April 30, 2014

Energy FC: Kempin's bright start presents challenges with benefits

Adam Troxtell, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star


Things may be finally starting to settle down for Energy FC goalkeeper Jon Kempin, but that doesn't mean they'll stay that way.

Kempin started in goal for Oklahoma City in their home opener on Saturday after a whirlwind week that took him to Caron, Calif., for a U.S. Under-21 Men's National Team training camp between April 20-24. Earlier in the season, he was recalled to parent club Sporting Kansas City and, as a result, missed the team's season opening game against Orange County Blues. 

So far Kempin has been a wanted man, and his stock continues to rise as a young prospective goalkeeper.

"He's a young kid and at a stage in his career where he's learning every day," Energy FC head coach Jimmy Nielsen said. "That's a part of being a professional athlete if you want to be part of the national team. There's a lot of travel back and forth; it's a big country."

Nielsen would know; he was a goalkeeper for Sporting Kansas City himself before retiring at the end of last season as a Major League Soccer champion. 

In four games for Kempin this season, he's made 14 saves and recorded one shutout. Against Orlando City, his former club, Kempin kept the Lions at bay for the majority of the match. The only blemish was the visitors' second goal, an errant back pass in which he and central defender Mark Howard seemed to get their wires crossed. 

Kempin said that was down to the fact that it was so early in the season and the players are still becoming familiar with each other. It's embarrassing, yet something that Kempin will have to get past if he is to progress with his third different team in two years. So far, he shows every sign of doing that.

Regarding the saves he made last Saturday, Nielsen said he was happy with his goalkeepers' performance, yet unhappy about the fact he faced so many shots.

"He made some good saves, but in my opinion we gave up too many chances," Nielsen said.

As the team begins to gel and instances like the one over the weekend, hopefully, become more scarce, Kempin has so far been a bright spot. The side effect to this could be more National Team call-ups and, possibly, a recall from Sporting Kansas City again. How Energy FC will handle this has yet to play out, but so far Kempin seems to be adjusting well.

"You just have to deal with it," Nielsen said. "I think he's handling this all very well."