RECAPPING THE 2011 SEASON
One year ago, president Robb Heineman announced that the Kansas City Wizards team name would be changing to Sporting Kansas City. The name change coincided with the arrival of the new soccer stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park. The reinvention of the team was met with criticism and doubt. After all, the soccer team hadn’t qualified for the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup Playoffs in the past two years.
Sporting KC was forced to play their first 10 games on the road so construction at the new arena could finish up. On June 9, Sporting KC held the opening game at Livestrong Sporting Park against Chicago Fire. Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong spoke before the game, welcoming the 19,925 fans. Although Sporting KC didn’t win that night, the team started to rise up the standings and eventually took control of first place in the East conference for the MLS Regular Season. On the road to the MLS Cup, Sporting KC played against the Colorado Rapids in the conference semifinals with a 4-0 aggregate win. Next, they played against the Houston Dynamo, losing 2-0.
REPRESENTING THEIR FLAG
Many of Sporting KC’s players are being called up to play for their respective national teams. Players Graham Zusi, CJ Sapong, and Teal Bunbury have been playing and practicing with the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) during pre-season. Bunbury splits his time playing for the USMNT and the U.S. U23s. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin plays for the U20s. Forward Kei Kamara plays for his native Sierra Leone national team; midfielder Roger Espinoza plays for Honduras; Peterson Joseph plays midfield for hometown Haiti and defender Lawrence Olum plays for Kenya.
While these are amazing opportunities for the players, this could mean missed games due to national team games and possibly even the Olympics. This will however give other additional players and rookies the chance to play and show what they have to offer.
Graham Zusi has been a strong central midfielder from the beginning of the season. Zusi has powerful shot and is known to make an attempt even outside the 18 yard box. With the most assists on the team, Zusi is key in goal kicks and corner kicks. He’ll be a key player in setting up goal opportunities for the 2012 season.
The Frenchman has been a strong asset in the defensive half who is well known for his powerful headers. His headers have both cleared dangerous balls from scoring and scored for Sporting KC. Collin has already racked up the team’s most yellow cards (10) and is known for being a very aggressive player.
Homegrown player Matt Besler has become a respected and dependable central defender. Besler’s signature 40 yard throw-in is known to create what seemed like a minimal throw-in to a goal. Besler does a great job controlling the tempo of the game and is quick stop any potential goal opportunities.
Kei Kamara is a veteran goal scorer. Kamara had the most goals, shots and shots on goal for the 2011 season. Kamara knows exactly where to place the ball, is quick on his feet and is always creating goal opportunities. He is known as the prankster of the team for constantly playing tricks on the rookies and new players.
Bobby Convey is a MLS veteran who started playing professionally at age 16 for D.C. United. Convey played in England for six years in the then Football League Championship. He will start his 13th season playing professionally for Sporting KC. His experience will make him a valuable asset and will be a dangerous player in the box.
A London native, Dominic Dwyer played forward for the University of South Florida before being drafted 16th overall by Sporting KC in the MLS SuperDraft. Dwyer is one of the only two English players to play for the MLS. Dwyer has been a strong player throughout the preseason and will come in handy when fellow forwards Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong are called off to USMNT duty.
Cyprian Hedrick is a central defender who played for the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers. Hedrick was the second MLS SuperDraft pick for SKC, 30th overall. Hedrick has been a force to be reckoned with. Hedrick has signed for the 2012 season with a one year contract.
GAMES TO LOOK FORWARD TO
LA Galaxy – April 7th; 3:00 P.M.
LA Galaxy was the winner of the 2011 MLS Cup and they are one of the best teams with Englishman David Beckham and USMNT star Landon Donovan. With the rate Sporting KC is improving they’ll have a chance to beat the cup holders.
Chicago Fire – June 29th; 7:00 P.M.
Most MLS team can’t say they have a rivalry, but Sporting KC’s rivalry against Chicago has existed since the two teams formed. Whether it’s on the road or at home, this match is one to watch. Last season, Sporting KC partnered up with sandwich shop “Firehouse Subs” so that every time Chicago lost at their home stadium, each Sporting fan receives a free medium sub with the purchase of a drink and chips.
Houston Dynamo – July 7th; 7:00 P.M.
Sporting KC was devastated when they lost to Houston for the chance to play for the MLS Cup, but they’ll be looking for revenge. You can expect the Cauldron, KC’s rowdy group of diehard fans, to be yelling louder and banging their drums with more might.