Kansas City Wizards General Manager Curt Johnson announced Thursday that the Wizards have exercised options on the contracts of midfielder Khari Stephenson and goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Both players spent the 2004 season on the Wizards developmental roster and will join the 18-man Senior Roster in 2005.
"We are thrilled to be able to add these two outstanding young players to our senior roster," said Johnson. "Khari and Will have earned this opportunity and I am sure they will continue to develop and make significant contributions to the Wizards in 2005. Congratulations are also in order to our coaches Bob Gansler and Brian Bliss. We continue to reap the dividends of their work with our young players."
Stephenson, 23, joined the Wizards on April 7th when he was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Fire in exchange for a 3rd round pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. He was originally drafted by the Fire in the 3rd round (28th overall) of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.
The Kingston, Jamaica native appeared in three regular season matches for the Wizards, logging 44 minutes, but made his impression during the postseason. He appeared in all four postseason matches for Kansas City in 2004, with three starts, including starting in the 2004 MLS Cup Final against D.C. United. He scored his first goal as a professional on October 30th against San Jose in the Wizards dramatic 3-0 win that propelled them into the Western Conference Final.
Hesmer, 23, was selected by the Wizards in the 2nd round (17th overall) of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. While he did not appear in a regular season match for Kansas City, he played extensively in several exhibition matches for the Wizards and showed his potential. He is scheduled to travel to Europe and train with Manchester United later this month prior to the start of Wizards training camp in early February.
The promotion of both Stephenson and Hesmer continues to show the success the Wizards have had with their developmental program. The two join forward Davy Arnaud and midfielder Jack Jewsbury as players who began their careers on the Wizards developmental squad and were promoted to the senior roster. Both Arnaud and Jewsbury started for the Wizards in the 2004 MLS Cup Final.