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.
Since it opened on June 9, 2011, Sporting Park has hosted its share of major events. From MLS Cup to the MLS All-Star Game, to World Cup qualifiers for both the United States Men's and Women's National Teams, Kansas City has proven to be a hotbed for American / International soccer with Sporting Park at the epicenter.
For today's TBT, we're throwing it back to the beginning. After Sporting KC opened Sporting Park with a scoreless draw against the Chicago Fire, the newest soccer-specific stadium in the United States faced a quick turnaround before a Gold Cup doubleheader only five days later.
The first match of the doubleheader pitted Canada against Panama. That match finished 1-1 with seven-time MLS All-Star striker Dwayne De Rosario scoring the lone goal for Canada. As the Canada match came to a close, the Sporting Park stands quickly filled for the much-anticipated night-cap as the USMNT made their first trip to Kansas City since 2001.
The USMNT controlled the run of play against the overmatched Guadeloupe, but could only muster one Jozy Altidore goal in a 1-0 victory. The USMNT finished second in the group stage and defeated Jamaica and Panama in the knockout round before falling to Mexico 4-2 in the championship match in head coach Bob Bradley's final match in charge.
Four years later, the Gold Cup returns to Kansas City and the United States will square off against Panama in the headline match. The first match of the doubleheader features Haiti against the winner of the Honduras / French Guiana play-in series. On Thursday, Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza was named to Honduras' squad for the two-match play-in series against French Guiana.
Tickets for the Gold Cup doubleheader went on sale to the general public Thursday morning. They can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
Do you think the United States will successfully defend its Gold Cup title and clinch a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup? Comment below!
The Sporting Club Network (SCN), presented by Price Chopper, is excited to announce the #1Crest1Club contest, presented by Chipotle, has started up for the spring season! Starting today, SCN members have the ability to participate in this online contest giving them the chance to win Chipotle gift cards or tickets to a Sporting KC match.
At Sporting KC -- and within SCN -- we believe that we are all a part of one big club, from the professionals playing at Sporting Park to the recreational teams playing across the Midwest. Network members and Sporting KC players both wear the Sporting Club patch on their jerseys to signify how we are all represented by the same crest.
Here is where the fun comes in, and we are looking for some real creativity this year. All you have to do is snap a picture that clearly includes the SCN Price Chopper patch on your jersey. This can be a group shot after a game, at the beach on vacation or even a selfie in the stands at Sporting Park! We want to see where you enjoy representing the Sporting Club crest.
Once you get the perfect picture, send it into the SCN on Twitter or Instagram by tagging @SportingKC_SCN and using the #1Crest1Club hashtag. Each day (Monday-Friday), Sporting KC staff members will choose a daily winner at 6 p.m. CT. These winners will receive a Chipotle gift card.
Once the contest ends on April 10, the 20 daily winners will be narrowed down to the top three. The contest will then move to a vote via SCN social media accounts for the grand prize. The grand prize voting will run from April 10-12 and the winner will be announced on April 13! This grand prize winner will receive a tour of Sporting Park before the game and two tickets in the Victory Suite for the Sporting KC match on May 3rd against Chicago Fire.
Remember that time Graham Zusi hit a 45-yard screamer in Frisco? Well let us remind you with this week's #TGIF below.
Jimmy Conrad has done it all. The California native won the 2001 MLS Cup, 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup and participated in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Individually, Conrad was voted the 2005 MLS Defender of the Year and was named MLS Best XI on four different occasions (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008). Conrad featured more than 200 times for Kansas City with 17 goals scored, most all-time for a Kansas City defender.
Few players wore the Kansas City crest as well for as long. So it came as no surprise when Conrad was inducted, alongside Manager Peter Vermes and the late Lamar Hunt, into the second Sporting Legends class at Sporting Park.
"After plying my trade for eight years in a city that I came to know and love, I am incredibly honored to be recognized as a Sporting Legend," Conrad said. "I want to thank everyone along the way who gave me the confidence to become that caliber of player and I can't emphasize enough how much this induction means to me and my family."
