallas last Friday -- rookie Connor Hallisey was a guest on The Sporting KC Show tonight with hosts Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine on Sports Radio 810 WHB.
"(It was an) awesome result, 4-0 against Dallas which everybody was saying was the best team in the League," Hallisey said. "I think we really showed them what we're doing even though we're depleted with injuries. We're showing how deep we are and the guys that are getting their opportunities are taking it. We're playing really well right now."
Ahead of Sporting Kansas City's showdown with the Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at Sporting Park, tonight's show also featured an interview with three-time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall. Listen to the full episode embedded below, as well as separate Sports Radio 810 WHB segments with Sporting KC's Kevin Ellis (The Program) and Benny Feilhaber (Sports Night) from the past 24 hours.
SPORTING KC SHOW - 6/2/15
KEVIN ELLIS - 6/2/15
BENNY FEILHABER - 6/1/15
Entering the month of May, goalkeeper Tim Melia had made five starts in his five-year MLS career. All came with Chivas USA, which by and large explains the resulting stat line: zero wins, zero shutouts and a 2.95 goals against average.
Now with Sporting KC, the 29-year-old has stepped into the starting lineup for each of the past five matches to earn three straight home wins to go along with back-to-back road draws against each conference's top team. His stats this time around? Three wins, three shutouts and a 0.60 goals against average that ranks best in MLS among goalkeepers with a minimum of 45 minutes played.
Crystle Lampitt caught up with Melia earlier this month for the latest segment in the "Sporting Spotlight" series, which aired earlier today on 38 the Spot. Check out the video playlist below and follow Sporting Kansas City's flagship station on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Sporting KC's training facility is less than a mile from the Kansas City Zoo and on Sunday, the two Swope Park destinations teamed up for "Sporting KC Day at the Zoo." Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza, Tim Melia and Chance Myers were all in attendance to interact with fans and zoo animals alike.
In addition, The Victory Project's portable futsal court was set up behind Tropics for free use by guests of all ages. Check out a photo slideshow above, as well as video for sights and sounds below.