When Scarborough resident Kamal Stephenson learned late last week that older brother Khari was returning to Major League Soccer (MLS) after a five-year absence, the first thing he did was try to find out if the San Jose Earthquakes would be coming to Toronto this season.
The anxiety turned to delight when he found out that Toronto FC will host the Bay Area side in an early afternoon game on Saturday, September 25 at BMO Field.
Kamal, who celebrates his 27th birthday on September 10, has not seen his brother play live in quite a few years. The Quakes acquired Khari, a 29-year-old Jamaican international, from Norwegian Cup holders Aalesunds FK.
“I am so happy that my brother is back in the MLS and feeling quite fortunate that I will get the opportunity to see him play in Toronto next month,” said Kamal. “I just can’t wait to hook up with him and go out and cheer him on the field. I am a Toronto FC supporter, but when they are playing against a team with my brother, I have to be in his corner.”
Kamal and Khari, the sons of former Jamaica Consul General in Toronto Stewart Stephenson, last met while vacationing in Jamaica in December.
Drafted 27th overall by the Chicago Fire in the 2004 MLS Super Draft, Khari Stephenson was traded to the Kansas City Wizards for a draft pick. After just nine appearances in his rookie season, he moved to Scandinavia in 2006, representing Swedish teams GAIS and AIK before joining Aalesunds, where he scored four goals in 39 games over two seasons.
The midfielder, who has made 21 appearances with the Reggae Boyz in the last six years, welcomed the move back to North America.
“Things were not working out too well between me and the coach in Sweden and I think the time had come for a change,” he said. “The Quakes have a lot of injuries and they need some help. I am in a position to do that for them.”
Stephenson made an instant impact in his first match last Saturday against his former Kansas City club, playing the entire game and delivering a perfectly chipped pass from 35 yards out to Chris Wondolowski for the game’s lone goal. It was the Quakes’ first home win since May 8.
“I am not too surprised that I was called upon to start right away,” he said. “The team needed an offensive boost and I know I can provide that. I felt very comfortable out there and I know I will get better as the season progresses.”
Stephenson is looking forward to returning to Toronto, where he spent 16 months while his father was Consul General from January, 2001 to April, 2002.
“I have not played up there in quite a while and I still have a few friends in T.O.,” he added. “It’s also going to be fun reuniting with my brother for the first time in almost nine months.”
Toronto FC defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 in California last May.