So for today's Throwback Thursday, we want to give a special birthday shoutout to Jimmy Conrad, a six-time MLS All-Star and legend in every sense of the word.
Happy birthday, Jimmy!
The offseason is officially over. Sporting KC players report to Kansas City today in time for entrance physicals at Swope Soccer Village on Saturday and a flight to Tucson, Arizona on Sunday for the first of two training camps (Jan. 25 - Feb. 10 and Feb. 15 - March 1) in The Old Pueblo.
And while we'll keep #SKCNation updated with all the latest preseason news and notes right here on SportingKC.com, social media is the must-follow source for banter and behind-the-scenes access as we count down the days until the team's season opener on March 8.
STAFF TWITTER ACCOUNTS
|Robb Heineman (CEO)||Follow @RobbHeinaman|
|Ashley Wallace (performance analyst)||Follow @AshWallace12|
|Mike Flaherty (equipment manager)||Follow @KitManSKC|
|Brian Ubert (massage therapist)||Follow @ubiewon|
|Jonathan Kaplan (communications/digital manager)||Follow @happykappy7|
|Kurt Austin (communications/digital manager)||Follow @kaustin01|
PLAYER TWITTER & INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS
|Saad Abdul-Salaam||Follow @Saad_Abdul||saad_abdul3|
|Jalil Anibaba||Follow @jalil_anibaba4||jalil_anibaba4|
|Bernardo Anor||Follow @BernardoAnor||bernardoanor|
|Matt Besler||Follow @MattBesler||mattbesler|
|Amadou Dia||Follow @Amadou_iT11||amadou_it11|
|Dom Dwyer||Follow @Ddwyer14||ddwyer14|
|Benny Feilhaber||Follow @b_feilhaber22|
|Connor Hallisey||Follow @c_hallisey||c_hallisey|
|Jon Kempin||Follow @JonKempin21||jonkempin21|
|Mikey Lopez||Follow @MLopez12_5||mlopez12_5|
|Luis Marin||Follow @luis1marin|
|Jimmy Medranda||Follow @jimmymedranda||jimao7|
|Tim Melia||Follow @TimMelia28|
|Chance Myers||Follow @CR_Myers||cr_myers|
|Paulo Nagamura||Follow @paulinhonag|
|Ike Opara||Follow @ikeopara||ikennaopara|
|Erik Palmer-Brown||Follow @ErikBrown14||erikbrown44|
|Jacob Peterson||Follow @jacob__peterson||jacobpeterson23|
|Tony Rocha||Follow @TonyRocha16|
|Seth Sinovic||Follow @ssinovic||ssinovic|
|Graham Zusi||Follow @gzusi||gzusi|
In the summer of 2006, the United States Soccer Federation invited 120 players to Middlesex School -- 20 miles outside of Boston -- to join a seven-day identification camp for the U.S. Under-14 Boys' National Team. The camp was run by Technical Director Manny Schellscheidt, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame who had coached the U.S. Men's National Team in 1975 and led the United States at the 1984 Olympics before beginning a 13-year tenure at the bottom rung of the U.S. youth national team ladder.
"I thought it was best to start with the little guys because it’s definitely important that we get the first step right," Schellscheidt told USSoccer.com. "I felt that if we can get a good introduction at the bottom with the most talented kids that we could find in the country that would be a good thing."
Among those in attendance nearly a decade ago? Sporting Kansas City homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin -- making the trip from his hometown in Leawood, Kansas -- and at least three other future members of the U.S. Men's National Team: Will Packwood, Wil Trapp and DeAndre Yedlin.
Kempin, now 21, and Trapp are each currently in Carson, California with the full U.S. Men's National Team for the first time in their professional careers after steadily progressing through the ranks. In fact, Kempin has now joined eight different levels of U.S. Soccer's national team program (U14, U15, U17, U18, U20, U21, U23, USMNT) and has been named to a U.S. Soccer roster during nine of the past 10 years.
