Playing in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Fla., offers Sporting Kansas City more than a chance to fine-tune their lineup and gain match fitness before the MLS season opens in March. It also gives them a chance to do some up-close preseason networking with USL Pro affiliate Orlando City FC.
Two Orlando City players, fullback Mechack Jérôme and winger Adama Mbengue, made guest appearances with Sporting in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Montreal. Jérôme was a starter in Chance Myers’ right back slot, and Mbengue came off the bench just after the hour mark in relief of Bobby Convey.
And with Sporting set to loan multiple players to the Lions this season as part of the affiliation agreement, Orlando City manager Adrian Heath has been keeping a close eye on Sporting’s training sessions.
“We talked about different things we would like to do back and forth,” manager Peter Vermes said on Saturday. “Yesterday, Adrian was out at our training watching. The day before, he was out at our training watching. I told him to keep an eye on a bunch of guys. Then we'll be talking about which guys would come here on loan.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Sporting can recall loaned players at any time. However, should any player appear in a US Open Cup match for Orlando City, he would be ineligible to play for Sporting in that competition this year.
The affiliation, part of a larger agreement signed between MLS and the third-tier USL Pro last month, calls for Sporting to loan at least four players to the Lions this season. Vermes has not set a deadline for deciding which – or how many – players to send.
“Obviously, there's still a lot to be worked on,” he said on Saturday, “but it’s good that we have a positive relationship already started.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.