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Kansas City Wizards sign Auvray and Escobar

The Kansas City Wizards announced Thursday that the club has signed two international players to Major League Soccer contracts.

Midfielder Stéphane Auvray of the Guadeloupe national team joins the Wizards after playing professionally in France for 10 years.

Defender Pablo Escobar of Colombia comes to Kansas City after playing for Colombian powerhouse Deportivo Cali. Per League and team policy, financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed. Pending the finalization of their P-1 Visas, both players will join the Wizards for preseason preparations.

Auvray is expected to report to the team next week at the start of training, with Escobar joining in mid-February.

Auvray, 28, was born on the island of Guadeloupe, an off-shore department of France. He left the island at age 14 to join the academy of French club Caen, where he played professionally from 1999-2002. Auvray then joined GSI Pontivy from 2002-2004, before signing with Vannes OC. Auvray played for Vannes from 2004-2009, appearing in 134 league games for the club. Auvray helped lead the Ligue 2 club to the final of the 2009 Coupe de la Ligue, playing the final 16 minutes in a 4-0 loss to Ligue 1 team Bordeaux. Auvray spent the second part of 2009 with Nîmes Olimpique.

Auvray made his debut for the Guadeloupe national team during the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, leading the team to a surprising run to the tournament semifinals. Mexico eliminated Guadeloupe in the semis before falling to the United States in the Gold Cup Final. Auvray, a central midfielder, returned for the 2009 Gold Cup as Guadeloupe's captain. Guadeloupe again qualified for the quarterfinals, falling to Costa Rica. Auvray scored his first international goal during the 2009 Gold Cup, netting the game-winner in a 2-0 group-stage victory over Nicaragua.

Since Guadeloupe is a department of France, Auvray and other members of the Guadeloupe national team are eligible to compete for France in international competition at any time. French football stars who were born in Guadeloupe or whose parents came from Guadeloupe include: Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram, Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas, Louis Saha and Sylvain Wiltord.

"We look forward to Stéphane joining the team," Wizards Manager Peter Vermes said. "His experience playing in Europe, being the captain of the Guadalupe National Team and his leadership skills will make him a valuable asset to the Kansas City Wizards."

Escobar, 22, joins the Wizards from Colombian power Deportivo Cali. Before joining Cali in 2009, Escobar played for rival team Deportivo Quindio in the Colombian first division for three and a half years. Escobar, a central defender, was part of the famed Boca Juniors academy and the America de Cali academy.

"Signing Pablo in the winter transfer window has been a priority for us this off-season," said Vermes. "He comes to Kansas City with the great opportunity to help solidify our back line."

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