Posts tagged with Lawrence

Quick Critique: Streak ends in crushing fashion for Sporting KC

It had to end sooner or later. Very few teams go undefeated at home the entire season in professional sports.

Saturday night saw Sporting KC fall at home for the first time this season against the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. Sporting led for most of the game before a questionable ejection left the players scrambling for the final 30 minutes of the contest. Despite creating chances, Sporting reverted back to a form fans haven't seen since the beginning of the season, allowing two goals in the last few minutes.

It was hard to watch as tired defenders lunged for balls and missed tackles. They kept going to ground, which is never an effective way to defend. You've always got to keep your feet moving and that's exactly the opposite of what happened.

The offense also sputtered late, making some poor decisions in the attacking third. Perhaps the most glaring mistake was Teal Bunbury's decision to not pass to a streaking Chance Myers, who likely would have put a shot on goal, if not score.

Give credit in the game to keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who made some spectacular saves before being hung out to dry by his back line. Credit is also due to Kei Kamara, who created chance after chance for his teammates.

While the end result was not desirable, perhaps the loss and end of the streak will allow Sporting to relax a little more moving forward. There were plenty of positives to take from the game and I wouldn't be surprised if the team at least attempted to appeal Omar Bravo's red card. Watching the replay it's clear he got ball. While the play may have been a foul, the straight red was a mistake by the official.

More to come later.


Quick Critique: Never quit attitude keeps Sporting KC streak alive

There is no quit in Sporting Kansas City.

There was no quit in the team when it embarked on a 10-game road trip to open the 2011 MLS season. There was no quit in the team when it lost and tied games by conceding last minute goals.

There was no quit in the team when it was sitting in last place in the entire league with a single victory and there was no quit in the team Saturday night against Chivas USA.

After what can probably be called the worst half of the team's season thus far, Sporting KC found a way back into the game in the second half. Players moved the ball well and created quality chances. If it weren't for spectacular saves from the Chivas keeper, the game could have been much different. Instead, Sporting had to claw its way back into a game that it trailed 1-0 for the majority of. The team had to stay in the game mentally after Kei Kamara's shot, destined for the upper corner, was swatted away. The team had to stay in the game when Omar Bravo's low driven header was pushed just wide of the post.

They had to stay in the game. And they did.

Inside the third of four added minutes, a little luck and a lot of 'right place at the right time' allowed Sporting to score and extend its unbeaten streak. Kudos to Bravo for continuing his run and staying in that final offensive push. He was rewarded with the goal.

Sporting Kansas City is still undefeated in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The team next competes in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.


Sports hernia surgery, Women’s World Cup and some U.S. vs. Mexico musings

The results just keep on coming for Sporting KC. After its brutal 10-game road trip at the beginning of the 2011 MLS season, the team has gone unbeaten in seven league games since opening LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Seven games without a loss is impressive, but Sporting Kansas City has also won its last two Open Cup games, securing a spot in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

That spot in the elimination portion of the tournament came with a dominating 3-0 performance Tuesday evening against Chicago Fire PDL (Premier Development League). In a game Sporting was expected to win, it did not disappoint, scoring in the third minute and not letting up. Three more performances of that kind will net the team some silverware.

The victory continued the team's form from the weekend, which saw Sporting respond to the first goal scored against them in the new stadium. The players rallied and with the help of a correctly called penalty kick took a 2-1 lead into the halftime break. Though the defense was a little shaky in the second half, Sporting hung on to secure another three points in the conference.

The recent run of form and surplus of points has gotten Sporting KC out of last place in the conference and into the middle of the playoff hunt. Sporting currently sits nine points out of the top spot.

The news, as has often been the case with Sporting this season, was not all good this week. Captain Davy Arnaud is scheduled to have sports hernia surgery in California next Wednesday. The surgery, which kept striker Omar Bravo out of the lineup earlier in the season, is expected to sideline Arnaud for as many as six weeks. Arnaud is the longest tenured player on the team and ranks second all-time on the clubs games played list.

The injury blow comes at a time when the team has finally figured out how to play together with the personnel available. The loss of midfielder Arnaud deprives the team of poise and experience at a crucial position. The captain kept a positive attitude when asked about the procedure and time away from the game.

