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New deals, stadium project spur KC optimism
by Ridge Mahoney, January 22nd, 2009 7AM



[MLS] Kansas City further revamped its roster for the 2009 season by re-signing attacker Davy Arnaud and midfielder Jack Jewsbury to new four-year contracts, a week after it had restructured the contract of Claudio Lopez and removed his Designated Player status.

"Re-signing Claudio Lopez was a priority of ours heading into the off-season," said Kansas City technical director Peter Vermes in a press release announcing the deal. "Claudio's international experience is invaluable to our team, and having a year of experience in Major League Soccer and his understanding of how our league works will be a huge benefit for him in 2009."

Last season, Lopez scored six goals and added seven assists in MLS play, and considering the inflated prices for some DPs, was a relative bargain at a salary of $800,000, half of which counted against the salary cap. And it's certainly more than New York got out of Claudio Reyna, or Dallas extracted from Denilson.

Terms of his new deal, as well as those for Arnaud and Jewsbury, have not been released.

Arnaud and Jewsbury are two of the league's poster kids: low draft picks who made good. Arnaud, a fifth-round pick in 2002 out of West Texas A&M, has scored 32 regular season goals (four more in the playoffs) and contributed 28 assists in 166 games. Jewsbury arrived a year later, also out of the fifth round, from St. Louis University and has played - at outside back, central midfield, and wide midfield -- 138 games, scored 12 goals, and recorded 15 assists. In each of the past four seasons he's played at least 28 games.

Defender Matt Besler, taken with the No. 8 pick in the SuperDraft, gives Coach Curt Onalfo further encouragement for the upcoming season. "You go in with a plan, and our plan was to walk out of here with a left-footed central defender who was at the top of our list, a guy who we thought perhaps was the best defender in the group, so we're extremely pleased," said Onalfo.

Besler will be given the chance to earn a starting spot alongside U.S. international Jimmy Conrad, though Onalfo's forays in the international market might net another candidate. Kansas City lost defender Tyson Wahl in the expansion draft and Besler believes he's been well-prepared for the pro game by Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark.

"I've definitely thought that I belong in the league," said Besler, a local product (Overland Park, Kan.) who played for Kansas City-area club teams and earned NSCAA first-team all-America honors in 2008. "You have to be confident in order to play well.

"Notre Dame is such a professional environment and I really believe the last couple of years, Notre Dame has risen to the top tier of soccer programs in America. Bobby Clark always emphasizes everyone being in the mind-frame of being a professional soccer player. He does a pretty good job with that, so that was never a question.

"I didn't worry too much about what people thought or what the [MLS] coaches thought. All I could do was play well enough to be invited to the Combine, and play my best at the Combine. That's what I did and it all worked out."

There's some buzz emanating from Wizardland that doesn't involve players. During the SuperDraft last week, word leaked out that demolition had begun at the shuttered Bannister Mall, which is the site for a construction project that will include a 18,500-seat stadium for the Wizards. The team issued a press release Wednesday stating that demolition was underway.

The mixed-use project will consist of office and retail space as well as the stadium and a 12-field complex. No completion date or estimated cost of the stadium has been confirmed, but drawings and renderings have been circulating, and those who have seen them are mightily impressed, according to a source.

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