10-YEAR RISE: U14 TO USMNT
2015: USMNT (Training Camp in California, January)
2014: U21 (Training Camp in California, April)
2013: U20 (Training Camp in Mexico, January)
2012: N/A (sidelined due to fractured ankle)
2011: U23 (Training Camp in Germany, November); U18 (Northern Ireland Milk Cup, July); U18 (Lisbon International Tournament in Portugal, May); U18 (Training Camp in Oregon, April)
2010: U18 (Traditional Winter Tournament in Israel, December); U20 (Torneo de las Americas in Georgia, November); U18 (Training Camp in California, April)
2009: U18 (Training Camp in California, December); U18 (Training Camp in California, October); U17 (Residency in Florida, Spring)
2008: U17 (Residency in Florida, Fall); U17 (Training Camp in Florida, August); U15 (Training Camp in Missouri, June); U15 (Training Camp in California, February)
2007: U15 (Development Academy Nike Friendlies in Florida, December)
2006: U14 (Identification Camp in Massachusetts, July)
Unlike Kempin's first weeklong experience in 2006, the U.S. Men's National Team January Camp is a 28-day gauntlet highlighted by a pair of international friendlies on the horizon: away to Chile on Jan. 28 and home versus Panama on Feb. 8. Kempin is one of four goalkeepers on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's roster and one of 12 Olympic-age players included with an eye toward qualifying for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I think it's going very smooth because the older guys help them to feel comfortable, to feel at ease and to enjoy it," said Klinsmann. 'I think this is a big plus for this team and has always been a big plus for the American team that they make it easy for new players to come in and feel welcome and to feel part of the group right after a couple of days. I think that's what happens now with these younger players. They feel accepted, they feel respected and they spend a lot of time together. Therefore, I think it's a nice thing to do with this January camp to help this younger group to grow into the next level."
Sporting Kansas City Defender of the Year Seth Sinovic joined Kansas City Mayor Sly James at the annual Mayor's Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Friday at Crown Center. Sinovic -- a Leawood, Kansas native -- was this year's featured celebrity and the event served to support the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund (donate here), which helps as many as 7,000 local families each year.
Sinovic's speech: Watch Now
The tree is known as one of the nation's largest at 100 feet high and seven tons in weight. The decorations include more than 1,200 ornaments and 7,200 lights, while its wood is turned into commemorative ornaments following each holiday season.
The road to College Cup officially kicks off later today as 32 of the 48 teams in the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship begin play. But the journey for seven Sporting Kansas City Academy alums has been years in the making since their days on the Swope Soccer Village fields.
Take, for example, University of Denver freshman forward Cole Stevenson. The Leawood, Kansas native and Rockhurst High School graduate has one goal and two assists in 18 appearances this season for the Pioneers, who won their second straight Summit League championship. Stevenson can be seen below as a member of the Kansas City Wizards Juniors during the 2009/10 season - the first in which the club's U16 and U18 squads competed in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
In fact, tomorrow will mark the five-year anniversary of the club's inaugural Development Academy matches. The U16's (1-0) and U18's (3-2) won both games of a doubleheader against Texas Rush at Bear Branch Soccer Complex in Woodlands, Texas.
Games to watch in the NCAA tournament (updated with scores):
- Saint Louis University (Raymond Lee) 2, University of Tulsa 0 | FINAL
- University of North Carolina (Zach Wright, Andy Lopez) 6, James Madison University 0 | FINAL
- Wake Forest University (Heath Honold) 0, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 0 (UMBC advances 3-2 on PK's) | FINAL
- University of Denver (Cole Stevenson) 0, Oregon State University 1 | FINAL
- Fordham University (Matt Lewis) 1, Dartmouth College 2 | FINAL
- Creighton University (Eric DeJulio) vs. Oregon State University | 12:30 p.m. CT on Sunday