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Wizards sign Kempin
from youth program

By Robert Whitman
August 31, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Wizards made their first signing of a player from their youth program Tuesday when goalkeeper Jon Kempin signed a professional contract and was introduced in the players’ lounge of the club’s Swope Park training facility.

Kempin, who lived in Leawood, Kan. while attending Blue Valley North, becomes one of two Kansas City area products on the roster for the Wizards. Defender Matt Besler is from Overland Park, Kan. and attended Blue Valley West.

“This is a dream come true,” Kempin said. “It’s an exciting time for the Wizards organization and I feel blessed to be the team’s first Home Grown Player. I’m also really looking forward to learning under Jimmy Nielsen. He’s had a great season and he’s definitely one of the top keepers in Major League Soccer.”

Kempin spent four days in August training with the senior team before signing. He said he chose to sign with the Wizards rather than play college soccer at the University of South Florida in 2011 upon completion of his high school education.

“I think that he's a promising young goalkeeper,” Wizards goalkeeper coach John Pascarella said. “He's quick, he has good hands and he brings a presence that you don't normally see with someone his age. We're looking forward to getting him into a full-time professional environment.”

The 17-year-old Kempin, the youngest player ever signed by the club, has been playing in the Wizards Juniors program and has spent time training with U.S. Youth National Teams. He also spent the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 training at the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency Program in Florida.

Kempin helped Blue Valley North to a Kansas Class 6A state championship in 2007 and was named 2010 Gatorade Kansas State Player of the Year.

Although he is now available for selection to play in for the senior team, manager Peter Vermes said there is no pressure for Kempin to appear in a match.

“This is a great day for our organization,” Vermes said. “We had the opportunity to identify a talented player in the area, bring him into the Juniors program and develop him to the point where we could sign him to a professional contract. Jon has incredible talent and now he has the opportunity to continue his development at a professional level and not have the pressure to perform on the field right away.” The Wizards may sign up to two players from their youth program to the senior roster without it being counted against the number of players they are permitted on the roster.

Vermes said he did not believe that the club would sign a player from the youth program so soon. Major League Soccer clubs are permitted to draw players for their youth program from designated territories around their home venue plus a limited number of players from outside that territory. Kansas City’s territory is Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Roentved to coach Comets indoor team
Missouri Comets begin play on Nov. 13

By Robert Whitman
August 7, 2010

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – They say that all good things must come to an end, but in the case of indoor soccer in Kansas City, it is apparently not at an end.

The owners of the Missouri Comets hope that the appetite for indoor soccer will return this winter. Indoor soccer, which filled Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. to the tune of nearly 18,000 fans in the early 1980s, now makes its metro area home at the Independence Events Center.

The product is a bit scaled down from the 1980s Comets and even its successor, the Attack. The schedule now is about 20-24 games compared to 56 at the peak of the 1980s Major Indoor Soccer League. The Events Center seats a maximum of 7,000 compared the 19,500 that Kemper Arena seated when the last previous indoor soccer team existed. And the budget for player salaries is probably about the same as any one star player from the 1980s.

Still, the Comets said that local players will be on the roster for upcoming season.

The Comets introduced former indoor soccer legend Kim Roentved as their new coach Wednesday. Roentved said he has been searching for players since his hiring was announced on Monday. Roentved said he would have two open tryouts about six weeks before the home opener, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12. There will be no expansion draft, so the Comets will not have the opportunity to benefit from players already on the roster of the other five teams in the league.

Audio clips from the today’s press conference will be linked in the coming hours and days.

Kansas City 1, Real Salt Lake 1

By Robert Whitman
August 7, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Robbie Findley’s questionably allowed goal Saturday dropped the Wizards into a 1-1 draw at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

The Wizards were ready to attack. They jumped the whistle, kicking off before the referee blew it, and then gained a corner kick less than 10 seconds into the match.

Kansas City was making almost all of the attacking noise in the first 20 minutes. Davy Arnaud could not pounce on Teal Bunbury’s deflection of a Ryan Smith cross in the ninth minute and Kei Kamara’s header of Roger Espinoza’s cross in the 18th minute was wide right.

But Kamara was on target in the 21st minute to put the Wizards in the lead. His looping header of a Smith cross was too well placed for Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando to stop.

Espinoza tested Rimando with a shot from the center circle in the next minute. Rimando saved it, but could not hold it. It was cleared for the Kansas City corner kick.

RSL evened the score with a goal from Findley in the 33rd minute off of Robbie Russell’s cross. The ball appeared to come off Findley’s head, then his left wrist.

Both teams had limited chances to score in the second half, although neither coaches’ substitutions hinted that they were content with a draw.

