KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City’s 4-1 win over Minnesota United FC came with plenty of great performances from both the expected and unexpected. Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal was one of those unexpected.
The 19-year-old midfielder made his first appearance with Sporting KC last week when he was subbed on late in the second half in Sporting’s 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew SC. He made the bench again on Sunday night and was called upon to replace Yohan Croizet in the 18th minute. 17 minutes later, he scored his first goal.
“It was unbelievable,” Kuzain said after the match. “I just wanted to make an impact positively in the game, and I did.”
Kuzain’s impact was certainly positive as his goal ended up being the game-winner, and spurred on a 10-minute onslaught that saw a Cristian Lobato goal and an Ilie shot that rang off the crossbar. He hardly put a foot wrong in his “emergency shift,” completing 31 of 32 passes and registering four ball recoveries.
The goal ended up a product of something that Sporting KC manager, Peter Vermes, had been preaching all year: get runners into the box.
“All season, Peter has been saying, ‘If there’s space, get in the box. We want runners in the box,’” Kuzain said. “I saw [Graham] Zusi get down the line, and Daniel [Salloi] make a run, and just wanted to sit at the top of the box in case anything came there. It did, I got some decent contact and it went in.”
Kuzain didn’t think he would end up with a goal in only his second appearance.
“I haven’t even scored for Swope Park yet. To get it for the first team feels good. Hopefully it keeps coming.”
The Carbondale, Ill. native had appeared in 21 matches logging a little over 1,500 minutes for Swope Park Rangers, Sporting KC’s USL squad, over the past two seasons.
For a 19-year-old making just his second appearance with the first team, having to come into a match that was 1-1 at the time and not having the opportunity to warm up, Kuzain showed a lot of poise. And yet, his fit into the midfield was almost perfect.
“It was really good. Guys like Roger [Espinoza], Ilie, are really good, and they give me a lot of advice and confidence, so it was pretty seamless.”
Espinoza, the longtime SKC midfielder, certainly gave Kuzain his own vote of confidence as he’s seen what Kuzain has to offer.
“It was great, it was great,” Espinoza said. “That’s no surprise to me. I see him every day in practice. They play him because they know he’s ready.”
Of course, the best “vote of confidence” for Kuzain on the evening might have just been Peter Vermes in his pep talk to Kuzain prior to his entry.
“Peter said that I’m ready, and he gave me confidence,” Kuzain said. “He said that once I get in, I’ll score. And when he says something, it usually happens.”