Sporting KC Show Podcast: "Kitman" Mike Flaherty and NWSL rookie Addisyn Merrick talk return to play

Running throughout the season on Sports Radio 810 WHB, the Sporting Kansas City Show is available on several podcast hubs including Spotify and iTunes as well as With Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost hosting the weekly program, Sporting fans have a place to go to catch up on club storylines, guest interviews and more.

A new episode of the Sporting Kansas City Show Podcast debuted Tuesday on Sports Radio 810 WHB as hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost caught up with two individuals who are playing major roles as men's and women's professional soccer returns to play after a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First up was Mike Flaherty, Sporting's Director of Equipment Operations and better known among colleagues and fans as Kitman. Flaherty has been been hard at work preparing for the club's month-long trip to Walt Disney World Resort, where Sporting will compete in the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

As the one who manages the team's equipment inventory, prepares jerseys and facilitates all on-field activities, Flaherty admits the MLS is Back Tournament will pose a variety of unique challenges. However, the commitment players have demonstrated in training has him believing that Sporting is ready for a deep run in the unprecedented competition.

"When we first came back (to Compass Minerals National Performance Center) after quarantine and got to play, the guys didn't seem to lose a step," Flaherty said. "The guys stayed fit, you can tell, and their touch is on. We're getting through the kinks and getting through the weather because it's hot here, too, and the guys are grinding through it. But man, I think we look really good. The guys are really well prepared and they've handled it better than me in many ways. They just came in and did their job every day."

The second guest on Tuesday's show was National Women's Soccer League rookie and former University of Kansas defender Addisyn Merrick, who grew up in Kansas City and attended Lee's Summit North High School before her career as a Jayhawk. Merrick was selected by back-to-back defending champion North Carolina Courage in the 2020 NWSL Draft earlier this year and made her professional debut in the Courage's 1-0 win over Portland Thorns FC on Saturday to kick off the NWSL Challenge Cup in Sandy, Utah.

Merrick starred at Lee's Summit North and Kansas prior to kickstarting her pro career this spring. COVID-19 delayed the start of the NWSL season, which will now be played in its entirety via the NWSL Challenge Cup, which will feature a group stage followed by an eight-team knockout phase and championship match on July 26.

Merrick earned a start for North Carolina in the club's tournament opener and could see more playing time in the coming days as the Courage face the Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC to round out the group stage.