Sporting Kansas City players and coaches took to the field for the first time on Tuesday as the team’s 2011 pre-season opened at the Chiefs Indoor Practice Facility with several new faces among the mix.
Designated Player Omar Bravo gave a glimpse of his attacking prowess. The team’s six draft picks took their first touches as professional players. And a handful of pre-season guest trialists, including former Sporting Kansas City Juniors player Kevin Ellis, blended in with the bunch.
But across the board, from the core of returning veterans to recently acquired Luke Sassano, players made it clear they understood the significance of 2011 for Sporting Kansas City.
“As a team, we’re looking towards big things this year,” defender Shavar Thomas said. “The goal is to win trophies, MLS Cup being one of them, and today’s a start. It’s a process and as a group, we’re working toward that from day one.”
Thomas, like many of his Kansas City teammates, had a busy offseason that kept him near the soccer field while captaining the Jamaican National Team to the Digicel Caribbean Cup championship over Sporting midfielder Stephane Auvray and Guadeloupe in December. While in Jamaica for the holidays, Thomas joined former Kansas City players Wolde Harris and Khari Stephenson at the Kick It Christmas Football Camp, sponsored by the Jamaica Grassroots Football Company.
On the attacking side of the ball, Sporting Kansas City playmaker Ryan Smith said he has high hopes for his second season in the U.S.
“I want to be a marquee player in MLS this year,” Smith said on Monday. “I plan to be working hard to try and achieve that, but the goal is to start well as a team. If we do well as a team, it benefits everyone individually. So I’m really looking forward to starting over with a fresh season and making the playoffs this year.”
Even Sassano, a newcomer acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy last month, recognized the opportunities ahead of Sporting Kansas City in the upcoming season.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Kansas City so I’m looking forward to starting pre-season with the guys and getting the new year going,” Sassano said on Monday. “This team is in a complete upward direction, just look at the new stadium being built for proof of that. I’m happy to be part of it now.”
Sassano missed Tuesday’s training while continuing to rehabilitate an ankle injury suffered last season with the New York Red Bulls.
“I’m coming off an injury so this pre-season is especially important for me to get back on the field,” he said. “This is a new opportunity for me in KC and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team and hopefully get into the starting eleven.”
Manager Peter Vermes will continue to test and assess his pre-season roster indoors the next three days in Kansas City before departing for warmer weather in Phoenix, Arizona.
The team added two games to it’s previously announced pre-season schedule as Sporting Kansas City will face the United States Under-18 National Team on February 15th before playing the NASL’s Montreal Impact on February 26th. Both games will used mixed squads to give the team’s full roster competitive minutes during the two games scheduled on both dates.
Sporting Kansas City’s full 2011 pre-season schedule (subject to change, all times Mountain Standard Time):
|Saturday, February 5th||Columbus Crew||10:00am||Phoenix, AZ (Reach 11)|
|Wednesday, February 9th||Intra-Squad||10:00am||Phoenix, AZ (Reach 11)|
|Saturday, February 12th||Colorado Rapids||10:00am||Phoenix, AZ (Reach 11)|
|Tuesday, February 15th||Houston Dynamo||10:00am||Phoenix, AZ (Reach 11)|
|Tuesday, February 15th||U.S. Under-18 MNT||11:00am||Phoenix, AZ (Reach 11)|
|Saturday, February 26th||Portland Timbers||11:00am||Casa Grande, AZ (Grande Sports World)|
|Saturday, February 26th||Montreal Impact||12:30pm||Casa Grande, AZ (Grande Sports World)|
|Friday, March 4th||Arizona Sahuaros||7:00pm||Tucson, AZ (Hi Corbett)|
|Saturday, March 5th||New York Red Bulls||7:00pm||Tucson, AZ (Hi Corbett)|