Nielsen named captain for 2012

Sporting KC goalkeeper chosen to lead club on and off field

Jimmy Nielsen in Eastern Conference Semifinal

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Peter Vermes gathered his group of players following a spirited intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was the penultimate training session for the team in Orlando and while decisions still loom for Vermes with one week until the season opener at D.C. United (March 10, 6:30 pm CT on KSMO-TV), the Sporting KC Manager had made up his mind on one of the lingering questions for his squad.

Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen will captain the club for the 2012 season.

"It's a big honor to be a captain for a fantastic team like this and an outstanding organization," Nielsen said on Saturday. 

The veteran Danish shot-stopper enters his third MLS season this year following an off-season that saw him sign an extension to remain with the team through 2013. An MLS All-Star in his debut season and Team MVP in 2011, Nielsen emphasized his focus remains on team accomplishments for the campaign ahead.

"It's a great team and we should have the ambition to go for the MLS Cup," Nielsen said. "I believe that if we keep doing things like we are now, we'll be one of the teams that is fighting for the MLS Cup and that should be the goal for us. We went to the conference final last year and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be reaching for the final this year. The main goal for me is to win a championship this year."

Nielsen accepts the captainship following the departure of Davy Arnaud during the offseason and the decision was a collective one among the team's technical staff.

"I think it was a natural step for us and for the team," said goalkeeper coach John Pascarella. "Jimmy is a great leader in the back. He has a tremendous amount of respect from all the players in the locker room. People respect him for what he does, what he believes in and the way he works. I think it was a great choice."

Having trained Nielsen for the past two seasons, Pascarella points to a player who is still on the rise and in the prime of his career at age 34.

"He feels even better than he did when he first got here a couple of years ago," Pascarella said. "Physically, he's doing great. Technically, he's cleaned up a couple things. He reads the game and understands the game tremendously. The fact that he is going to be the leader of the group is going to be a wonderful thing for all of us."

Nielsen, who has worn the captain's armband previously in his career, says he expects to organize a team meeting on Wednesday to bring everyone together and begin his duties diligently.

"Right now, it's important to get a good start," Nielsen said. "I'm really looking forward (to D.C. United). We're ready to play a real game now. We had two great training camps with a lot of games and a lot of practice, but now we want the real stuff. I think everybody is ready for that and we're very, very excited to get started. I have a good feeling about this year."