Sporting KC Weekly Update: April 22, 2015

SPORTING KC ON THE ROAD SATURDAY TO FACE RIVALS HOUSTON DYNAMO
Sporting Kansas City concludes its two-game road trip with a visit to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and will air live locally on KMCI 38 The Spot and across the midwest on SKCTV. Three hours of on-site television coverage will begin at 7 p.m. CT with radio broadcasts also available on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

In a five-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, Sporting KC (2-2-3, 9 points) and the Houston Dynamo (2-2-3, 9 points) continue their rivalry in the Western Conference after joining from the East at the conclusion of 2014. The clubs met in the postseason three straight years from 2011-2013 and split last year's regular season series 1-1. Peter Vermes' squad is undefeated in each of their last four matches at BBVA Compass Stadium (2-0-2), including a 2-0 triumph last June that kick-started an eight-game unbeaten run.

Led by first-year manager Owen Coyle, the Dynamo have conceded a league-low four goals, including just one in four home games. Homegrown goalkeeper Tyler Deric leads MLS with 27 saves and a 0.57 goals against average, while also winning MLS Save of the Week three times in 2015. Meanwhile, Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber and forward Krisztian Nemeth enter the match in strong form themselves. Feilhaber leads the league with five assists, while Nemeth has scored twice in the last three games in his first MLS season.

Saturday's contest features two of Major League Soccer's best playmakers during the modern era. Sporting KC's Graham Zusi and Houston's Brad Davis, who played together for the United States at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, lead MLS in total chances created (329 each) and chances created from set play (172 each) since the beginning of 2011.

SPORTING KC SUFFERS LAST-MINUTE 2-1 LOSS AT LA GALAXY
Sporting KC lost their match of the season last Saturday with a late 2-1 defeat at defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy. Substitute Omar Gonzalez scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute after Baggio Husidic and Krisztian Nemeth were on target in the first half. Winners of three of the past four MLS Cup championships, LA (3-2-2, 11 points) extended their 26-game unbeaten streak at StubHub Center and jumped to third place in the Western Conference, two points above Sporting KC.

The Galaxy went ahead in the eighth minute when Husidic pounced on a rebound for his first goal of the year. Luis Marin parried a low shot from Stefan Ishizaki, but Husidic was on hand to convert the simple finish.

Sporting KC responded with a well-orchestrated equalizer, unlocking the Galaxy defense through the combination play of Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber to set up Nemeth for his second goal in three games. Dwyer cut inside from the right wing and picked out Feilhaber near the penalty mark. The 30-year-old veteran squared a first-time pass into space for Nemeth, and the Hungarian calmly chipped the outrushing Jaime Pinedo to level the scoreline. Feilhaber now leads MLS with five assists in 2015, while Nemeth moves into the team lead with two goals in his debut MLS campaign. 

With four minutes of stoppage time added to the second half, LA grabbed all three points in the game's final play. Juninho's corner kick fell to Gonzalez, whose shot deflected off Bernardo Anor and into the net.

JON KEMPIN ON U.S. U-23 NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER TO FACE MEXICO
Jon Kempin has joined the United States Under-23 Men's National Team roster ahead of tonight's match against Mexico's U-23 National Team. The friendly will kick off at 10 p.m. CT at StubHub Center in Carson, California, and will be nationally televised live on UniMas and Univision Deportes Network.

Currently on loan with the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League, Kempin is one of two goalkeepers on the 20-player roster selected by head coach Andi Herzog as the U-23 team prepares for the 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying championship from Oct. 1-13. The tournament will be held in the U.S. and will determine the region's representatives at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Kempin, 22, was a member of the U.S. Men's National Team earlier this year for the first time ever after previously representing the United States at the Under-14 through Under-23 levels. The Leawood, Kansas, native is a product of the Sporting KC Academy and became the team's first homegrown player at age 17.

