Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps) - Mikey Lopez (New York City)
Adam Hunger/USA Today

New York City FC's Mikey Lopez eager to play vs former club Sporting KC

PURCHASE, N.Y. – Mikey Lopez is looking forward to heading to Kansas City this weekend and it has nothing to do with the famed barbecue.

The New York City FC midfielder will be making his first trip back to Kansas City since his move to New York in January, as red-hot NYCFC meet Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night (8 pm ET, FS1).

“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it,” Lopez said. “I want to play in that game really badly. Hopefully I get an opportunity to play in it. It’s going to be a fun environment and fun playing against old teammates and good friends of mine.”

The 23-year-old midfielder was selected 14th overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting Kansas City, but saw limited playing time in the first three years of his professional career in Major League Soccer, starting 10 of the 14 games he played in.

“The toughest part was leaving friends and a comfort zone I built in three years. But I needed to leave and when I saw the opportunity I took it,” Lopez said. “I needed to leave for my own good and for my development. It’s always tough to leave an old team because of all the relationships you make with other players and staff.”

Lopez has no hard feelings about his time in Kansas City and is looking forward to reuniting with some former teammates. He has almost as many appearances in his first season with NYCFC, including a career-high six starts, as he did with Sporting KC.

In the last four games, Lopez has been brought on as a late sub with the responsibility of helping secure a victory.

“Always having the confidence from the coaching staff and the players is a great feeling,” Lopez said. “Thankfully they have that confidence in me and have given me the opportunity to keep playing. Regardless of how many minutes it is, as long as I’m stepping on the field, I feel I can contribute to the team and it’s a good feeling for me.”

In addition to more playing time, Lopez said he’s really enjoyed playing under Patrick Vieira and learning every day in practice from veteran midfielders like Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and Andoni Iraola.

“I’m very happy here,” Lopez said. “I’m so thankful that they gave me the opportunity to come here and it’s a dream playing with this team, in this city and playing with a lot of players here, these legends here, and being coached by a legend. It’s a great experience for me so far.”