K-W United: A Successful Path To Pro

Posted 07 May 2015 12:06 pm

In K-W United FC's two years as an organization, the club has experienced tremendous growth led by a solid foundation of development in players that have gone on to become pro. Several of United's alum have had successful stints in Kitchener-Waterloo and have impressed coaches from around North America and the world to hand them their first opportunity at professional soccer. K-W coaches and team executives take great pride in the accomplishments of our past players.

The professional standards the club demands has enabled many players to experience a pro-like environment, helping them in their pursuits of professional contracts.

From the 2013 season, defender A.J. Cochran was drafted by MLS side Houston Dynamo in the 2014 draft and signed a Generation Adidas contract. Cochran has made 22 appearances for his club since his debut in April of 2014. Former midfielder Justin Portillos impressive 2013 season at United earned him a contract with the Charleston Battery of the USL.

Team leading scorer in 2013, Evan James, has gone on to play for Tonbridge (England) and has made six appearances, scoring two goals for his current club Kraft (Finland).

Recent United players that have gone pro include Jay Chapman, who recently signed a homegrown player contract with Toronto FC and has since been on loan with USL team Toronto FC II.

2014 alumni defender Jordan Murrell was drafted by MLS club Real Salt Lake, while former club captain Jack Warburton joined English club Brentford earlier this year, playing for their U21 team.

"K-W United is one of the biggest reasons I was able to sign my first professional contract," Chapman stated.

"It is very important to get good training and high competition during the summer time when your home from college. I got fantastic training and was able to better my game both summers I spent with K-W United."

Chapman, 21, has spent the past three years at Michigan State University, making 63 appearances for his schools team, scoring 12 goals while adding 15 assists.

The Brampton, Ontario native was the scorer of the lone K-W goal against Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon when the two faced off two summers ago in Kitchener.

Similar to Chapman, former United defender Murrell currently plays for a USL side, the Real Monarchs. The 22-year old was drafted by MLS team Real Salt Lake in the 2015 draft.

"K-W has helped me develop through many ways," said Murrell when asked about Uniteds impact on his path to becoming pro.

"Especially having the club there in the summer time while being away from school it was easy to continue to develop especially through the great coaching we had."

The London, England native highlighted his appreciation for the professionalism of the club, explaining it helped him understand the professional expectation.

"Training everyday was exactly like the pro environment having the facilities there for our use at any time was the same."

Warburton, a product of Watford's Football Academy in England, captained K-W for the first two seasons of the club's existence. The midfielder's vast experience playing in Europe helped in building a successful team throughout his two years at the club.

Despite the different surroundings than he was used to, Warburton fit right into his new environment the second he arrived. "K-W United was great for my progress because to be honest, when I first went to Canada, I didn't know what to expect from the standard and it was very surprising to see the excellent quality of soccer."

When asked how it feels to have gone pro, the three players share the same excitement, explaining it as 'unbelievable'.

"It's a very surreal feeling. It is something I have wanted to do since I was 5 years old and to have achieved it feels amazing," explained Chapman.

Murrell echoed his former teammates statement, saying: "I don't think it has really hit home yet but it's lovely playing for a living now. It's a different level now though, it's my job now."

"It's great to become a pro but to be honest when you've been in it for so long it becomes a must and you have to push yourself to be the best you can be every day on and off the soccer field," Warburton added.

The development of these players highlights the excellent work by club owner Gillian Heidary and president Barry MacLean over the past two years. The pair have worked together to build a successful environment for every United player. The hard work and dedication of everyone at the club has made K-W into an attraction to the local community and PDL as a whole.

Other notable United players that have gone on to the pros following their time at the club include Ricky Garbanzo who also joined the Charleston Battery, while 2014 Player of the Year Emeka Ononye recently signed with Toronto FC II. Nikola Paunic was also drafted into the MLS by the Vancouver Whitecaps and Nicolas Perea joined Jacksonville Armada FC of NASL. Former head coach Stuart Neely joined Toronto FC II in USL Pro.

Everyone at K-W United FC is extremely proud of every single one of our players that have been rewarded for the hard work and dedication as the club continues to strive to build a very positive and professional atmosphere for years to come.

 Article by Bassil Thayabeh