Sporting KC Weekly Update: July 30

SPORTING KC TO HOST THE PHILADELPHIA UNION ON FRIDAY
Sporting Kansas City puts their four-game winning streak on the line Friday when the Philadelphia Union visit Sporting Park. The 7 p.m. CT match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network, with additional radio coverage on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Gran D 1340 AM (Spanish). A limited number of tickets are still available on Ticketmaster.com. The first 10,000 fans to Sporting Park will receive a pair of Sporting KC spirit sleeves courtesy of UMB Bank.

Atop the Eastern Conference standings, Sporting KC (11-5-5, 38 points) will look to avenge their 2-1 home defeat to the Union (5-8-8, 23 points) on May 14. Peter Vermes’ men are undefeated in seven MLS matches and have surged into a first place tie in the Supporters’ Shield race with Seattle Sounders FC. During this unbeaten stretch, the MLS champions have secured five consecutive road wins, tied for the second longest MLS road-winning streak during the non-shootout era (2000-present).

The Philadelphia Union have just one loss in 10 games across all competition and rank first in the Eastern Conference with 33 MLS goals. Since taking over as interim manager on June 10, Jim Curtin is 2-1-2 in the League and has led Philadelphia to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals with three wins in the tournament.

GRAHAM ZUSI NOMINATED FOR MLS GOAL OF THE WEEK
Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi has been nominated for MLS Goal of the Week for his 48th minute, game-tying goal in the club's 2-1 victory at Toronto FC. Voting runs online at MLSsoccer.com until 11:59 p.m. PT on Thursday.

Zusi's goal was a strike from the edge of the 18-yard box that was curled just inside the far post to level the match at 1-1. Sporting KC would continue the momentum with a late game-winner from Jacob Peterson in the 80th minute to earn the club's fifth consecutive road win -- a new club record -- and extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings. Sporting KC is 15-0-1 all-time when Zusi scores a goal.

Saturday's goal puts Zusi in 10th place in the club's all-time chart with 19. Alongside teammates Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin, Zusi is on the MLS All-Star Gameday roster for the upcoming match against Bayern Munich on August 6 in Portland.

U.S. SOCCER NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER COMING TO KANSAS CITY
Governor Sam Brownback joined Sporting Club, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and representatives from Schlitterbahn Water Park and EPR Properties last Wednesday to announce the development of a U.S. Soccer National Training Center complex in Kansas City, Kan. The facility will house the National Training and Coaching Development Center, an elite athlete training and performance analytics campus, and national youth soccer development programs.

The $75+ million soccer village, which will be located at the southeast corner of Parallel Parkway and 98th Street, will provide a world-class environment to develop players, coaches and referees of all ages. The state-of-the-art facility will include approximately 100,000 square feet for a state of the art indoor facility with a practice field, eight lighted professional smart fields and eight youth fields. Additional amenities will include a climate-controlled indoor pavilion and specialized facilities tailored toward strength and nutrition, hydration, sports science, health and wellness, video and analytics. The complex will also feature a 125-room full-service hotel.

During the next 30 years, the National Training and Coaching Development Center is anticipated to have a total economic impact of more than $1 billion for Kansas and Wyandotte County. The facility will house a variety of U.S. National Team training camps and bring opportunities for Sporting Park to host matches for the men’s and women’s National Teams at the youth and senior levels. The complex will also feature referee and coach education sessions and many additional U.S. Soccer events.

SPORTING LEGENDS TO INDUCT HUNT, VERMES AND CONRAD IN CLASS OF 2014
Sporting Club announced on Tuesday the three newest members of Sporting Legends. Peter Vermes, Jimmy Conrad and the late Lamar Hunt will be inducted into the hall of honor during an on-field ceremony at Sporting Park during halftime of Sporting KC's match against the Philadelphia Union on Friday.

An initiative launched in 2013, Sporting Legends pays tribute to club icons and provides a platform for inductees to re-engage with the local soccer community. Vermes and Conrad were selected among five finalists via a weighted vote through social media and SportingKC.com.

Sporting KC’s manager for the past six seasons, Vermes has won two major trophies - the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2013 MLS Cup championship – and owns a .570 winning percentage as manager, best among any coach in club history. As a player, he won MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2000 en route to winning the MLS Cup. Vermes is the only person to win the MLS Cup as both a player and a coach with the same team.

Conrad played for Kansas City from 2003-2010 and scored 17 goals, the most by a defender in team history. The centerback was a six-time MLS All-Star (2004-2009) and the 2005 MLS Defender of the Year. He earned 27 caps for the U.S. Men's National Team, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005 and competing at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

Sporting Club selected Hunt as an honorary inductee for his pivotal role in founding Major League Soccer, the Kansas City professional soccer organization and pioneering the sport's growth in the United States. The Hunt Sports Group owned the Kansas City Wizards from their inaugural 1996 season until 2006. Clark Hunt, Chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs, will attend Friday's ceremony on his father's behalf.

SPORTING KC KNOCKS OFF TORONTO FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT ROAD WIN
Sporting KC beat Toronto FC 2-1 last Saturday and extended their club record road winning streak to five games. Jackson’s 16th-minute goal put the hosts ahead, but second half strikes from midfielders Graham Zusi and Jacob Peterson gave the MLS champions their first come-from-behind victory in 2014.

