Sporting KC Weekly Update: July 23, 2014

CHAMPIONS OF ENGLAND VISIT SPORTING PARK TONIGHT IN HIGHLY-ANTICIPATED FRIENDLY
Reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City host the defending English Premier League champions Manchester City tonight at 8 p.m. CT at Sporting Park. The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes with radio coverage in Kansas City on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Gran D 1340. A limited number of tickets are still available for the Champions Shield and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. The marquee showdown between the domestic title holders is part of Summer in the Soccer Capital, presented by the Sprint Framily Plan. 

Manchester City's visit to Sporting Park marks the fourth time Sporting KC has faced an English Premier League club in a friendly since 2010. Should tonight's 90-minute contest end in a draw, the winner will be decided by a penalty shootout.

Sporting KC is first in the MLS Eastern Conference (10-5-5, 35 points) and has notched five victories in their last six games. Manchester City, meanwhile, kicks off their preseason tour in the United States tonight in preparation for the 2014-15 English Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Sporting KC is the first of Manchester City's four opponents in the U.S., as the Sky Blues will then participate in the International Champions Cup against Liverpool, Olympiacos and AC Milan.

During the 2013-14 season, Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy and the Capital One Cup to notch the club's first ever double-winning campaign. Under first-year manager Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City finished league play with a 27-6-5 record an scored a club record 102 goals, one short of the Premier League record. The League title was Manchester City's second in the past three seasons.

BESLER AND ZUSI SIGN DESIGNATED PLAYER CONTRACTS WITH SPORTING KC
Sporting KC signed defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi to long-term Designated Player contracts last Saturday. Per club policy, additional terms of the agreements will not be disclosed.

An Overland Park native, Besler became the first player from the state of Kansas to play in a FIFA World Cup when he started all four matches for the United States in Brazil this summer. The 27-year-old centerback debuted for the U.S. in January 2013 and has 21 career international appearances, including all three knockout round games en route to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

Besler was named captain of the reigning MLS Cup champions prior to the 2014 season and was recognized as the Kansas City Sports Commission Sportsman of the Year in April. He has made 148 MLS appearances (including postseason) with two goals and seven assists since being drafted by Kansas City in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Notre Dame.

Zusi is also coming off a strong performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He appeared in all four games for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and contributed assists in back-to-back group stage games against Ghana and Portugal. The 27-year-old has earned 27 career international appearances with three goals and six assists in a U.S. Men’s National Team jersey.

Taken in the second round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft as a two-time national champion at the University of Maryland, Zusi has recorded 18 goals and 40 assists in 145 MLS matches (including postseason) over six professional seasons with Sporting KC.

TRIP TO TORONTO BECKONS FOR SPORTING KC
Sporting KC will put its four game road winning streak on the line this Saturday against Toronto FC at BMO Field. The match will be televised locally on KMCI 38 The Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV, with radio coverage on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Gran D 1340 AM (Spanish). The team's official watch parties will be held at the Johnny's Tavern locations in the KC Power & Light District (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Overland Park (6765 W. 119th St.).

Toronto FC (7-5-5, 26 points) is third in the East but has at least two games in hand on their conference foes. The Canadian club features U.S. Men's National Team midfielder Michael Bradley and English forward Jermain Defoe, who ranks fourth in MLS with 11 goals but will miss Saturday's match due to caution accumulation.

Sporting KC's 10-4-5 all-time mark against Toronto is its best record against any team with at least five meetings played. In addition, Sporting KC’s seven MLS regular season victories all-time on Canadian soil are second most of an American club behind D.C. United’s eight.

SPORTING KC KNOCKS OFF COLUMBUS AND LA TO RECLAIM TOP SPOT IN EAST
Sporting KC registered two League wins last week, defeating the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy by 2-1 scorelines to surge back into first place in the Eastern Conference. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber spearheaded the win in Columbus, assisting C.J. Sapong's first goal of the year just before halftime and striking an MLS Goal of the Week nominee in the 93rd minute to give Sporting KC its fourth straight road triumph. This marked the first time in franchise history that the team has rattled off four straight victories away from home.

Three days later at Sporting Park, Feilhaber fired Sporting KC into an early lead against LA Galaxy with an impressive free kick. Lawrence Olum doubled the hosts' lead  just after the hour mark, heading home from close range after Graham Zusi's club record-breaking 452nd corner kick bounced around the box. LA Galaxy cut the deficit in half through Robbie Keane in the 79th minute, but Peter Vermes' men held on for all three points.

BESLER, COLLIN AND ZUSI SELECTED TO MLS-ALL STAR ROSTER
Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Graham Zusi were named to the 2014 MLS All-Star gameday roster last Saturday and will represent Sporting KC when the MLS All-Stars take on Bayern Munich on Aug. 6.

Besler has twice collected MLS Best XI (2012, 2013) honors and is a three-time MLS All-Star (2011, 2013, 2014). He was awarded MLS Defender of the Year in 2012 before being named a finalist again in 2013. Besler was Sporting KC’s Defensive Player of the Year each of the past three seasons.

Collin earns MLS All-Star honors for a third consecutive year after signing with Sporting KC in April 2011. The 28-year-old centerback was a member of the MLS Best XI each of the last two seasons and was a Defender of the Year finalist in 2012. His 15 goals are most among defenders in MLS competition since 2011.

Zusi is also an All-Star for the third straight season. The midfielder was named to the MLS Best XI each of the last two years and was an MLS MVP finalist in 2012 after leading the League with a career-high 15 assists in the regular season (third most in a single-season in club history). In 2013, Zusi was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, was nominated for Best MLS Player at the ESPYS and was the top rated midfielder in the MLS Castrol Index. He has been voted Sporting KC’s Most Valuable Player each of the last two years.