"I'm a quick healer and will work hard to get back on the field," he said. "I will do whatever it takes to return and contribute on the field."

Though it's never easy to shuffle starting players, Kansas City has had to do it rather frequently this season. The team's recent form should make transitioning a new player into the mix a little easier.

That's good news for Sporting KC, who travel to face the expansion Portland Timbers this Saturday. Portland is coming off a 4-0 loss to FC Dallas last week and will be looking to rebound from the poor performance in front of what has been a stellar crowd this season. Kansas City will have to continue creating chances and finishing in front of the net if they want to take anything more than a point away from the west coast.

Other news:

Women's World Cup

There's been plenty of soccer to speak of the last few weeks. Perhaps most notably this week was the beginning of the FIFA Women's World Cup. The U.S., though shaky in the first half of a 2-0 victory, is one of the favorites to advance deep into the tournament. The team's game against North Korea Tuesday showcased the superior size and speed of the U.S., which looked in control for the majority of the contest despite some expected first-game lapses. The next game for the women comes on July 2 at 11 a.m.

Golden meltdown

The Men's national team didn't have the best Gold Cup final showing against Mexico.

A clear underdog, the United States took a surprising 2-0 lead early in the first half. If I know anything about the Mexican style of play, I know that they never quit. Even with a 2-0 lead, I never felt that the U.S. was safe.

That proved to be true as Mexico, with its faster, more skilled forwards tore the US defense apart for the next 60 minutes. The 4-2 final scoreline doesn't do the Mexican team's effort justice, as they completely dominated the game after the second U.S. goal. The 2/3 Mexican crowd at the packed Rose Bowl didn't help matters, either. Mexico will have a good team for years to come if it can avoid further doping charges and players like Chicharito and Dos Santos stay healthy. The one bright spot for the U.S. team was the play of Freddy Adu, who was the best American on the field by far.

The U.S. still has a long way to go. The team needs to find faster, stronger defenders as well as forwards who can consistently score against top competition (penalty kicks don't count Landon Donovan). Until that happens the team will struggle in international tournaments. People often overlook the fact that the U.S. led for only a few seconds in its 2010 World Cup outing. How coach Bob Bradley still has a job is beyond me.


The Under-17 U.S. team had a disappointing final two games in the group stage of the youth World Cup. Losing to Uzbekistan and playing to a scoreless draw against New Zealand was probably not the way the team wanted to advance to the next stage. Limping in rarely results in deep runs at the national level. The U.S. takes on red-hot German team Thursday that has scored 11 and conceded one goal in three group stage games. I'm looking for the U.S. to get rocked by a big, physical side at 3:45 p.m. on


Sporting KC to clash with Philadelphia Union; U.S. National, U-17 teams in action

Sporting Kansas City's sudden run of good form will be tested Wednesday night when the team travels to take on the Philadelphia Union, one of the conference's top teams.

The team heads into the midweek contest following the unfortunate news that midfielder Ryan Smith will not be available the remainder of the season as he tends to family issues. The 24-year-old England native had spent most of the 2011 season on the bench recovering from surgery and most recently nursing an injury. When Smith did see playing time though, he was effective. His ability to beat his defender created some chaos for opposing teams and opened gaps for the forwards to fill. Smith also recorded one goal on three shots on target, stats the team no doubt would have liked to see him replicate as the season progressed.

Even with Smith out of the picture, the midfield doesn't lose much beside an extra sub. With Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi and Luke Sassano playing well of late, it's likely the team won't suffer at all. It helps that the team has had to play without Smith for the majority of the season. There should be little to no real adjustment required.

That's the one bit of good news Sporting KC can take into the Eastern Conference clash Wednesday.

Here's the bad news:

  1. Philadelphia Union are unbeaten at PPL Park this season. In seven games they've won three and tied four. They've also only conceded four goals in those games, showcasing solid defensive pressure throughout.

