2013 MLS Champions Sporting KC Come Full Circle


Dec 7, 2013; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC celebrate with the championship trophy after the 2013 MLS Cup against the Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park. Sporting KC won in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Where to begin. Sporting KC has taken home their second MLS Cup in franchise history, defeating Real Salt Lake in a thriller at Sporting Park. The 18th MLS Cup was the coldest in history but perhaps the most exciting. After 90 minutes the score was tied 1-1 and extra time was needed. Scoring stayed deadlocked and forced the show into a penalty shootout. After a nail biting shootout KC came out on top.

The game kicked off at 3pm local time in a chilly 20 degrees(5 degree wind chill). The first 45 minutes were scrappy to say the least. A total of three yellow cards were brandished in the first half to Chris Wingert(RSL 24′), Aruelien Collin(SKC 35′), and Alvaro Saborio (RSL 44′). Just eight minutes in Sporting had their first worrisome moment. After a challenge near the KC box defender Lawrence Olum was taken off with an apparent ankle injury. For the rest of the first half play continued to be rough, looking like a Rugby match at times. 44 minutes in, tensions flared as Benny Feilhaber was pushed to the ground by Saborio and a shoving match ensued with the result being a yellow for Saborio.

Dec 7, 2013; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC forward C.J. Sapong (right) celebrates in the locker room after the 2013 MLS Cup against the Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park. Sporting KC won in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of the half RSL seemed to flip a switch on, especially Kyle Beckerman. Just seven minutes in Real Salt Lake struck on the KC goal. Beckerman picked out a beautiful pass to Saborio who was able to finish a great half volley. Jimmy Nielsens goal keeping continued to be mediocre all the way through the second half. The pipes saved Nielsen twice, Beckerman hit the upright from a screaming shot outside the box and Morales also hit woodwork with a chip. 76 minutes in Sporting was able to tie the game. A beautiful placed corner fell onto the head of Collin who placed in directly in the lower 90, giving Rimando no chance. From then out it was all KC.

After 90 minutes had finished the score was 1-1. Sporting managed to dominate the 30 minutes of extra time but produced no goals. Penalties ensued.

All eyes shifted to the keepers who took their positions in front of KC supporters in “The Cauldron”. Both teams took lackluster penalties and it took over 15 attempts but KC came out victorious after one of the best shootouts in MLS history.

What This Means For KC

After playing at a near empty Arrowhead Stadium Sporting KC, formerly the KC Wizards moved to tiny CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Kansas City Wizards had been playing there for over two years in front of tiny and uninterested crowds. Many MLS fans and executives were calling for the relocation of the dilapidated team but KC had an answer.

18,500 seat Sporting Park has brought a European atmosphere to a once boring club. Courtesy: Sporting KC Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Wizards had had the idea to re brand. In 2011 the team had adopted a European name, Sporting KC.  Although the state of the art Sporting Park was not ready for 2011’s home opener they would eventually move in. The team went from depressing crowds to a new rejuvenated fan base and sellout crowds of over 18,000 for two straight years. The team has been able to aquire gems like Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara, and youngers like C.J. Sapong. All this has happened in just two years.

They have come full circle with this win, setting an example to fellow MLS franchises. The 2013 MLS champions are truly one of the success stories in MLS and all of American sport. As they continue to grow the lesser MLS franchises can use them as a model for future development.

MLS as a whole has come very far in the last five years, quality of play has gone through the roof, fans are excited, and expansions has been successful.Two new clubs are being added to the MLS in the coming years, one in New York City and the other in Orlando. As the MLS continues to grow and become more respected by Eurocentric fans like myself,  it can only become more successful. Of course the biggest challenge will be to shift the current soccer fans in the US from watching Premier League every weekend,to watching MLS. The future is bright for MLS, soon they will over take the Premier League. Okay the last part will probably never happen but all we can do is watch the league and contribute to its growth.