Sporting KC makes roster moves, adds two young players, signs two veterans

Sporting Kansas City has signed free agent center back Kortne Ford, the club announced Jan. 14. The 26-year-old Kansas native has been added to Sporting’s roster, signing an MLS contract for the 2022 season with options for 2023 and 2024.

In addition, Sporting KC has acquired Logan Ndenbe, a Belgian left back, in a transfer from Guingamp in the French second division, according to an announcement Jan. 14.

Sporting KC also recently signed All-Star Graham Zusi and veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza to one-year contracts.

Kortne Ford, Olathe native

Ford began his professional career in 2017 with the Colorado Rapids, where he started 33 of 35 MLS appearances as a Homegrown Player.

Following a five-year stint in Colorado, Ford spent the last three months of 2021 on loan with San Antonio FC in the USL Championship, scoring four goals from central defense and leading the club to the Western Conference Finals.

Born in Olathe, Kansas, Ford played youth soccer in the Kansas City area before moving with his family to Colorado at age 12. He joined the Colorado Rapids Academy in 2012 and represented the club at the U-16 and U-18 levels, guiding the U-16s to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Finals in 2013.

In three standout seasons at the University of Denver, Ford was a two-time All-Summit League First Team selection and a Top Drawer Soccer Second Team All-America honoree in 2016. He started in all 62 college appearances, notching five goals and three assists, and led the Pioneers to their first NCAA Men’s College Cup appearance as a junior in 2016.

Ford signed for the Rapids as a Homegrown Player in 2017 and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, starting 19 of 20 MLS appearances. He earned his MLS debut in a road loss to Sporting Kansas City on April 9 at Children’s Mercy Park and opened his professional scoring account against the same opponent in a 1-0 home win on May 27.

Later that summer, Ford was named MVP of the 2017 MLS Homegrown Game by heading home a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw against the Chivas de Guadalajara U-20s at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Ford becomes the fourth newcomer to join Sporting this offseason, following the acquisitions of 21-year-old defender Logan Ndenbe Jan. 14 and free agent duo Uri Rosell and Ben Sweat last month.

Logan Ndenbe, 21-year-old Belgian left back, acquired from Guingamp

Sporting Kansas City announced Jan. 14 that the club has acquired Logan Ndenbe, a 21-year-old Belgian youth international left back, in a transfer from Guingamp in the French second division.

Ndenbe has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2024 with an option for 2025 and will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

Ndenbe arrives in Kansas City after spending his first five professional seasons in Europe with Belgian top-flight side KV Oostende and French club Guingamp. The defender has logged nearly 50 professional appearances since 2017 and represented Belgium at the U-17 through U-21 levels.

A native of Mouscron, Belgium, Ndenbe developed in the Royal Excel Mouscron academy before joining KV Oostende as a 17-year-old in 2017. He played 15 matches in three seasons with the club, featuring in the Belgian First Division A as well as the league’s playoff competition for the UEFA Europa League.

Ndenbe left Belgium in July 2020, signing for Guingamp to mark the start of a successful stint in the French Ligue 2. He made 16 appearances for the club during the 2020-2021 campaign and took another step forward during the first half of the 2021-2022 season, playing every minute in 12 league starts while adding one assist.

On the youth international stage, Ndenbe played eight matches for the Belgium U-17s in 2017, including starts in three qualifiers for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in March of that year. He then jumped to the Belgian U-18 squad, where he made four friendly appearances from November 2017 to March 2018.

Ndenbe earned his Belgium U-21 debut last June for his first of five matches in 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying. He has started in each of the team’s last three games since Oct. 12, going the full 90 minutes in shutout wins over Denmark, Turkey and Scotland.

All-Star Graham Zusi signs one-year contract

Sporting Kansas City announced Thursday that the club has signed defender and seven-time MLS All-Star Graham Zusi to a one-year contract for the 2022 MLS season with an option for 2023.

