Sporting KC signs midfielder Michael Kafari

Twenty-two-year-old rookie joins reigning MLS Cup champions

Sporting Kansas City announced the signing of 22-year-old Michael Kafari on Tuesday.

Kafari has been added to the club’s roster and will occupy a supplemental roster spot.

“We scouted Michael in college,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “He has some qualities that we like and that we think will be able to fit in with our team.”

“I’m very excited to join Sporting Kansas City,” Kafari said. “This is a great organization and it’s a honor to sign with them. The players have welcomed me from day one and I look forward to playing for the MLS Cup champions.”

The native of Accra, Ghana, moved to the United States in 2001 at age 9 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. A product of the Boise Nationals Soccer Club in Boise, Idaho, Kafari also trained with the youth academies at Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea FC of the English Premier League as a teen. After transferring from Mountain View High School prior to his sophomore season, Kafari lettered all three years at Centennial High School and led the Patriots to a state championship during his senior season in 2009.

Kafari was recruited to the University of New Mexico, where he helped lead the Lobos to a 58-16-12 record in his collegiate career with three goals and three assists. His 82 appearances rank sixth most in school history and were instrumental in securing first place finishes in the MPSF Mountain Division (2011, 2012) and Conference USA (2013) regular season standings as well as four consecutive berths in the NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico became one of only three college programs to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen each of the last three seasons, beginning in 2011 when the Lobos were eliminated by Dom Dwyer and the University of South Florida in a penalty shootout. In 2013, Kafari’s senior season came to a conclusion in College Cup with a 2-0 loss to eventual champions Notre Dame in the semifinals.

Kafari was one of five College Cup Final Four participants to attend the 2014 adidas MLS Player Combine and paired with fellow Sporting KC teammate Victor Munoz on Team Predator. The Vancouver Whitecaps then selected Kafari in the third round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft (No. 51 overall) and Kafari signed with USL PRO affiliate Charleston Battery in mid-March after spending preseason with the Canadian club.

The 6-foot-1 two-way midfielder made his competitive debut for Charleston on May 28 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round. He started and played 71 minutes against the Orlando City U-23’s in a fixture that set the competition record for the longest penalty kick shootout at 14 rounds following a 2-2 draw through extra time.

Kafari was also a member of the Austin Aztex during the team’s USL Premier Development League expansion season in 2012. Coached by current Real Salt Lake assistant Paul Dalglish, Kafari played alongside fellow MLS players Michael Lisch, Kris Tyrpak, Blake Smith, Kekuta Manneh and Dillon Powers.

Sporting Kansas City now has 28 players under contract with the addition of Kafari to the team’s roster. Two players (Jon Kempin and Christian Duke) are currently on loan to USL PRO affiliate OKC Energy FC and three players are unavailable due to injury (Chance Myers, Ike Opara and Peterson Joseph).

– Story from Sporting KC

Champions League soccer match to be played in KCK

A Champions League soccer match will be coming to Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., in September.

CONCACAF has announced the dates and times for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group stage. Sporting Kansas City is paired with Nicaraguan club Real Esteli and Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa in Group 2.

For the second consecutive year, Sporting Kansas City will open the tournament on the road, playing Real Esteli at 9 p.m. CT Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Sporting KC defeated Real Esteli 2-0 in their CCL opener in August 2013 and drew Esteli a month later 1-1 at Sporting Park.

Following Sporting KC’s road opener against Real Esteli, the defending MLS Cup champions will return home for back-to-back matches at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Sporting Kansas City will play host to Saprissa on Thursday, Sept. 18, and Esteli on Tuesday, Sept. 23. Both matches will kick off at 7 p.m.

Tickets for both group stage home matches are included in season ticket member packages. Tickets will go on sale to the public at a later date.

Sporting Kansas City will conclude the group stage of the tournament on Thursday, Oct. 23, against Saprissa at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma. Saprissa won the 2014 Clausura in Costa Rica and are three-time CONCACAF Champions’ Cup winners.

The team with the most points at the conclusion of the CCL group stage will advance to the quarterfinal round. Sporting Kansas City advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, finishing first in a group that included Real Esteli and Honduran club CD Olimpia. Sporting KC faced Mexican club Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals in March and lost 5-2 on aggregate.

– Story from Sporting KC

Sporting KC splits points with Chicago in 1-1 draw

Sporting Kansas City reached the halfway point of the 2014 MLS season on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

In front of the team’s largest crowd of the season and 45th straight MLS sellout, forward Dom Dwyer scored his 12th goal of the season before Mike Magee equalized for Chicago seven minutes later to split the points.

With the draw, Sporting Kansas City sits two points back of D.C. United for first place in the Eastern Conference after 17 of 34 regular season matches. Prior to Sunday’s nationally televised match on ESPN, Sporting Kansas City welcomed back Matt Besler and Graham Zusi following their participation in the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The visiting Fire nearly took an early lead when Magee intercepted a pass from Kevin Ellis inside Chicago’s attacking third less than 90 seconds into the match. Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg came off his line and stood his ground while Aurelien Collin recovered to clear the shot inside the six-yard box.

Chicago saw another shot cleared in front of the goalline in the 5th minute as Patrick Ianni’s header off a Harrison Shipp corner kick was turned away alertly by Dwyer.

Sporting Kansas City’s first serious foray forward came in the 12th minute as Benny Feilhaber shrugged off a challenge from Logan Pause and picked out Soony Saad in the central channel. Saad struck his shot first time from 22 yards out, forcing Sean Johnson into a low save to his left.

Ten minutes later, Saad collected a poor clearance from Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and fed Dwyer to set up an acrobatic scissors attempt that was saved by Johnson at the near post. Dwyer led all players on Sunday with five shots and three shots on goal.

Magee, a 21-goal scorer in 2013, threatened again in the 31st minute on Sunday. Receiving a ball behind the Sporting KC backline from Homegrown Player Chris Ritter, Magee struck a left-footed shot that deflected off the far post and back into play.

Dwyer then struck for the game’s opening goal on the opposite end of the field, dispossessing Ianni and calmly slotting his shot past Johnson for his 12th goal of the season before capturing a celebratory selfie along with Soony Saad and South Stand supporters. The third-year pro moves into a tie with Erick Torres for the second most goals scored in MLS this season and now ranks third on the club’s all-time single-season goals scored chart.

The lead would be short-lived as Chicago pulled level in the 40th minute through Magee. Fire midfielder Alex forced a turnover to earn the assist and Magee buried his shot from the top of the penalty area for his fifth of the season.

The second half was controlled by Sporting Kansas City, to the tune of an 11-2 edge in shots and 79-21 percent advantage in possession, though neither side could find the coveted game-winning goal. The Fire’s only two shots of the half came in the 57th minute with Dilly Duka’s shot stopped on the goalline by Collin and Shipp sending his shot just wide of the post from 20 yards out.

Graham Zusi, in his first match back from representing the United States at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, entered the match in the 62nd minute and immediately made an effect with a corner kick headed on frame by Dwyer and saved by Johnson.

A little more than 10 minutes later, Zusi switched fields and found Igor Juliao along the right flank. The Brazilian right back played a pass into the path of Jacob Peterson, who fired a first-time shot toward the near post that was pushed over the endline by Johnson.

The Chicago goalkeeper made a season-high eight saves on Sunday, including two in short succession in the first minute of second-half stoppage time to preserve the draw. Johnson dove full extension to his right to deny Peterson’s effort from outside the area and then did just enough to thwart C.J. Sapong from burying the rebound.

Sporting KC will now enter a stretch with three of its next four MLS matches away from home, beginning Saturday at the Montreal Impact.

– Story from Sporting KC