  2. Philadelphia has scored eight goals in its seven home games. That offensive proficiency doesn't bode well for a Sporting KC side that will be without central defender Aurelien Collin because of yellow card accumulation and defender Roger Espinoza because of Gold Cup duty. Add to that the potential return of Philadelphia's second-leading goal scorer Carlos Ruiz and you have a very intimidating situation.

To have a chance to take three points on the road, Sporting Kansas City will have to control the ball in the midfield much better than it has in recent games. While the long ball to Kamara in the corner is an effective way to drive crosses into the box, it's not the most effective way of creating actual scoring chances. If Sporting KC can win the possession battle, the team should be able to use the speed and size of CJ Sapong to help break down the Union's back line. Bravo is also overdue for a goal, so look for him to get himself in the mix with his feisty style.

The difference in this game may well come down to momentum. Kansas City is unbeaten in its last five games. Philadelphia is coming off a loss on the road to expansion team Vancouver.

Prediction: There will be a goal in this game and I'm going to give it to the team with the most road experience and the best recent form. Sporting Kansas City takes this one and extends its unbeaten streak to six games by a score of 1-0.

Game: Sporting Kansas City at Philadelphia Union

Time: 6:30 p.m.

TV: KCMO (channel 3 for standard def., channel 203 for HD)

Other soccer action

• Sporting KC won't be the only team garnering attention Wednesday evening. The U.S. Men's National Team will also be in action against Panama in the semifinals of the Gold Cup. The national team is coming off its most impressive performance of the tournament, a 2-0 victory against a streaking Jamaica. This game is a rematch of the national squad's 2-1 defeat against Panama in the group stage. If Bob Bradley can't figure out how to motivate the players for this one, his days at the helm should be numbered. The U.S. should be the favorite to advance to the final, which will likely be a meeting with Mexico. This game will be on Fox Soccer Channel and Univision.

• The FIFA U-17 (under 17 years old) World Cup began last week. The U.S. team blasted its first group opponent Czech Republic 3-0 to get things rolling. The team plays Uzbekistan Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. local time. I looked into it and only found the game on Knology says it's live on Thursday, which goes against the tournament's official site and ESPN. It's worth a look for any fan of the game. The style is much more wide open and there are plenty of scoring chances (Uzbekistan had 24 shots on goal in its opening round loss).


Quick Critique: Sporting KC vs. San Jose

Sporting Kansas City recorded its first goal and first victory in newly opened LIVESTRONG Sporting Park Friday evening. The game itself was not very pretty. There was little flow and possession between Sporting and San Jose flip flopped constantly.

The defining moment of Sporting KC's 1-0 victory was, of course, the goal. A free kick taken by Graham Zusi, who in the last two contests has bagged two goals and two assists, was driven into the box and met by a streaking CJ Sapong. There was nothing the San Jose keeper could do to stop the redirect.

Sporting continued to create chances through the remainder of the first and all of the second half, but couldn't find a way to put any more balls in the net. The offensive pressure dipped and led to San Jose setting up a shooting gallery of sorts. Sporting's back line did well to prevent any solid looks, and Sporting walked away with its second victory in as many games.

The result is even more impressive given San Jose's recent form. The visitors Friday rolled in on a hot streak, having won four of their previous five matches. Defense, along with Kei Kamara's sideline runs, helped hold off the Earthquakes long enough to secure the three points.

Sporting KC now sits with 13 points in the Eastern Conference. Earning seven points out of a possible nine during the last three games, Sporting has put itself within one victory of the top half of the table.

The team will once again take to the road for a Wednesday match against conference opponent Philadelphia Union.


Talking with the Don: MLS commissioner talks soccer ahead of Sporting KC home opener

Kansas City's professional soccer team finally has a place to call home this season after playing 10 games on the road during the past two and a half months. The team's homecoming is much anticipated, as it also marks the grand opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, a state-of-the-art new stadium near the Legends shopping center.

Thursday night's home opener against the Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. will be well attended. Fewer than 200 tickets remained Wednesday evening and the team is making 1,500 standing-room-only tickets available for those who want to get a glimpse of the new digs. A number of VIPs are expected in the crowd Thursday including NFL player and Sporting Kansas City reserve team member Chad Ochocinco and the boss, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.

