A year ago this time, Graham Zusi was coming off a Man of the Match performance for the U.S. Men's National Team in their 2014 opener...the first of 10 international appearances on the year, including all four U.S. MNT matches at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, to go along with 31 games across all competition for Sporting Kansas City.
Fast forward to present day and Zusi has been sidelined with a stress reaction in his foot since the team's elimination from the MLS Cup Playoffs in October -- missing two U.S. Men's National Team camps and reduced to limited participation through Sporting Kansas City's first two weeks of preseason activity. His injury-forced hiatus is nearing its end, however, and the three-time MLS All-Star is ready for a return to the field for the first time more than 14 weeks.
Tucson's ABC affiliate KGUN9 caught up with him on Thursday at the Kino Sports Complex to talk about the recent rest and recovery. Check out the video below...
Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler joined The Border Patrol on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning to chat with hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John from the U.S. Men's National Team training camp in Santiago, Chile. The Overland Park, Kansas native previewed tomorrow's friendly at Estadio El Teniente among other topics that included the inclusion of Olympic-age players in the annual January Camp, Sporting KC teammate Jon Kempin's first call-up to the senior team and how he came to know local 11-year-old Dominic Vargas during his fight with cancer.
On Jon Kempin's first U.S. MNT camp...
He's putting in the work. I'm telling you guys, he looks really good. It's a credit to him because he's come in and played with confidence. He acts like he has been a part of this team and that he belongs here. I've been really impressed with his ability to hang with us because when you look at him, he still is very young for a goalkeeper. I'm going to tell Peter the same thing when we get back to Kansas City. I think he's really developing here at camp and I think everyone can be really excited about his potential and his future here.
Listen to the 10-minute interview embedded below...
The United States - No. 27 in the latest FIFA rankings - will open their 2015 schedule against No. 14 ranked Chile on Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1, UniMas and UDN. Both teams participated in the 2014 FIFA World Cup last summer and will also take part in the Copa America Centenario USA 2016. The U.S. is unbeaten in their last four games against Chile dating back to 1995 (3-4-2 all-time).
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|
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|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."
Last week in Philadelphia, SI.com senior writer Grant Wahl sat down with Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes to preview the 2015 season. Wahl and Vermes discussed the return of Roger Espinoza, losing Aurelien Collin and moving to the Western Conference. Sporting KC will kick off their preseason campaign Sunday with the first of two trips to Tucson, Arizona.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza traveled to Miami over the weekend to participate in the annual media / marketing tour for Major League Soccer. The World Cup veteran appeared on Univision's Republica Deportiva Sunday morning along with the LA Galaxy's Jaime Penedo and Seattle Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa. Espinoza also appeared on the Soccer Gods, alongside host Simon Carr.
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) January 18, 2015
Are you interested in helping energize the most exciting game day experience in professional sports while helping raise money to help children battling cancer?
If so, Sporting Club is launching a unique new program just for you. Sporting Victors allows passionate, enthusiastic participants to acquire first-hand experience working in professional sports. Victors will have the opportunity to meet and network with Sporting KC leaders, fellow fans and players while building transferable skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest service and effective communication.
To apply and learn more about becoming a part of Sporting Victors, click here!
Sporting Kansas City is hiring part-time event staff ahead of the 2015 season. Interested candidates are invited to Sporting Park (One Sporting Way, Kansas City, KS 66111) on Saturday, Jan. 24 from 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. or on Tuesday, Jan. 27 from 5:30 - 9 p.m to obtain more information.
The various part-time positions needed include Concierges, Fan Hosts, Gate Ambassadors, Elevator Concierge and other Guest Service positions. Sporting Style will be looking for Merchandise representatives and Building Services will be looking to hire Attendants to help with pre-game preparation that may include pressure washing, window cleaning, etc.
Applicants must be 18 years or older. Saturday's job fair will take place in the Shield Club. Participants should park on the Sprint Plaza and follow signs to the Shield Club entrance. Tuesday's job fair will be held in the Boulevard Members Club. Parking for Tuesday's applicants will be in Lot D behind Lonestar Restaurant. After parking, Tuesday's applicants should follow signs to the Boulevard Members Club.
Please email Stephen Howell (email@example.com) or call 913-912-7511 with questions. For information specific to the Building Services Attendant positions, please email Jeff Fickas (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 913-912-7508.
Sporting Kansas City is in position to make a big splash at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday. Manager Peter Vermes will have three first round draft picks—the 10th, 12th and 20th overall selections—to strengthen his roster ahead of the new season.
The MLS SuperDraft has been an invaluable squad-building tool for Vermes during his tenure as head coach. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Roger Espinoza and Chance Myers all comprise the current core of a team that has won an MLS Cup, a U.S. Open Cup and two regular season conference titles over the last four years.
Vermes selected each of them in the MLS SuperDraft.
Could 2015 be the draft where Sporting KC strikes big again? With the 10th, 12th and 20th overall picks, the chance is certainly there. And a look at past MLS SuperDraft results indicate that impact players can come from just about anywhere in the first round.
Below is a successful crop of MLS players who were selected either 10th, 12th or 20th in the draft. As history shows, Sporting KC could be primed to make a valuable, long-term addition (or two) to its roster on Thursday.
Notable No. 10 picks in the MLS SuperDraft
- Kevin Alston (2009) – The defender has started 131 of his 138 MLS appearances for the New England Revolution (including postseason) over the last six seasons. His 2013 and 2014 campaigns were shortened by his battle with leukemia, but that didn’t stop him from making four appearances in the 2014 postseason as the Revs advanced to MLS Cup.
- C.J. Sapong (2011) – Sapong took little time settling in at the professional level, earning 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year honors en route to becoming a fan favorite at Sporting Park. The forward scored 27 goals for the club in all competitions and appeared in all 11 of Sporting KC’s playoff matches from 2011-2014.
- Ethan Finlay (2012) – The winger enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, leading Columbus Crew SC with 11 goals and seven assists and helping the club secure its first postseason berth since 2011.
Notable No. 12 picks in the MLS SuperDraft
- Wade Barrett (1998) – The 10-year MLS veteran defender won three MLS Cups with either San Jose (2001) or Houston (2006, 2007) and started 255 of his 262 MLS appearances (including postseason). Currently an assistant coach with the Dynamo, Barrett played three seasons in Denmark and Norway between 2002-2004.
- Jose Burciaga (2001) – After playing just seven MLS matches in his first three seasons at Kansas City, Burciaga flourished into a vital defensive cog. He helped the team reach the 2004 MLS Cup final and in 2006, recorded eight goals and eight assists en route to team MVP honors and an MLS Best XI selection. He finished his Kansas City career with 15 goals and 18 assists in 130 games across all competitions.
- Chris Wingert (2004) – An offseason acquisition for expansion team New York City FC, Wingert has played 292 league matches over 11 MLS seasons and helped Real Salt Lake quality for the playoffs every year from 2008-2014. He was a 2009 MLS Cup champion and a 2011 CONCACAF Champions League finalist.
Notable No. 20 pick in the MLS SuperDraft
- Baggio Husidic (2009) – The Bosnian midfielder spent three under-the-radar seasons with Chicago from 2009-2011 before moving to Swedish club Hammarby. He returned to MLS in 2014, enjoying a breakout season with MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy. He played in 38 of the club’s 39 MLS matches, contributing five goals and four assists.