Sporting Kansas City acquired winger Latif Blessing in a transfer from Liberty Professionals FC of the Ghana Premier League. He signed an MLS contract through 2019 with an option for 2020.
2017: MLS regular season: Started 16 of 25 appearances, recording three goals and one assist (1419 minutes played). Made his MLS debut as a second-half substitute in a 0-0 draw against FC Dallas on March 11. Scored two goals in a 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC on May 13, becoming the youngest player in Sporting KC history to score twice in an MLS match and just the fifth player in club history to notch a brace in his first MLS start for the club. Scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire on July 29. Tallied his first MLS assist to Diego Rubio in a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC on Oct. 7. Open Cup: Played 12 minutes as a second-half substitute in a 4-0 fourth-round win over Minnesota United FC on June 14. Played 90 minutes and assisted on a Gerso Fernandes goal against Houston Dynamo on June 28. Played 120 minutes in a 3-0 quarterfinal win against FC Dallas, scoring the go-ahead goal in the 107th minute followed shortly by a slick back-heel goal for his second strike of the night. Started and played 120 minutes in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over the San Jose Earthquakes following a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time on Aug. 9. Started and played 43 minutes in a 2-1 Open Cup Final victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 20, scoring the opening goal in the 25th minute for his third tally of the tournament. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started and played 100 minutes in a 1-0 extra-time loss at the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Knockout Round on Oct. 26.
Blessing in Ghana
Born and raised in Accra, Ghana, Blessing was named the 2016 Ghana Premier League player of the year after leading the top flight with 17 goals in his first season on the senior team. He was also a finalist for the 2016 Ghanaian FA Cup most valuable player award, helping Liberty Professionals reach the semifinals of the knockout competition.
Blessing, a product of the Liberty Professionals youth academy, made his first appearance of 2016 on Feb. 28 and opened his scoring account with a game-winning goal against Inter Allies one week later. He caught fire during the month of April with five goals over a three-game span, including a brace in a 5-1 victory over defending league champions Ashanti Gold.
Between April and July, Blessing guided Liberty Professionals within one win of the club’s first-ever Ghanaian FA Cup Final appearance. He scored in the round of 64 and quarterfinal round before his side fell to Okwawu United on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
Blessing recorded his first hat-trick on July 27, notching three second-half goals in a 4-0 defeat of Sekondi Hasaacas to vault into the top three of the Premier League’s 2016 goal chart. He scored again on the penultimate weekend of the season, providing the lone tally in a 1-0 win over eventual league champion Wa All Stars.
On Sept. 18, Blessing struck his second hat-trick of the year to help Liberty Professionals avoid relegation from the first division on the final matchday of 2016. The standout performance ensured his status as the Ghana Premier League Goal King, an award given to the league’s top scorer.
Blessing received his first call-up to the Ghana Men’s National Team in December 2016 as a member of the Black Stars’ 30-man provisional squad for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, but was not selected to the final roster.