The Swope Park Rangers today announced that the club has brought in Nikola Popovic as an assistant coach and Alec Dufty as a goalkeeper coach. The additions will work under head coach Marc Dos Santos and round out the Rangers’ technical staff as the club continues to make preparations for its first-ever USL season in 2016. Dufty will link up with the club immediately, while Popovic will join pending approval of his P-1 Visa.
Popovic, 42, arrives in Kansas City with his most recent experience coming as an assistant coach with Portuguese side Benfica B. A dual citizen of Portugal and Serbia who was born in Belgrade, Popovic began his coaching career in Portugal with CD Olivais e Moscavide in the Segunda Division, winning the title in the 2005-06 season and gaining promotion to the Segunda Liga. After leaving CD Olivais e Moscavide at the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, Popovic headed to FC Vihren Sandanski in the Bulgarian A Football Group as an assistant but returned to Portugal later that same year with Segunda Liga side Varzim SC, where he won the Liga Intercalar.
In 2010, Popovic enjoyed a stint as an assistant coach with the Cape Verde National Team, before joining Spanish Segunda Division B side AD Ceuta. While with AD Ceuta, he helped guide the club to the Copa Del Rey Round of 32 – the club’s best ever showing in the tournament – where the side fell to eventual runners-up Barcelona. Later that same season, Popovic linked up with Bulgarian side Chernomorets Burgas in the Bulgarian A Football Group, helping the side to a quarterfinal appearance in the Bulgarian Cup.
Popovic’s next stop was with Al Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates for the 2011-12 season, where he was an assistant to Baltemar Brito – Jose Mourinho’s former assistant coach – winning the Vice President Cup. Popovic earned his first head coaching job the following season, taking charge of Sertanense FC in the Portugeuse Second Division. Popovic then joined Qatar’s Aspire Academy in 2014, before returning to Portugal and Benfica B in 2015.
Popovic holds a UEFA Pro coaching license – the highest UEFA license available – having garnered his coaching philosophies with Inter Milan (2012-13), Portugal Under-21s (2013) and Serbia and Montenegro Under-21s (2006).
“It's a privilege to be part of this project that I think is going to be of big importance for Sporting Kansas City,” Popovic said. “This team is an important step for the gap between the Academy and the first team. I'm very confident that this project will be a success and it is a privilege to work with this staff.”
Dufty, 28, spent the 2015 season gaining USL coaching experience with Toronto FC II. He coached a goalkeeping corps that finished third in the USL with 125 saves, while starting goalkeeper Quillan Roberts placed second in the league in save percentage (.766) and third in saves per game (4.80). Prior to joining Toronto, Dufty spent time coaching at Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Born in Binghamton, New York and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Dufty began his playing career with the New York Red Bulls in 2009, going on to make one appearance against the Houston Dynamo before being waived and joining the MLS reserve goalkeeper pool. In 2010, Dufty joined USSF D2 Pro League side AC St. Louis, making 30 appearances for the side before returning to MLS with the Chicago Fire in late 2010. He announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2011 season.
Collegiately, Dufty spent one year at Appalachian State University before transferring to the University of Evansville, where he enjoyed a three-year career and was a twice named an All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. While in college, Dufty also played for the Raleigh Elite (now Carolina RailHawks U-23’s) in the USL Premier Development League. On the international stage, Dufty was called in to a U.S. Under-20 National Team camp in 2007.
In addition to his duties with the Swope Park Rangers, Dufty will also work as a goalkeeper coach for Sporting Kansas City’s Under-18 and Under-16 Academy teams.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Swope Park Rangers and Sporting Kansas City,” Dufty said. “I'm really looking forward to helping Marc Dos Santos build a team that will be an integral part of the already successful Sporting organization.”