Time for another Throw Back Thursday, and some more Sporting KC/KC Wizards history for you. Originally today I was going to bring the last time KC had one point or less through the first two games of the season and how the third game went, 2009, against San Jose in the rain, sleet, and snow. Instead thanks to Time Hop I'm going to bring up the first game the team ever played as "Sporting Kansas City," which occurred four years ago today, in 2011.
With the opening of then Livestrong
Sporting Park not happening until June, Sporting KC opened the 2011
season on the road against Chivas USA (RIP) in the first of seven
straight on the road. The game against Chivas seemed like a good start
to the season for KC, Chivas had finished at the bottom of the Western
Conference in 2010 while KC had seen an improved 2010 season under Peter
Vermes in his first season as head coach. While Sporting hadn't made
the playoffs, they'd finished third in the Eastern Conference with an
11-13-6 record. The team had gone through a lot of roster turnover ahead
of the 2011 season, in was the team's second designated player, Omar
Bravo, eventual rookie of the year winner, CJ Sapong, future MLS Best XI
defender, Aurelien Collin (who did not play against Chivas), and Julio
Cesar, along with many others (Luke Sassano and Milos Stojcev for
example). Chivas USA meanwhile had a very familiar face to KC fans, in
the form of Jimmy Conrad who was Chivas' captain in his final season as a
The game was also my 10th road trip for a competitive
game for Kansas City. In the previous nine I'd gone an unremarkable
0-5-4, so obviously even though the match up favored Kansas City, my
expectations were low for seeing my first ever away win in person.
couldn't have started better for Kansas City as in only the second
minute a long free kick into the box by Luke Sassano was not cleared and
eventually fell to Sapong who touched the ball away from a defender and
fired it past Zach Thornton to give KC the lead. To put in perspective
how rare of an occurrence Kansas City having a lead on the road when I
traveled was, that was just the third time in my nine trips that Kansas
City ever held the lead in a game I went to. Chivas controlled the game
after the goal, forcing Jimmy Nielsen to make a few good saves to keep
KC in front. Then right before half time KC grabbed a second. A long
cross from Kei Kamara made it over the head of Sapong and his defender
right to Bravo who was unmarked at the top of the box. Bravo chipped his
shot over an on rushing Thornton and into the net to double KC's lead
at the half 2-0.
The second half saw Chivas cut the lead in half
as Conrad scored against his former club after KC failed to clear a
corner. KC reestablished their two goal lead with Bravo getting his
second in the 74th minute. A long goal kick by Jimmy Nielsen was then
headed from Sapong, to Bravo, to Kei Kamara back into the path of Bravo
who touched it past Thornton and into the net to make it 3-1. Late on,
Chivas would make it interesting as Ben Zemanski scored off a partially
cleared corner to make it 3-2 before KC held on to finish the game off.
really can't explain what a joy it was to finally see the team win on
the road, funny enough, since the team re-branded, I'm 4-2-2 when I
travel to games.
Outside the game itself, the time I had at the
Home Depot Center (now Stub Hub Center) was great, the Chivas supporters
that we tailgated with were great, just like the majority of supporters
that I've met all over the US in my travels. They gave us beer, we
could get food, it was all around enjoyable. They even provided
entertainment with a water balloon launcher, which one of them used to
take a water balloon to his face from point blank range.
the stadium, as has become tradition, Robb Heineman came down and
visited the 70 some odd supporters that had traveled for the game,
cheering with the supporters, while making sure to replace any time we
said Wizards with Sporting (the re-branding was still a sore subject to
some of us, myself included). Not only was Heineman in the section, but after Sapong's second minute equalizer, he got the entire traveling Cauldron beer. Earlier in the day, Mike Illig (son of Cliff) had tweeted that with KC's first goal against Chivas he'd buy every SKC fan a beer at Johnny's Tavern in downtown KC. When Heineman was asked what about those that were traveling to LA, Heineman made the same offer. So after celebrating Sapong's goal I was brought along with Heineman to get beers for the group of traveling supporters.
Overall probably one of my favorite road trips, probably behind only my trip to Vancouver and Portland in 2012.