Before leaving the country to join the U.S. under-20 team in Europe, Mikey Lopez had his coming-of-age moment with Sporting Kansas City.
Lopez made his professional debut in the midfield on Tuesday night, starting and going 75 minutes as Sporting beat the Des Moines Menace 2-0 to open their defense of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“I was obviously nervous,” said Lopez, who was Sporting's first-round pick and the 14th overall selection in this year's MLS SuperDraft. “It was my first pro game, my debut. So you have to put all that into consideration. I've been in the squad before when there were big crowds, but this is different. This is my team now.”
The excitement of finally taking the pitch aside, Lopez offered a clear-eyed view of his debut.
“It could have been a lot better, but it's my first pro game,” he said. “I just need to get back into rhythm, back into the feel of playing games. I just need to hold onto the ball better, be crisper on my passes, be cleaner in every way.”
Manager Peter Vermes, who subbed out Lopez for Oriol Rosell to help kill out the victory against the fourth-tier Premier Development League side, said Lopez's first outing was largely solid.
“It doesn't matter what game it is. Whenever it's your first with a team, I think it's always going to be a little bit of a nervous-energy one,” Vermes said during his postmatch news conference. “I thought there were moments he was pretty good, and other moments he was a little bit aggressive to get into places where maybe he shouldn't have been, but I thought he was decent on the ball. I thought he had a pretty good feel for how we want to play. It's a good start for him, for sure.”
Last month, Vermes said that Lopez's club debut might have to wait until after the U-20 World Cup, which runs from June 21 through July 13 in Turkey.
Lopez is glad he didn't have to wait that long.
“This is a good time for me to make my debut and get that first game under my belt, and hopefully improve from this day on and keep getting better,” he said. “I think it's better for me to make my debut now than in a (CONCACAF) Champions League game, but I'm definitely looking forward to playing in the Champions League.”