Sporting KC re-ups with two assistants, adds new goalkeeper coach

Sporting KC announced a contract extension for assistant coach Zoran Savic on Friday.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC will have two longtime assistant coaches back in the fold for the 2017 season, and they’ve also hired a new goalkeeper coach to replace John Pascarella, who departed Thursday to become the head coach of the PDL’s Des Moines Menace.

Sporting KC announced Friday that the club has signed assistants Kerry Zavagnin and Zoran Savic to new contracts. In addition, Alec Dufty has joined the technical staff as the goalkeeper coach.

Zavagnin and Savic have served as Sporting Kansas City assistant coaches since 2009 alongside Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes, who signed a contract extension with the club through 2019 in November. The longest tenured coaching trio in MLS has guided Sporting Kansas City to a club-record six straight playoff appearances since 2011 and won three major championships — the 2013 MLS Cup and the 2012 and 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups.

“Much of the success of Sporting Kansas City has been because of the incredible staff that we have,” Vermes said. “The fact that we have been able to re-sign Kerry and Zoran is a great benefit to the club. I am a strong believer that having a consistent staff is important to any club, and the fact that we are able to keep the majority of our people together is important to the future success of Sporting KC.”

Dufty was the goalkeeper coach for the Swope Park Rangers during the club’s inaugural 2016 season in the United Soccer League. His goalkeeping corps helped the Rangers win the Western Conference championship and reach the USL Cup Final on October 23. Dufty also served as a goalkeeper coach for the Sporting Kansas City Academy U-18 and U-16 teams.

“We were excited last year to bring Alec on as our Swope Park Rangers goalkeeper coach, and I thought he did a fantastic job with the team,” Vermes said. “Promoting from within is important for us, as we want people who are familiar with our club and have a good understanding of our culture.”

Zavagnin, who was inducted into the Sporting Legends hall of honor in August, has spent the last 17 MLS seasons in Kansas City. During a nine-year playing career between 2000-2008, the midfielder became Sporting Kansas City’s all-time leader in games played (291), games started (281) and minutes played (25,278) across all competitions. He won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield double in 2000 and hoisted the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2004, the same year he landed MLS All-Star and MLS Best XI accolades.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be part of such a great organization for as many years as I have,” Zavagnin said. “I’m excited to continue on and help this club achieve more championships.”

On top of his success in Kansas City, Zavagnin also made 21 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team, including six World Cup qualifiers ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

The 42-year-old Zavagnin transitioned to an assistant coaching role prior to the 2009 MLS season. His current 17-year run as a player and coach with Sporting Kansas City is the second longest with a single team in MLS history behind Ben Olsen, who has been with D.C. in a playing or coaching capacity since 1998.

The 57-year-old Savic was named an assistant coach for Sporting Kansas City in August 2009 when Vermes took over as the club’s Manager. He previously began his indoor coaching career in Kansas City, leading the Kansas City Attack from 1992-1996 and later guiding the Kansas City Comets from 2000-2005.

“It’s been amazing to have been part of the project of growing this club over the last eight years, and I look forward to its continued growth,” Savic said. “I’m going to continue to do my part to help Sporting KC remain one of the most successful clubs in Major League Soccer.”

In 2007 Savic switched to the outdoor game, joining Chivas USA as an assistant to then-head coach Preki. He moved into the television commentary booth for Kansas City matches in 2008 and 2009 before Vermes tabbed Savic to be part of his coaching staff.

A native of Gornji Milanovac, Serbia, Savic began his journey through American indoor soccer with the Buffalo Stallions in 1980. He would go on to star for several teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League, including a three-year spell with the Kansas City Comets from 1982-1984 in which he scored 70 goals over 100 appearances. He retired as a player in 1991 to start his coaching career.

The 29-year-old Dufty joined the Rangers last January from Toronto FC II, where he gained USL experience as the club’s goalkeeper coach in 2015. He was previously an assistant coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012 and Florida Gulf Coast University from 2013-14.

“I would first like to thank Peter Vermes and the Sporting KC organization for this opportunity,” Dufty said. “I’m very humbled and honored to be able to work with this staff. Sporting Kansas City has been at the forefront of growth and success in MLS, and I look forward to helping continue this tradition. I believe my time with the Swope Park Rangers and the Academy has prepared me well for this next chapter in my career.”

As a player, Dufty began his professional career in 2009 with the New York Red Bulls, earning a shutout in his lone league appearance against the Houston Dynamo. He joined USSF D2 Pro League side AC St. Louis in 2010 before returning to MLS with the Chicago Fire later that year. He announced his retirement at the end of the 2011 campaign.

Collegiately, Dufty played one season at Appalachian State University before spending the next three years at the University of Evansville, where he was a two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. He also competed in a U.S. Under-20 National Team camp in 2007.