Kaw Valley FC’s first games at home of the 2019 season is an almost perfect representation of what the team is all about. Two games, two cities and two different lineups.
The USL League Two (formerly the PDL) side was formed by Sporting Kaw Valley, an affiliate of Sporting Kansas City. Sporting Kaw Valley was formed when a club in Topeka Kansas merged with the Kaw Valley soccer association in Lawrence and became an affiliate of Sporting KC.
Half of Kaw Valley FC’s home games are played in Lawrence and the other half 30 minutes west in the Kansas State Capital of Topeka, both locations near the Kaw (Kansas) River.
With a focus of developing and preparing players in college for the next level without sacrificing their eligibility, Kaw Valley FC’s head coach István Urbányi may have been a perfect choice. Urbányi has played professionally in his native Hungary, in Major League Soccer and a couple appearances for Hungary.
His coaching experience is equally as varied, having coached both academy and senior teams in Hungary, the Maldives national team and then joined Sporting KC where he coached in their academy. He was recently an assistant at University of Missouri Kansas City before taking over Kaw Valley FC.
Wherever Urbányi goes, he always seems to return to coaching youth at various levels. “I have experience at every level and the truth is whether I coach 12-year-olds or 72-year-olds, the approach is the same but yes I do like to work with these guys,” Urbányi told The Blue Testament. “They are ready to prove what they have, they have some experience already, but they are not there yet.”
Many of the players on Kaw Valley FC’s roster played in Sporting KC’s academy before college and playing for KVFC has a couple advantages for those players.
“For players that choose college. We try to cover the gap between Academy and professional level. So players after the Academy years are welcome to come back here. It’s not that those players are not good enough or strong enough to make the pro but they want to study first. They want to get that degree,” Urbányi explained. “Having them back here is good for them, it’s good for us so they can maintain their homegrown hours.”
Academy players that go to college have to train a minimum amount of hours with their MLS team in the off-season to be considered a Home Grown player if they sign with the senior team. The affiliation between Sporting KC and Kaw Valley FC keeps the Home Grown option open for a number of former SKC Academy players.
In USL League Two, the players signed tend to the better college players so it challenges those players as they face different, high level, opponents.
“That is the point, the biggest jump is still from the Academy to the professional level,” Urbányi stated.
It’s not just Sporting KC Academy players with Kaw Valley FC. “Another group that makes up the roster are players from the local area, from affiliates and that have ties to the local area,” Urbányi added. “We also have some internationals because we want to build up that path also, to bring talented internationals here.”
A small army
Kaw Valley FC has a large number of players in camp at the moment. What Urbányi described as a small army. With many weekends featuring two games and wanting to allow players time off when needed, Urbányi explained, “We have two teams plus players on extended tryouts.”
For the first home weekend, a match on Friday and one on Saturday would not give players any chance to recover so Urbányi will use a significant number of his players but it is also important to give players a chance to play.
“We will have two completely different lineups.” Urbányi stated. “This is not about my ambitions as a coach, this is not about winning the trophies. Yes, we want to win each and every game. A winning mentality is part of the development as well but it is also to give the players a chance to play, to see what they have, to let them prove their qualities.”
Urbányi is hoping fans turn out in large numbers for his team. “We’ve been talking about young men, players coming here with different backgrounds, different ambitions, different hopes and of course different qualities. So, I think it is very special and unique to come watch these guys.”
Kaw Valley FC faces the Thunder Bay Chill on May 24th at 6:30 PM (Rock Chalk Park, Lawrence) and WSA Winnipeg at 7:30 PM on May 25th (Hummer Sports Park, Topeka).