One of the most accomplished players in club history, Zusi has spent his entire 13-year professional career at Sporting and won four major championships in Kansas City — the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

The 35-year-old joined Sporting out of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and has since become the longest-tenured player with one team in MLS history, helping the club to 10 playoff appearances since 2011 as one of the league’s premier players.

Zusi is Sporting’s all-time appearance leader with 373 matches played in all competitions, including 320 in the MLS regular season and 20 in the MLS Cup Playoffs. He also ranks second on the club’s all-time charts in assists (87), minutes (29,980) and starts (327) while placing 10th in goals (33).

The versatile veteran — who has transitioned from central midfielder to winger to right back during his tenure in Kansas City — was selected to the MLS Best XI in 2012 and 2013 after being named the 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year. Additionally, his club-record seven All-Star selections from 2012-2019 were the most in MLS during that time.

On the international stage, Zusi amassed five goals and seven assists in 55 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team from 2012-2017. He appeared in all four matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup as a wide midfielder, tallying two assists, before representing his country at the 2015 and 2017 Concacaf Gold Cups, winning the latter as a right back.

Zusi started 26 of 28 MLS matches in 2021, becoming the all-time leader for most regular season appearances among one-club players in MLS history. He recorded five assists during the regular season for a side that led the Western Conference with 58 goals and finished three points out of first place. In a 3-1 home win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Nov. 20, Zusi opened his MLS postseason scoring account with a stunning 30-yard strike and extended a club record with his seventh career playoff assist.

The 2021 campaign also saw Zusi become the ninth player in MLS history to eclipse 25,000 regular season minutes with one club and the 12th active player with 100 combined goals (29) and assists (71) in regular season play. He finished the year with 28 successful crosses, eighth-most in MLS, and placed third on the team with 34 chances created.

Zusi began his Kansas City tenure in 2009 and flourished in his third professional season with five goals and seven assists as the 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year. He reached new heights in 2012, breaking into the U.S. Men’s National Team and landing MLS Best XI honors with seven goals and 17 assists in all competitions for a Sporting side that won the U.S. Open Cup with a shootout win over Seattle Sounders FC at Children’s Mercy Park.

In 2013, Zusi repeated his MLS Best XI feat — and earned his second straight Sporting KC team MVP award — with six goals and 12 assists during a banner campaign in which Sporting ousted Real Salt Lake to win the MLS Cup on home soil.

Zusi played an integral role for the U.S. MNT over the next three years, assisting two goals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, featuring in all five matches in the 2016 Copa America Centenario and helping the Americans to the 2017 Gold Cup title. During that time, he remained an ever-present fixture for a Sporting side that captured the U.S. Open Cup title in 2015 and 2017 and consistently competed at the top of the Western Conference.

After moving into his current right back role in 2017, Zusi played every minute of the 2018 MLS season, tallying two goals and seven assists as Sporting finished first in the West and advance to the conference finals. In 2020, he helped the club to its fourth first-place conference finish in 10 seasons.

Zusi played an integral role for the U.S. MNT over the next three years, assisting two goals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, featuring in all five matches in the 2016 Copa America Centenario and helping the Americans to the 2017 Gold Cup title. During that time, he remained an ever-present fixture for a Sporting side that captured the U.S. Open Cup title in 2015 and 2017 and consistently competed at the top of the Western Conference.

After moving into his current right back role in 2017, Zusi played every minute of the 2018 MLS season, tallying two goals and seven assists as Sporting finished first in the West and advance to the conference finals. In 2020, he helped the club to its fourth first-place conference finish in 10 seasons.

Away from the soccer field, Zusi has participated in numerous philanthropic events and embraced a leading role for The Victory Project, Sporting ‘s charitable arm that helps children and families affected by cancer and all of life’s challenges.

In addition to making virtual and in-person visits to Children’s Mercy Hospital to interact and play games with patients, the former Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year has led the following Victory Project initiatives: Yoga on the Pitch at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC Day at the Kansas City Zoo, the Sporting Invitational golf tournament at Loch Lloyd Country Club and Celebrity Bartending at No Other Pub. He has also appeared regularly in the Braden’s Hope Calendar.