Now in his sixth professional season, Kempin played five games for Sporting KC in 2014, including his debuts in MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League. He became the youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS match in club history and earned back-to-back MLS Save of the Week honors in his first two appearances last August.

HOMEGROWN DEFENDER ERIK PALMER-BROWN JOINS U.S. U-20'S IN AUSTRIA
Sporting KC defender Erik Palmer-Brown has joined the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team for a training camp in Linz, Austria. Led by head coach Tab Ramos, the U.S. departed for Europe on Saturday before drawing the Qatar U-20’s 2-2 on Tuesay. Palmer-Brown and the U.S. will conclude the training camp Saturday against the Croatia U-20’s at Red Bull Arena in Wals-Siezenheim, Austria.

Palmer-Brown is one of six defenders on the 20-player roster gathered in preparation for the start of the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup next month. The United States will play Myanmar (May 30), New Zealand (June 2) and Ukraine (June 5) in Group A of the 24-team competition.

Palmer-Brown has appeared in seven matches for Sporting KC across all competition, including the team's 2015 season opener. The 17-year-old is the youngest player to appear in Major League Soccer each of the past two seasons and he most recently represented the United States Under-20 Men's National Team in March during a training camp in England.

In addition, two Sporting KC Academy players recently joined United States youth national team rosters. U-14 defender Cameron Duke is one of 36 players with the U.S. Under-14 Boys’ National Team for a training camp from April 18-26 in Carson, California, while U-16 defender Jaylin Lindsey is on the U.S. Under-15 Boys’ National Team roster for the 12th Tournament Delle Nazioni from April 21-May 2 in Europe.

LOPEZ AND OKC ENERGY FC EXTEND UNBEATEN START TO USL SEASON
On the same night that Sporting KC conceded a last-minute goal to lose 2-1 at LA Galaxy, on-loan midfielder Mikey Lopez was on the winning side of late-game dramatics on Saturday. Lopez played the entirety of OKC Energy FC's 2-1 come-from-behind win over Seattle Sounders FC 2 before a sellout crowd of 6,797 at Oklahoma City’s newly renovated Taft Stadium. Jimmy Nielsen's men are undefeated (2-0-1, 7 points) through three matches of the USL season, each of which Lopez has started.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Kempin and Saad Abdul-Salaam started and played 90 minutes as the San Antonio Scorpions (0-2-0, 0 points) lost 2-1 to Indy Eleven at Toyota Field in San Antonio. It was the second straight match in which both players went the distance for the defending North American Soccer League champions.

SPORTING KC ACADEMY U-16 AND U-18 SQUADS IN ACTION SATURDAY AT SWOPE
The Sporting KC Academy U-16's and U-18's will play a U.S. Soccer Development Academy doubleheader against Texans SC Houston at Swope Soccer Village on Saturday. The U-18's (9-7-4, 6th place) will kick off at 10 a.m. CT, followed by the U-16's (4-6-10, 9th place) at 12:30 p.m. CT. Both matches are free and open to the public to attend.

Both teams are riding long unbeaten streaks in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action. The U-18's are undefeated in eight straight games while the U-16's have gone 10 straight without a loss. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

FOUR PLAYERS TO ASSIST AT SPORTING KC'S RECYCLE YOUR GAME CLINIC TONIGHT
Four Sporting KC players—Luis Marin, Marcel de Jong, Tim Melia and Servando Carrasco—will assist at Sporting KC's Recycle Your Game clinic from 5:30-7 p.m. CT tonight at 9th and Van Brunt in Kansas City, Missouri. The Victory Project and Sporting Club Network have collected new and gently used soccer equipment throughout the month of April in conjunction with National Recycling Month and will now distribute the items to underserved youth. Since the launch of the campaign in 2014, more than 500 pairs of soccer cleats, shin guards and soccer balls have been distributed to more than 150 children within the community.

