Sporting Kansas City News Release -- www.sportingkc.com
Friday, December 20, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Sporting Kansas City announced on Thursday that the club will partner with two USL PRO teams for the 2014 season, adding a one-year agreement with Oklahoma City Energy FC to join Orlando City SC as an official USL PRO affiliate of Sporting KC. A minimum of two Sporting Kansas City players will be loaned to each USL PRO team throughout the season as part of the agreements.
“Oklahoma City provides us with a great, regional partner and having Jimmy Nielsen as the head coach will give us strong insight into player development,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said.
“We will continue to have our wonderful relationship with Orlando City SC and adding Oklahoma City to next year’s plan perfectly aligns us with our goal of keeping players active and ready to integrate back with our first team to contribute in all of the competitions we will play in 2014.”
Former Sporting KC goalkeeper Nielsen becomes the first head coach in the Energy's history, having recently completed his final game as a professional. Neilsen bowed out from the professional ranks in Sporting KC's win against Real Salt Lake in MLS Cup 2013 on December 7. A veteran of nearly 600 professional games, Nielsen brings a wealth of experience to his new position.
“My family and I are excited to take on this new challenge and I look forward to the start of my coaching career in Oklahoma City,” said Nielsen. “To remain a part of the Sporting Kansas City family and to take some of what I have learned from all of my coaches over the years, including Peter Vermes and staff, is an opportunity I embrace.”
Nielsen began his professional career with hometown club AaB Aalborg in Denmark, helping the team to the 1999 Danish Superliga championship. After a brief stint at Leicester City in 2007, he transferred to Danish club Vejle, for whom he made 63 appearances over two years. He was named Danish Goalkeeper of the Year in 1998 and 2004, and also represented his countrty at the U-19 and U-21 levels.
In February 2010, Nielsen joined Major League Soccer and became the starting goalkeeper for Sporting Kansas City. As a member of Sporting KC, Nielsen was a two-time MLS All Star, the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and goalkeeper for the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open championship club and the 2013 MLS Cup winning squad. He was named team captain prior to start of the 2012 season.
When Nielsen began his MLS career, he instantly became a fan favorite, whose signature bleach-blonde locks earned his the nickname "White Puma.” But it wasn't just his play that endeared Nielsen to fans, though—it was his personality. He was known for stopping his car at local parks when driving by and joining in games with random children. Often, Nielsen would pull kids out of the crowd and have them kick balls at him as part of his pre-game warm-up.
USL PRO will feature 14 teams for the 2014 season with the addition of Oklahoma City and Sacramento. In 2013, USL PRO and Major League Soccer began a partnership to enhance the development of professional players in North America, strengthen the competition in both leagues and establish a solid foundation for future collaboration.