BENNY FEILHABER WINS MLS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber was named MLS Player of the Week on Monday. Feilhaber contributed to both goals in the team’s 2-1 victory at Columbus on July 16 and scored in his second straight match--a free kick from outside the box--as the reigning MLS Cup champions beat LA Galaxy last Saturday at Sporting Park.

In 2014, Feilhaber has started the most MLS matches (19) of any Sporting KC player and has suffered the second most fouls in MLS (48). He is amongst the top five MLS midfielders in the following statistical categories: passes (1050, No. 5), passes in opponents half (654, No. 5), successful passes in opponents half (510, No. 5), passes into final third (196, No. 2), touches (1399, No. 5), duels (232, No. 4), duels won (127, No. 5) and recoveries (153, No. 4).

IGOR JULIAO JOINS FEILHABER ON MLS TEAM OF THE WEEK
Alongside Benny Feilhaber, defender Igor Juliao was named to MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week for the first time in his career after helping Sporting KC to wins over Columbus (July 16) and LA Galaxy (July 19). He registered his first career assist in the 93rd minute against the Crew as Benny Feilhaber’s MLS Goal of the Week nominee won the match. The 19 year-old right back debuted for Sporting KC on May 14 and has started every match since.

JIMMY MEDRANDA REJOINS SPORTING KC FROM OKC LOAN
Sporting KC has recalled midfielder Jimmy Medranda from his loan to USL PRO affiliate OKC Energy FC. He will be available to play in tonight's Champions Shield match against Manchester City. Medranda will return tomorrow to Energy FC, where he has played in two matches since his USL PRO debut on July 12.

RECIPIENTS OF 2014 KEVIN GRAY AWARDS REVEALED
Recipients of the fourth annual Kevin Gray Player of the Year Awards, presented by Pepsi, were revealed on Saturday in a special ceremony held in the Boulevard Members Club at Sporting Park. The awards, co-sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International, recognize soccer players, coaches and ambassadors in the Kansas City area while honoring the late Kansas City Sports Commission president Kevin Gray.

Male Youth Player of the Year: Jo Jo Piatczyc (Sporting KC Academy U18)
Female Youth Player of the Year: Cristina DeZeeuw (Sporting Blue Valley SC, St. Teresa's Academy)
Adult Player of the Year: Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC, U.S. Men's National Team)
Coach of the Year: Peter Vermes (Sporting KC)
Ambassador of the Year: Robb Heinemann (Sporting Club)

Visit SportingKC.com/KGA for more information on the Kevin Gray Awards, including the nomination process and past recipients.

SPORTING KC ACADEMY U14's AT US YOUTH SOCCER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Sporting Kansas City Under-14 Academy team began play in the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships yesterday in Germantown, Maryland. One of eight teams in their age group to have reached the national tournament, the squad qualified as state then regional champions and now represents Region II against the top teams from across the country.

The U14's have drawn each of their first two group games with a 1-1 stalemate against United FA Elite 00 yesterday and a 1-1 tie against CSA 00 Lobos Rush Premier today. The team concludes group stage play tomorrow at 9 a.m. CT vs. Arlington SA Eagles Red. The first and second place finishers in each group will advance to the semifinals on Saturday, July 26 with those winners meeting in the national championship on Sunday, July 27.

SPORTING KC SELECTS VML AS OFFICIAL MARKETING PARTNER
Sporting KC announced Monday that it has named global marketing agency VML as its official marketing partner. VML will provide strategic planning, consulting for sponsorship and access to the agency's global network of talent across multiple disciplines. Sporting KC will provide access to assets such as hospitality, experiential marketing opportunities and signage.

The strategic partnership is a three-year engagement with the objective to showcase the natural convergence of the physical and digital worlds for Sporting KC sponsors. The club will also look to partner with VML to activate innovative marketing programs and build engagement with fans for shared advertising partners such as US Bank, Microsoft, MillerCoors and U.S. Soccer.

BRANDI LEGGETT A FINALIST FOR MLS WORKS COMMUNITY MVP
Major League Soccer has announced the finalists for the MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest presented by Wells Fargo. The Grand Prize winner, as voted by the fans, will be awarded a $10,000 donation for the charity of their choice and a trip to the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game in Portland.

Sporting KC is represented by Brandi Leggett for her involvement with the Active Readers program. A 2014 Kansas Regional Teacher of the Year, Leggett created the Active Readers program in 2013 at Prairie Ridge Elementary in Shawnee to further reading comprehension through students' interest in soccer and Sporting KC. More than 100 boys and girls participated in the eight-week program, which gathers students once a week for 30 minutes of soccer instruction followed by 30 minutes of reading/literacy instruction. MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest fan voting is open now through Friday on the MLS WORKS web site. The Grand Prize winner will be announced this Friday at 1 p.m. CT.

BUZZ BEACH BALL TICKETS NOW ON SALE
Tickets are now on sale for Buzz Beach Ball, presented by 96.5 The Buzz and Sporting KC. The concert is set for Sept. 5 at Sporting Park, with tickets starting as low as $30 on Ticketmaster.com. Buzz Beach Ball acts include Arctic Monkeys, Weezer and The 1975. For more information, visit BeachBallKC.com.

FOLLOW SPORTING KC ONLINE
Sporting KC fans looking to keep up with the club on the worldwide web now have a place to go. The Social Media page on SportingKC.com features Twitter account information for the club, its players as well as many staff members. Additionally, fans may take advantage of the Media Recap page for all the latest independent news coverage available online.

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