Last night was a glory moment for MLS in a week that the league really needed some glory. Sporting Kansas City, one of the most exciting teams in the league, powered by the Houston Dynamo in a packed over capacity Sporting Park by a score of 2-1. Besides what might have been the curtain opening for game winning goal scorer Dom Dwyer, the game details don’t really matter. But the result does.
For years, Kansas City felt like a team without a true home. Despite some great players like Preki, Tony Meola, Peter Vermes, Roger Espinoza and many more, the Kansas City Wizards lacked a bit of “cool.” The team played in colossal Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs play, and the crowds always looked sparse, even if there was a decent crowd by MLS standards.
The 2006 takeover of the team by Sporting Club didn’t register shockwaves at first, but this is where this story begins. The club paid Lamar Hunt $20 million for the team and then received $275 million in public works funds for the construction of a new stadium. That stadium, Sporting Park, is now widely considered to be the best soccer stadium in the country. The location, in the western suburbs of the city, is near plenty of outlet shops and even some other sporting venues, such as Kansas Speedway.
The team name switch to Sporting Kansas City seemed a bit gimmicky at first. I remember hating it because it seemed like a stupid way to sound European. When you’re cool though, it all works. The slow infusion of cash and a brilliant stadium really has moved Kansas City from an afterthought to the forefront of American Soccer.
Now, Sporting KC will host MLS Cup on December 7th. Its former Defender of the Year Peter Vermes is now the calculating manager that has them there. Some real wizards (I had to) like Graham Zusi, Paulo Nagamura, Jimmy Nielson, Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber are bringing a brilliant look to the field, with substance and style that produces winning results.
To borrow a line from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Everything’s truly up to date in Kansas City.