ROGER ESPINOZA TO SIGN AUTOGRAPHS AT SHOP MO SPORTS ON THURSDAY
On Thursday, Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza will sign autographs at Shop MO Sports (874 S. State Rte 291) from 6:30-8 p.m. CT in Liberty, Missouri. The two-time World Cup veteran has one goal and one assist in 2015 since returning to the club after two years in England with Wigan Athletic.

SPORTING PARK TO HOST K-STATE FOOTBALL SPRING GAME ON SATURDAY
Sporting Park will host Kansas State University's 2015 Purple/White Spring football game Saturday at 3 p.m. CT. A limited number of tickets are available for standing-room only, Bud Light Landing and UMB Field Club areas by calling 1-800-221-CATS.

YOGA ON THE PITCH SET FOR SATURDAY, MAY 2, AT SPORTING PARK
The Victory Project has announced that it will host a “Yoga on the Pitch” fundraising event at Sporting Park on Saturday, May 2.

The 60-minute all levels yoga class, held on the Sporting Park pitch, will help raise funds for The Victory Project and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Yoga will be led by lululemon athletica Ambassadors and Pop-Up Yoga KC. Select Sporting KC players will also participate in the class and will hold an autograph session afterwards.

Yoga on the Pitch is open to people of all ages. The cost for the event is $50 and includes yoga, an event tank top and the chance to win prizes courtesy of lululemon, Sporting KC and other local companies. Visit SportingKC.com/yoga to sign up for the event. To learn more about fundraising initiatives supporting The Victory Project, follow @VictoryKC on Twitter and visit VictoryKC.org.

FC KANSAS CITY TO PLAY FIRST MATCH AT SWOPE SOCCER VILLAGE ON THURSDAY
FC Kansas City will play their first National Women's Soccer League match at Swope Soccer Village at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday against the Seattle Reign in a rematch of the 2014 NWSL Championship. Thursday's match will be a send-off for the team's four players joining the U.S. Women's National Team in preparation for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup: Lauren Holiday, Heather O'Reilly, Amy Rodriguez and Becky Sauerbrunn. Tickets start at $11 and are available online or by calling 855-4KC-GOAL.

TICKETS ON SALE FOR CONCACAF GOLD CUP DOUBLEHEADER ON JULY 13
Tickets are now on sale via Ticketmaster.com for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader to be played at Sporting Park on July 13. The United States Men's National Team will face Panama at 8:30 pm. CT in the Group A finale after Haiti takes on either Honduras or French Guiana at 6 p.m. CT. CONCACAF announced the group stage matchups for the 12-team tournament last month.

All tickets provide entry to both matches with prices starting at $35 for general admission seating in the South Stand or Members Stand. Sporting KC could feature players on three of the teams competing at Sporting Park that evening—Matt Besler and Graham Zusi of the U.S., Haitian midfielder Soni Mustivar and Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza.

The Gold Cup is the region’s marquee national team tournament and the headline competition for the United States Men’s National Team in 2015. This year’s tournament carries additional significance as it will determine CONCACAF's representatives at the Centennial Cup America in 2016 and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017.

SPORTING KC TO HOST OPEN TRYOUTS JUNE 13-14
Sporting KC will host the team's 2015 open tryouts on June 13-14 at Swope Soccer Village (6310 Lewis Road) in Kansas City, Missouri. Online registration is now open and will be available to the first 200 players who are 18 years or older.

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The club first organized open tryouts in the buildup to the team's inaugural season in 1996. More recently, Sporting KC has welcomed prospective professionals each year since 2008 when two players, Nelson Pizarro and Kevin Souter, were signed by Vermes and went on to appear in 14 matches across all competitions.

Participants must pay all expenses (registration fee, travel costs, etc.), but discounted hotel rooms are available for out-of-town players. For more information, visit the 2015 Open Tryouts webpage on SportingKC.com.

FOLLOW SPORTING KC ONLINE
Sporting KC fans looking to keep up with the club online have a place to go. The Social Media page on SportingKC.com features Twitter account information for the team, its players and several staff members. Supporters may also take advantage of the Media Recap page for all the latest independent news coverage.

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