Kansas City 1, Toronto FC 0

By Robert Whitman
July 31, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Teal Bunbury continued to justify his insertion into the starting 11 Saturday as the Wizards edged Toronto FC, 1-0, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Bunbury chipped a header over Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the 61st minute for the game’s first goal. Bunbury latched on to a header by a Toronto player who was trying to play the ball to safety.

Bunbury’s second goal in three league games lifted the Wizards to 19 points in 17 games and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, at least for a short time. Chicago, now two points behind the Wizards, play Sunday at Los Angeles.

Until Bunbury’s goal, the game had wound down into a dreary struggle in the midfield. The game took on a more lively tone in the 58th minute after Toronto coach Preki inserted forwards Chad Barrett and Dwayne De Rosario for the final half hour. Then Bunbury’s goal added more urgency to Toronto’s attack.

But Toronto's substitutes were very quiet in their 30 minutes as the Wizards prevented any good scoring oppotunities.

Kansas City 2,
Manchester United 1
Wizards edge Red Devils in front of 52,424 at Arrowhead

By Robert Whitman
July 25, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Nothing brings out your best like paying world-class opposition.

Before the largest crowd ever to see them play, the Wizards defeated Manchester United, 2-1, Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

The match, the third of four in United’s tour of the United States, showed both the Wizards’ grit and United’s class.

Kansas City pierced United’s back four in the 11th minute for the game’s first goal, scored by captain Davy Arnaud. Kei Kamara fed Arnaud, who carried the ball 30 yards all alone on 20-year-old United goalkeeper Ben Amos before releasing a far post shot seven yards from the end line.

The Wizards pressed on with relative success until the 39th minute when Dimitar Berbatov broke through the center of the Kansas City defense. The Bulgarian international was tackled from behind by Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad. Referee Terry Vaughn awarded United a penalty kick and then a red card to Conrad.

Berbatov took the penalty kick himself and drew United level in the 41st minute.

But that score lasted about a minute as Kamara headed in a Ryan Smith corner kick to restore Kansas City’s lead. Kamara’s header hit the underside of the crossbar and appeared at first glance to have not crossed the line.

In the second half, the Wizards were relegated to the counterattack because of the man disadvantage. United, however, was increasingly unable to string enough passes to successfully score once again. United’s starting 11 against the Wizards was similar to one which may be seen again in Carling Cup match.

Kansas City 0, Chivas USA 2

By Robert Whitman
July 10, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Two defensive mistakes Saturday canceled 20 shots and 14 corner kicks as the Wizards fell to Chivas USA, 2-0, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

The loss to the Western Conference cellar-dwellers dropped Kansas City one notch in the Eastern Conference standings (fifth to sixth) and kept them one point from the bottom in their own conference.

Even with the victory, Chivas USA is in last place in the Western Conference.

The Wizards had the better of the possession in the first half and it translated in a 5-2 margin in shots on goal. Kei Kamara almost put the Wizards ahead a minute into the second half, but his header during the run of play went wide.

Justin Braun took advantage of defensive mistake by Jimmy Conrad to put Chivas ahead in the 56th minute, pounding a shot past Jimmy Nielsen from near the penalty spot.

Davy Arnaud almost headed the Wizards level in the 68th minute but his looping shot hit the top of the crossbar.

Substitute Graham Zusi put in a corner kick in the 73rd minute to the far post that only Stephane Auvrey could play, but Auvrey could only put the ball into the outside netting.

Braun took advantage of a second mistake by Conrad in the 87th minute. Braun intercepted Conrad’s pass near the top of the penalty arc intended for Shavar Thomas and pounded another shot past Nielsen.

With the Wizards pushed up in attack, Braun almost stole another goal second half stoppage time. But Braun’s chip failed to clear the 6-3 Nielsen.

Kansas City 0, New York 3

By Robert Whitman
June 26, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Wizards returned from a 16-day layoff with plenty of attacking, but nothing to show for it in a 3-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

New York broke through in the 56th minute when Salou Ibrahim headed a loose ball past Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Ibrahim played Bouna Coundoul’s goal kick after Nielsen and Wizards defender Aaron Hohlbein failed to communicate on which of them should play it.

Ibrahim was dangerous throughout the first half, shooting wide on two of the Red Bulls’ five first half shots that could have been goal if they were on target.

Juan Pablo Angel scored in the 82nd minute to double the Red Bulls’ lead. Angel added a goal in the 90th minute.

Kansas City began each half by attacking well, but not well enough to score. The Wizards had three corner kicks in the first four minutes in the first half. In the 46th minute, Ryan Smith’s shot from 25 yards on the left wing forced Coundoul to make save. One minute later, New York defender Carlos Mendes broke up a give-and-go between Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud.

But the Wizards never found a way past Coundoul, who made several better than average saves.

Click on Wizards/MLS link for audio from Chris Klein and Yura Movsisyan