Kerry Zavagnin to return to Wizards lineup

KANSAS CITY, M.O. - Kansas City Wizards General Manager Curt Johnson announced today that the team has signed veteran midfielder and U.S. National Team member Kerry Zavagnin to a long-term contract. Zavagnin returns for his sixth season with the Wizards, solidifying the team's already experienced lineup. The Wizards also came to terms with defender Dustin Branan as a Senior Developmental player.

"Clearly Kerry's return solidifies our midfield both in terms of talent and experience," said Johnson. "He has played a significant role in our biggest moments as an organization and we will need his efforts as we look toward another memorable season in 2005. His return is a huge plus for our team."

Zavagnin, 30, trained with Sunderland and Coventry City in Europe during the offseason, but ultimately decided to return to the Wizards, the team with which he has spent the last five seasons and helped reach two MLS Cup Finals and capture the 2004 U.S. Open Cup Championship.

The Plymouth, Michigan native has been a steady force in midfield for the Wizards since being drafted in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft. He has appeared in 138 regular season matches, out of a possible 148, since joining the Wizards. Six of those games Zavagnin has missed came in 2004 while he was with the U.S. National Team. He currently ranks fifth all-time in franchise history in games played (138), games started (136) and minutes played (12,346).

Last season, Zavagnin played a vital role in the team's success as they captured the Western Conference Championship and earned a spot in the MLS Cup Final. Zavagnin patrolled the park from his defensive midfield position, helping the best defensive unit in MLS last season as the Wizards allowed a League-low 30 goals while posting a League-high 12 shutouts.

Dustin Branan, 23, joins the Wizards developmental roster after two seasons with the A-League's Minnesota Thunder. He led the Thunder in minutes played last season, logging 2645 minutes, scoring two goals and adding an assist, and was named to the 2004 A-League's "Best XI". In college, he helped lead Brown University to two Ivy League Championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances in his four years as a starter. He played alongside U.S. National Team defender Cory Gibbs in 1999 and 2000.