With the start of the 2014 season less than two weeks away, Sporting Kansas City is immersed in their preseason schedule including training and participating in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. Even with their jam-packed schedule, the team set aside some time on Sunday to give back to the local community. Sporting KC players and The Victory Project teamed up with USL PRO affiliate Orlando City SC to visit the special kids staying at the Give Kids the World Village located in nearby Kissimmee, Florida.
Players -- including Dom Dwyer, C.J. Sapong, Christian Duke, Oriol Rosell, Aurelien Collin and Seth Sinovic -- participated in the Village’s “Candyland” theme night and spent time playing games, eating cotton candy and riding the carousel with kids and their families. The Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre, non-profit “story book” resort, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations.
“We are just here to try and amplify the smiles and amplify the love - so far so good,” said Sapong.
The Victory Project, Sporting KC’s foundation, has a mission to help children thrive through challenges and was founded in 2013. For more information please visit VictoryKC.org or follow us on Twitter.
Happy birthday, Ike!
Midfielder Sal Zizzo is Sporting Kansas City’s newest acquisition and I caught up with him to hear how he plans to stand out in the team, the time he pulled gum out of a stranger’s hair, and why Kansas City might be the perfect place for a food cart. Check it out!
Jamila St. Ann: Someone told me you had a food truck, Zizzo’s FC, in Portland? Tell everyone a little bit more about it.
Sal Zizzo: Yeah yeah, it was an Italian food cart. My extended family owns, maybe, six or seven restaurants in San Diego and sometimes they have fairs in Little Italy with different Italian foods and we saw the food cart scene in Portland, at the time, so a friend and I decided to test it out. My friend and I got ourselves a food cart, opened it up, and it did well. Eventually, he moved back down to San Diego and with playing, I didn’t really have time to deal with the upkeep, so I had to get rid of it.
JS: Would you consider opening up a food cart here in Kansas City?
SZ: Yeah, I would consider it. Once I get a little more settled in, you never know!
JS: Are you excited to be in Kansas City?
SZ: Yeah! Definitely, I checked out places the last few days I’ve been in town. It all looks pretty cool.
JS: Did you know anything about Kansas City before you got here?
SZ: I did. I was actually the most diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan growing up. I had a big, puffy KC Chiefs coat out in San Diego and I’d wear it to school and whatnot. Obviously I knew about the barbecue, but not much more about the city other than the Chiefs.
JS: And before you got here, you played with our own Chance Myers at UCLA. Do you remember that time together well?
SZ: Yeah. Chance is a good guy. We were at UCLA together when I was a sophomore and he was a freshman, just coming in, so I kind of showed him the ropes. And then I left when Benny [Feilhaber] came in, but I remember him pretty well from playing in Germany, too.
JS: Do you have any embarrassing stories or secrets about either of them from then?
SZ: Um, not really anything I can say publicly. *laughs*
JS: Do you have any embarrassing moments about yourself you’d like to share?
SZ: One time, I was in an airport and I was trying to spit out my gum. It got stuck on my hand and I was trying to fling it off and it flew backwards and landed in a girl’s hair. I didn’t know her and I was trying to pull it out and she was like “Ahh!” and it was kind of ripping at her hair and then it just kind of ended and we just walked away like nothing happened. It was really awkward and it was kind of funny too. It’s a funny story to tell.
JS: I saw a video you did with KICKTV Gaming, where you played a Portland super fan in FIFA 14. You’re not very good…
SZ: No, wait! *laughs* So, I’ve since then improved greatly.
JS: Good, because I was going to say that this team prides itself on its FIFA 14 gaming skills.
SZ: You’d be surprised now with my abilities. This past offseason, I was playing a lot of FIFA 14. I can pretty much guarantee if I got a rematch of that game, I would win.
JS: We’ll check back later in the season when you play some of the other guys here then.
SZ: Okay, we’ll see then!
JS: I also heard you were a big baseball fan?
SZ: Yeah. More of a football fan, but I played baseball growing up and through high school.
JS: Then if you could pro in anything else, what would it be?
SZ: If I had to choose, if I were very good at it, I would say golf.
JS: Not baseball or football? That’s a wildcard answer!
