cover photo from St. Ann's Photos
Jon Kempin is a twenty-two year old goalkeeper who played for Sporting Kansas City for the last five years. Now out of contract, Kempin talks about involvement with US Youth National Teams as well as his plans with Sporting Kansas City moving forward.
You signed with Sporting Kansas City at 17, foregoing college. What were the factors that played into your decision, knowing that your involvement with the first team would be sparse for the first five years?
The main reason for signing pro at such a young age was the fact that MLS gave me money for college. That way, I was able to take college classes while getting professional training year round instead of college training and games for a few months out of the year. My thought was that I would get some games with the reserve team while adjusting to the pace of shots and strength of players at such a young age.
What would you tell a young goalkeeper signing with an MLS team to be mindful of?
I would tell a younger goalkeeper signing with MLS to have a clear and direct development plan. How to get games, possible timeline of being the starter, so forth. Make sure you're in a good environment where they respect and value younger players. If they haven't finished college I would advise them to figure out a way to do so. MLS has a new program with Southern New Hampshire to help players complete their degrees.
(Read more about the program here.)
You've spent time with nearly every youth national team. You've been called in for camps, you've been left out of some. What goes through a player's head knowing there is a chance at a call up?
It's obviously frustrating to be in and out of camps. You're trying to build a good relationship with players but [you] only see them a few times a year. You just need to keep working hard in case your chance comes again and focus on your club team and continuing to grow there. My goal when I was younger was to make it to the Olympics. I was fortunate enough to be called into youth national team camps and without the U-17 residency program I don't think I would be where I am today.
How hard is it for a player to retain a spot in the player pool or regain one? Is there anything that could help the process of getting the right players into camps but keeping the fringe players involved?
I think the addition of more youth age groups is awesome and a great step for US Soccer. In my opinion, that will allow for more players to be seen because there will be more camps. It will also help our players build more of a relationship and understanding of one another through the years. It is always tough going into a camp for a week and trying to get on the same page. Now that US Soccer added more ages, I believe there will be a better chance for players to build chemistry.
You were with the U23s who just recently finished a two leg series against Brazil, losing 2-1 in the first game and then 5-1. With it not exactly being results you were looking for, what do you take away the series and what areas do the U23s need to continue working on?
Well, the first games result wasn't too bad. We almost got a goal at the end and a possible PK. A 2-2 draw in Brazil after one day of training wouldn't have been bad. The 5-1 was obviously not great. We had a great first half and couldn't keep it going second half. Brazil has Champions League players. Their quality was very high and it was a tough challenge but we learned a lot though and we were able to work on certain situations. I think the biggest thing for us is games as a group. The more games we have the more chemistry we will create before Colombia.
In the first game, you picked up a yellow card pretty early into the second half, which not only had viewers confused but you seemed a little out of the loop as well. What did the ref say to you?
*laughs* No idea, it was in Portuguese. Our coach forgot to give the sub sheet to the ref and I forgot to wait for the ref to put up the electronic sign. Kind of funny, but it took them twenty minutes to realize.
You were called into a USMNT camp last January. What stands out looking back at the camp and what did you gain as a player?
It was awesome hanging and going to dinner with some of the players I looked up to when I was younger. They helped me fit in. I loved the experience I gained there. The main thing I learned during the trip was consistency. In order to make the next jump I needed to be consistent everyday in training.
SKC had a bit of a whirlwind with their goalkeeping situation this year. From someone who was inside it all, what can you say about the goalkeeping situation that the public may have missed?
It's pretty straightforward. Luis Marin was far away from his family in Chile. He wanted to be closer to them and so he moved home. That allowed for Tim Melia to step in. In my opinion, he was the best if not second best goalkeeper in the league once he started playing. His interesting style of goalkeeper helped us win a US Open Cup championship. I've enjoyed blending some of his skills into mine and creating my own style of goalkeeping.
And now you're out of contract with SKC. What options are you weighing at the moment?
I am looking at other options I have. Europe and other MLS teams. I've been with KC for six years already so my ultimate goal is to get something done with Kansas City but I am not afraid to leave if I am not being valued.
Five years from now, what's your dream situation?
In five years I hope to be the starter for a team. A lot of players goals are to play in Europe. If I am starting for a team over there... awesome. Bayern Munich is my favorite team but if I'm starting for my hometown Kansas City, I can't complain about that either.