The visit of Sporting Kansas City to Empire Field this weekend will create some firsts for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Though it is a new opponent for the Blue and White, right fullback Jonathan Leathers knows the American Midwest outfit all too well.
Before being selected in last November's MLS Expansion Draft by Whitecaps FC, Leathers got his feet wet in Major League Soccer as a member of Sporting KC. Known as Kansas City Wizards up until the end of last season, the native of Athens, Georgia, took part in the 2008 MLS Cup Playoffs and the 2009 North American SuperLiga competition with Saturday's visitors.
The defender knows he will see many familiar faces on the other side of the ball this weekend, but his focus remains firmly on earning the 'Caps a second home win of the season. "I have a lot of friends there and have a lot of respect for that organization," Leathers said. "Everybody in the team has been asking me about them, but for me, it's just another game. I can't treat Saturday's match any differently from our other games this season. I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can."
Sporting KC are in the midst of a very challenging 10-match road spell, as their LIVESTRONG Sporting Park home will not be ready until early June. Leathers feels the 'Caps can take advantage of Kansas City's current schedule. "I know games on the road are very tough in MLS, so hopefully, we can play our game and earn another result here at home. I'm expecting us to be playing a hard-working and organized Kansas City team this weekend. It's going to be a battle, that's for sure."
While he will be trying his best to claim a Vancouver result at Empire Field, Leathers praised Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes in helping him develop as an MLS player. "I have a lot of respect for him and learned a lot from him during my time in Kansas City," said the 25-year-old. "I give him a lot of credit for progressing my career."
With two league appearances under his belt for Whitecaps FC, Leathers has been a measure of consistency during the early stages of the campaign. "I thought Jonny had a great preseason and has been very good so far in our first two games," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "He's good defensively and always makes it very hard for opponents to get by him. He's also fast and very good at timing his forward runs into the attack. In addition, he's a great guy."