Sporting KC will rely on 18-year-old 'keeper Jon Kempin as the backup to Jimmy Nielsen
Don Montague/MLS

Teenager Kempin gets backup 'keeper role in Kansas City

Unless something changes over the next week, Sporting Kansas City will start the season with a teenager as the backup goalkeeper.

Longtime No. 2 Eric Kronberg is expected to be out four to six weeks with a bulging disk in his lower back, although manager Peter Vermes told on Friday that the condition will not require surgery.

That leaves Jon Kempin, a Sporting KC Home Grown player who doesn’t turn 19 until April 8, as veteran Jimmy Nielsen’s lone backup – for now, anyway.

On the surface, that might sound a little dire. Kempin, who turned pro at 17, has no MLS appearances and seemed a little rattled at times in Wednesday’s 3-0 exhibition loss to Vancouver.  The entire Sporting team was shaky in that match, though, and Kempin does have the advantage of familiarity with the club – even if all of his experience with the first team has come in training and exhibitions.

“He’s young, obviously, and we don’t want to rush him into things,” Vermes said. “But he’s definitely capable. He’s been with us for a year-and-a-half, and he’s been very good in training, but the biggest thing with every ’keeper is going to be the number of games they have.

“Obviously, you’re not going to keep rotating guys at that position, or giving guys game minutes here and there the way you would at other positions,” Vermes added. “So for ’keepers, it’s a lot more difficult to get that experience. These situations are never perfect, but we have to use guys based on what we have.”

Sporting have had two goalkeeping trialists in camp as well, in Scott Angevine and Steve Spangler. Spangler still has a shot at making the active roster as the third ’keeper while Kronberg is out, Vermes said. But the club is keeping its options open.

“We’ll probably take Kronberg and put him on the injury roster, and then have just two [goalkeepers] active right now,” said Vermes, whose team opens the season on March 10 at D.C. United. “Then we’ll figure out what to do with that third position. It may be that we sign a guy for that time period, and we’re still looking at Spangler, or we could use a league pool goalkeeper.”

It’s possible that Kronberg could have had the bad disk for some time before it was discovered, Vermes said, but added that he expects his No. 2 to make a full recovery.

“He’ll be fine,” he said. “He’s a good kid, very strong mentally. It’s just frustrating for him because he works hard.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for Write to him at

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