Sporting KC get new partner in OKC Energy SC, Jimmy Nielsen gets new career as coach

Jimmy Nielsen celebrates Sporting KC's MLS Cup title

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Sporting Kansas City's new USL PRO affiliation with OKC Energy SC and Jimmy Nielsen's first managing job were a package deal.

“While we were going through negotiations, there was some discussion around us assisting them with the technical side of the organization,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Friday, after his club announced that they will split their 2014 affiliation between current partner Orlando City SC and the Oklahoma City-based expansion side. “That's kind of how it came to be.”

The twin announcements Friday came less than two weeks after Nielsen retired from a 19-year goalkeeping career, capped by the 2013 MLS Cup title, but a new affiliation partner had been on Sporting's “to-do” list since Orlando City were awarded an MLS expansion franchise beginning in 2015. It worked out well for the 36-year-old Nielsen, who nabbed his first coaching gig while still remaining in close ties with his former club.

“We'd been talking to them about affiliating,” Vermes said, “especially with Orlando City coming in into the league and us still determining the way we want to go: having a partnership, having partial ownership with another group of a USL team or just owning our own team. So we wanted to make sure we had another team we were working with, and Oklahoma seemed to be a very good fit.”

Nielsen will be a good fit as well, Vermes said, because of his leadership experience on the pitch and his familiarity with Sporting's system after spending the final four years of his career in Kansas City.

“Having somebody that understands our culture and our ethos, that is definitely a win for us,” he said. “And I think it's a win for them, because they're getting a guy that understands how we do things. I think that's going to assist them in the early stages. Obviously, Jimmy has a connection to us – not only by playing here, but now moving forward as well. Any time he needs to pick up the phone he has someone he can count on.”

And as Nielsen moves into the coaching ranks, Vermes said, it will also be important for him to assemble a solid staff around him.

“Any good coach has to have a couple of qualities,” he said. “One is that you've got to be a good communicator. Two is that you've got to be open – open to learn and listen and self-evaluate. And then the other is that you've got to surround yourself with good people. If he can get those, I think that will be a big assistance to him finding success in the next phase of his career.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.