Roger Espinoza, veteran midfielder, signs one-year contract

Sporting Kansas City announced Jan. 13 that the club has signed veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza to a one-year contract for the 2022 MLS season.

Espinoza has played a leading role for Sporting over the course of 12 MLS seasons, helping the club to three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships and nine appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

In two separate spells at Sporting from 2008-2012 and 2015 to present, Espinoza ranks third in club history in appearances (335), starts (295) and minutes played (26,143) across all competitions. He has also scored 12 goals and sits fifth on Sporting’s all-time chart with 43 assists.

Since the dawn of the Opta era in 2010, Espinoza ranks third in MLS in both duels won (1,510) and tackles won (466) with a single club. The 2012 MLS All-Star is also Sporting’s all-time leader with 21 appearances in the U.S. Open Cup, a prestigious domestic tournament he helped the team win in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

The 2021 campaign saw Espinoza tie an MLS career-high with 32 regular season appearances for a Sporting side that finished within three points of first place in the Western Conference and reached the MLS Cup Playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons. He made 24 starts over the course of the year and led the team in duels won (153) and tackles won (50) while creating 24 scoring chances. He also tallied assists in pivotal wins over Minnesota United FC on Sept. 15 and Seattle Sounders FC on Oct. 23, with the latter setting up Johnny Russell for Sporting’s Goal of the Year presented by Parisi Coffee.

Espinoza began his professional career in Kansas City as a 2008 MLS SuperDraft selection. After helping the club finish atop the conference standings in 2011 and 2012 — earning MLS All-Star recognition and an Open Cup title in the latter season — he moved abroad for a two-year stint with English side Wigan Athletic. Espinoza bagged three goals in 57 appearances for Wigan while gaining experience in the English Premier League, English Championship and UEFA Europa League. He also guided the Latics to a famous 1-0 upset win over European powerhouse Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.

Following a successful spell at Wigan, Espinoza returned to Sporting ahead of the 2015 campaign and added to his collection of trophies with another Open Cup title that fall. His second stint in Kansas City was further highlighted by a third Open Cup championship in 2017 and first-place Western Conference finishes in 2018 and 2020.

On the international stage, Espinoza has played 52 times for the Honduras Men’s National Team since debuting in 2009. He notably represented Honduras at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, making five starts across the two tournaments. Espinoza also starred for Los Catrachos at the 2012 Summer Olympics in England — leading Honduras to the quarterfinals of the competition and scoring against Brazil — and previously featured at the 2009 and 2011 editions of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Prior to turning professional, Espinoza spent two years at Yavapai College in Arizona, where he was a Junior College National Player of the Year finalist in 2006. He transferred to Ohio State University for his junior season in 2007 and propelled the Buckeyes to the College Cup, scoring in the national championship game against champions Wake Forest.

Off the field, Espinoza has been an active member of the Kansas City community who has participated in numerous events tied to The Victory Project, the club’s philanthropic foundation dedicated to helping children affected by cancer and all of life’s challenges. He became a volunteer partner with humanitarian nonprofit Unbound in 2015, conducting soccer clinics in underserved parts of Honduras, and in 2020 rallied support for Hurricane Eta relief by raising awareness and money alongside fellow Hondurans who play in MLS.


Last fall, Espinoza married fellow soccer player Lo’eau LaBonta, who plays as a midfielder for the Kansas City Current in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Upcoming matches

Sporting will train in Arizona from Jan. 17 to Feb. 19 for the team’s 2022 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. Manager Peter Vermes’ side will then kick off the MLS season on Feb. 27, visiting Atlanta United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, before playing host to the Houston Dynamo FC in a highly anticipated Children’s Mercy Park home opener on March 5.

Season tickets for Sporting Kansas City’s 2022 campaign and several 2022 ticket packages and promotions and are available by calling 888-4KC-GOAL or visiting SportingKC.com.

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