SZ: Yeah, it’s so much more relaxing other sports. And you still get to travel and see cool places. If we were talking most realistic for me to maybe make it pro in, then I’d probably say baseball. But my dream would probably be golf.
JS: Is there anything important that SKC Nation needs to know about you?
SZ: Not really, let me think… I am 100% Sicilian. Both of my parents were born in Sicily. And I’m just a really cool guy.
Jonathan Kaplan from the background: And clearly modest too! *both laugh*
SZ: Nothing else, really, other than that.
JS: Then describe your personal style for everyone.
SZ: As far as clothing or…
JS: Answer however you like!
SZ: I’m pretty laid back, pretty relaxed. I like to have fun, but I get down to business when I need to.
JS: So how will you stand out in this team full of big personalities?
SZ: I’ll make friends with everyone, so that’ll make me the “nice guy that everyone likes.” *laughs* Maybe [I’ll stand out] with my sense of humor. I’ll be pretty sarcastic at times and make a lot of jokes.
JS: What are you most excited about, being with this team now?
SZ: I’m excited to meet a lot of the guys. Excited to be apart of a winning culture, a team that’s won the Open Cup and the MLS Cup in back to back seasons. It’s a very deep squad and I’m looking forward to playing with these talented players everyday.
On Tuesday, the Sporting KC Academy U-17 squad took home the proverbial gold, grabbing first place in the US Youth Futsal national championship.
Are you really surprised, though? 25 years ago, Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes won his own futsal medal, taking third place at the first FIFA Five-a-Side World Championship in Holland.
Vermes scored six goals in the tournament, including two in the bronze medal match to lead the United States back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Belgium in overtime.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer Communications
Sports Radio 810 WHB host Nate Bukaty is embedded in Sporting Kansas City's preseason training camp in Orlando, Fla. this week. Prior to Wednesday's doubleheader (Sporting KC picked up shutout victories over Eastern Florida State College and the New York Red Bulls), Bukaty sat down with Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes, central defender Ike Opara and winger Sal Zizzo in his latest round of interviews. For previous podcasts and all the latest from Sporting Kansas City's official radio partner, visit 810whb.com and download the station's free mobile app.
Who are the top 20 goalscorers of all-time in MLS and how many can you name in one minute? During preseason, MLSsoccer.com caught up with several players and coaches to test their knowledge on MLS history. One of these players is Matt Belser, who correctly answered nine of the 20 in one minute.
Check out the video below as the Sporting KC defender takes the MLS goalscorer quiz.
Sporting Kansas City will kick off the 2014 Disney Pro Soccer Classic on Wednesday afternoon against the New York Red Bulls. Ahead of today's match, Sports Radio 810 WHB's Nate Bukaty caught up with several Sporting KC players and coaches to get their thoughts on preseason. Later on 810 WHB, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman was a guest on "Between The Lines" to discuss winning MLS Cup and looking ahead to the upcoming season.
Check out podcasts of all the interviews below.
Photo via @CarolMassar on Twitter
One day after appearing on FOX Sports 1 alongside Omar Gonzalez and Kyle Beckerman, Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler joined U.S. MNT teammate Brad Evans on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock" on Tuesday. Host Carol Massar talked with Besler about the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Major League Soccer's 19th season and the players' perspective on the growth of American soccer.
"I think in the next couple years you're really going to see guys come back and (MLS will) be the choice league of top players," Besler told Massar. "Unless something drastically changes, I see myself staying here and playing my whole career."
Watch the six-minute segment below and for more video of Besler, visit the official MLS YouTube channel. Besler made a guest appearance on The Brad Evans Show and sat down to take the MLS leading goalscorer quiz while in New York City for the annual pre-season media and marketing tour.
Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are currently in New York participating in the annual Major League Soccer Media / Marketing tour. As part of the tour, Besler joined Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman and LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez Monday on FOX Sports 1's Crowd Goes Wild.
The first segment is a roundtable discussion with the hosts - Georgie Thompson, Trevor Pryce and Katie Nolan - which touches on a variety of topics from Brazil to MLS to offseason weddings. The second is a skills challenge, where each player is tasked with trying to score as many baskets in 30 seconds with a soccer ball without using their hands.