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Sporting KC signs Rwandan center back Abdul Rwatubyaye

Team is “working on a couple other players.”

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A week and a day after trading veteran Ike Opara to Minnesota United FC, Sporting Kansas City has reinforced their depth at center back. See the official press release here.

Twenty-two-year-old Abdul Rwatubyaye has been signed by Sporting KC and will take an international spot on the first-team roster pending the processing of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa. The contract is for 2019 only, with options thru 2022.

Rwatubyaye began his playing career in Rwanda as a youth at APR FC Kigali before transferring to professional club Isonga FC as a 16-year-old in 2013. From there, he joined the nation’s biggest club, Rayon Sports FC in July of 2016. Internationally, the right-footed back debuted with the Rwandan National Team in November of 2015 at age 19 and has earned 22 caps, scoring one goal, in friendlies and qualifications for the Africa Cup of Nations from 2016-18 and the World Cup in 2015.

Footage of the center back can be seen below:

The athletic 6’1” 175lbs Rwatubyaye was discovered through the same scout who brought winger Latif Blessing (now with Los Angeles FC in MLS) to Kansas City’s attention.

“We have watched [him]. He’s a young guy, and we think he has some upside to him. We are excited to add him to the roster of the team,” said Vermes. “When we watch him, he has all the characteristics we want in that position.”

From the video, Rwatubyaye seems a good distributor of the ball and fearless in the box both attacking and defending, as well as a strong reader of the game for his central back position. Don’t expect him to step right in, however.

“We have a model of play, which we try to implement all the time. Some players can adapt and adjust right away, others take some time,” said Vermes. “Until I start working with the player inside the white lines, I don’t know what that progression is going to be like.”

Most recently, Rwatubyaye has started and helped Rwanda earn ties against Guinea and the Central African Republic during 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying last fall.

The addition, made as Sporting Kansas City is about to embark on its second-leg of preseason training in Arizona in front of a crowded schedule featuring a Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League matchup with Toluca beginning February 21 at home followed by a condensed MLS schedule and US Open Cup play, could be the first of a few more.

“We are working on a couple of other players,” he said. “Could happen. May not.”

Vermes would not specify what positions those they are looking at play in. However, he did say there is no particular position that he sees as a pressing need.