Zusi leveled the contest in the 48th minute, curling in a Goal of the Week nominee after the ball rolled loose inside the penalty box. Sporting KC then suffered a blow at the 75-minute mark when captain Matt Besler received his second caution and the first red card of his six-year career. Down a man, however, Sporting KC took a shock lead with 10 minutes left. Just three minutes after his introduction, substitute Peterson was on the receiving end of Dom Dwyer’s back-heel pass and finished neatly into the corner of the net.

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has a perfect 4-0-0 record since taking over for the injured Eric Kronberg on July 12. The Overland Park, Kansas native became the second goal keeper in MLS history to earn wins in each of his first four MLS appearances with a new club.

SPORTING KC TRIO LANDS MLS TEAM OF THE WEEK ACCOLADES
Aurelien Collin, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi were individually recognized on three different websites as some of the best performers of Week 20.

Benny Feilhaber was named to MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week for the second straight time on Tuesday. The midfielder led all players with 33 successful passes and four interceptions. Zusi earned Team of the Week honors from Bleacher Report as Sporting KC improved to 15-0-1 all-time when he scores an MLS goal. Sports Illustrated’s Best XI included defender Aurelien Collin, who led all players with 11 clearances and 12 aerial duels and helped prevent Toronto FC from capitalizing on their man advantage during the final quarter-hour.

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 on July 19 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.

OLUM JOINS KENYA FOR AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS QUALIFYING
Midfielder Lawrence Olum will join the Kenya Men's National Team on Sunday for the second leg of their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying series against Lesotho. The Harambee Stars lost 1-0 in the first leg on July 20 and will host Lesotho in the second leg on August 3 at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.

Olum made his first two competitive international appearances for Kenya in May, starting each of their first round qualifying matches against Comoros. He boasts a 9-1-1 record as a Sporting KC starter this season and will be unavailable for Friday's game against the Philadelphia Union.

TICKETS ON SALE FOR CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE MATCHES
Single-game tickets for Sporting KC’s two group stage matches at Sporting Park in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League are now available to purchase via Ticketmaster.com. The MLS Cup champions will host Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa on Sept. 18 before a meeting with Nicaraguan club Real Esteli five days later on Sept. 23. Both matches will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages.

SPORTING PARK TO HOST CONCACAF WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES IN OCTOBER
Sporting Park will host the first four matches in the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship on Oct. 15 and 16, U.S. Soccer announced last Thursday. The tournament will feature eight countries from North America, Central America and the Caribbean region competing for spots in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer. With 2015 World Cup host Canada already securing its berth, the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship will include the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and four teams to be determined at the CFU Women’s Caribbean Cup from Aug. 19-26.

All eight countries, including the U.S. Women’s National Team, will kick off their qualifying campaigns in Kansas City, Kansas with their first of three group stage matches. Sporting Park will host international doubleheaders on back-to-back nights with Group A on Oct. 15 and Group B on Oct. 16. Ranked No. 1 in the world, the U.S. Women’s National Team returns to the Kansas City area for the sixth time and will play their second international match at state-of-the-art Sporting Park.

With the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship coming in October, Kansas City, Kansas will have hosted the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams on five occasions since Sporting Park opened in June 2011 -- more than any other city in the country over that time period. The $200+ million, award-winning venue is also the only stadium to host the U.S. Men's or Women's National Team in each of the last four years.

SPORTING KC U16 ACADEMY DUO SELECTED FOR GENERATION ADIDAS ESP SHOWCASE
Sporting KC Under-16 Academy players Absalom Solorio and Steve Tekesky were among 54 players selected from MLS academies for the 2014 Generation adidas Elite Soccer Program (ESP) Showcase in Portland, Oregon from July 31 through Aug. 5.

Solorio (Oak Park H.S.) made 25 appearances for Sporting KC during the 2013-14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season and scored six goals, second most on the squad. Tekesky (Raymore Peculiar H.S.) played 17 games in goal during the campaign.

Held in conjunction with the MLS All-Star Game, the Generation adidas ESP Showcase is a week-long gathering of MLS academy talent. The 54 players will be divided into three teams (East, Central and West) and will compete in a round robin tournament along with FC Bayern Munich's U16 Academy Team.

VICTORY PROJECT HOSTS BLOOD DRIVE AT SPORTING PARK
The inaugural Victory Project Blood Drive, held on Tuesday at Sporting Park in conjunction with the American Red Cross, made possible more than 100 donations from individuals across the metropolitan area. The seven-hour event took place inside the Boulevard Members Club and the donations from the blood drive will direclty benefit as many as 300 lives as result of the community's contributions.

Among those in attendance throughout the afternoon were Sporting Kansas City defender Chance Myers, midfielder Christian Duke and goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. The American Red Cross, which helps supply blood to approximately 80 hospitals in the region, initiated plans for yesterday's blood drive through their interest in partnering with The Victory Project and Sporting KC.
 
“We recognized that both organizations involved have good relationships with the Kansas City community and knew that this would be a great event for the area,” said Dan Fox, Communications Director for the Red Cross.
 
To learn more about The Victory Project, please visit VictoryKC.org or follow @victorykc on Twitter.

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 online 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.

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