With Sporting Kansas City visiting Orlando City this weekend, fans and media around Central Florida are talking about Dom Dwyer's first game back in Orlando since his loan ended in 2013. But Dwyer isn't the only player returning to Orlando for this game.
When MLS and USL created an affiliate system between the two leagues, USL's Orlando City joined with MLS' Sporting Kansas City. The Midwestern club sent six players to the Lions that season. Four of those players could make the trip back to the Sunshine State for this weekend's match-up. With many focusing on Dwyer's return, it would be easy to forget the other returning players who contributed to the 2013 USL Pro championship.
Becoming a Homegrown Player for Sporting Kansas City in 2010, goalkeeper Jon Kempin was sent on loan to Orlando City for the 2013 season where he backed up Miguel Gallardo. Despite being a backup to the league's top goalkeeper, Kempin made nine league appearances. Kempin is unlikely to see the field Sunday, as he is mostly an unused substitute for SKC, only appearing 13 times this season following his return from a loan to NASL's San Antonio Scorpions.
Another often forgotten Sporting Kansas City player who played a part in that 2013 season for Orlando City is Kevin Ellis. Like Kempin, Ellis was a Homegrown Player for SKC having briefly spent time in their academy. During the 2013 USL season, Ellis participated in five matches for the Lions. Ellis played mostly right back for Orlando City that season as a replacement for starting right back Bryan Burke, who broke his leg in July of that year. In his return to SKC, Peter Vermes began to play Ellis as a center back. He took part in 21 games in 2014 for the club and has played in 19 games thus far this season.
The final former USL player returning to Orlando this week has a slightly different story. Mikey Lopez wasn't a Homegrown Player for Sporting Kansas City and didn't go on loan to Orlando in 2013. Lopez spent his time in Orlando during the 2014 season, the club's last in USL. Lopez spent the early part of the season in Orlando before the club decided to sever ties with SKC in preparation for its inaugural MLS season. Lopez subsequently went on loan to fellow USL club Oklahoma City Energy. In all, the 22-year-old midfielder made nine appearances during his time in Orlando.
While neither Kempin, Ellis, nor Lopez had the impact on loan that Dwyer did, they did spend time at the club and contributed to its success in the third division. Most people will continue to focus on Dwyer's return Sunday evening but he won't be the only former USL Lion returning.
And that's not even counting former MLS Lion Amobi Okugo, who was traded just weeks ago.
Despite the fact that these former Orlando City players' return will largely be ignored, every player who donned the purple shirt over the past five years has had an impact on getting the club to where it is today. While three of these former USL OCSC players haven't had the impact that Dwyer has, they nonetheless contributed to the club's success and have earned the right to be recognized for that contribution.