Garber, who took over MLS late in 1999, took a few minutes to discuss the league and where he wants it to go.

JP: With the expansion teams this year and the ones planned for the future, and with soccer-specific stadiums being built, is this the direction you envisioned for the league at this point?

Don Garber: Well, certainly we're on the right path to make the sport more and more popular in our country and drive greater levels of financial success. But this wasn't necessarily the plan that the original founders had years ago. I think in any business as you go through, understanding what the challenges are and how the opportunity changes, you need to evolve your plan. For example, the idea of a soccer-specific stadium was not an original part of the MLS business model. It was in essence to be tenants in buildings and be counter-seasonal programming. We learned very quickly — and Lamar Hunt was the one who wrote the book — that any sports team and its fans and players need to have a home that they can call their own and the evolution of that plan led to where we are today where we have 10 soccer-specific stadiums and the majority of our clubs playing in buildings that are built specifically for the sport.

JP: Why do you think it's been so difficult for MLS to be mainstream in the U.S.? Is it the advertising? Is it the national perception that soccer is not as popular as it is in the rest of the world?

Don Garber: I think what's mainstream today was different from what it was yesterday and certainly very different from what it will be tomorrow. Soccer clearly is the sport for a changing America and one that has more people like you — young folks who've grown up with the game and love it and want to participate when they stop playing, more people who are coming from other parts of the world where soccer is the most popular sport and landing here in cities throughout America — wanting to continue their support of a local club. And the third aspect of it is that the world is just getting smaller, and the shrinking global community is, I think, allowing soccer to more easily connect with people who in the past would not have had the opportunity to be touched by the game. All of those things are working in our favor, and I think soccer is certainly a growth business in this county and our league is the driver of the soccer business in America and I think our future is bright.

JP: Sporting Club has done some pretty progressive things as far as the direction that they're taking and the ideas that they're bringing for the stadium and the area soccer community. How does the management with Sporting Club compare with the big market teams in New York or L.A.?

Don Garber: We are very excited about the ownership here in Kansas City. I think if you're a soccer fan you should feel proud to have Cliff, Curran and Patterson as owners of your team because they believe in the sport. They're deeply committed and passionate about the city and the region here. They have a long-term vision for what their club can be both with people here in this community but also as a leader in many ways for the sport in our country. The technology focus with Sporting KC will establish them as leaders in that area, not just in soccer but in many ways within the sports industry. The stadium is a technological marvel and one that I think many teams will look to replicate throughout our league and also throughout the sport. These are all things that I as commissioner am very pleased about. Every market has their own unique and interesting dynamic whether its market size or market demographics or whether it's soccer commitment or history. I think folks have tapped into what they think will work in making this team more and more popular in years to come.

JP: How have you gone about getting people who are fans of the sport to become fans of MLS?

Don Garber: There's no shortage of soccer fans in our country and our goal is to convert all those soccer fans into supporters of their local club. As we expand into more and more markets and build more terrific facilities like LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and as we get more effective marketing programs I think we'll get closer to achieving that goal. At the end of the day, what we're saying to the soccer fan is hey, if you love this game, there's no better way to be a soccer fan than to support a local club. Paint your face, wear a flag, put on your team jersey and go out and support your team because that team will really provide you with a very real, passionate opportunity to show your love for the game. It's one thing to watch a game on television on Saturday morning, or watch the World Cup every four years, it's another thing to really believe in your club and be a supporter like many people are throughout the world. Hopefully what makes the sport so valuable around the world is the commitment of the fans. Rather than being a fan of somebody else's team, how about coming home and being a fan of your team. Now you have a beautiful building to be able to celebrate with your team.

JP: Sporting KC and other teams have set up youth and development academies where they have a system for grooming local players for the MLS. How long do you think that process will take to really be fruitful?

Don Garber: Well I think it's already delivering value to our club. There's been 35 players who've been developed in MLS club academies that are now playing for and signed to MLS rosters. This whole MLS academy concept is very new, the MLS reserve league is only one year old so I think we'll continue to see benefits from the investment in the soccer pyramid.

JP: When you're watching the U.S. Men's National Team, it's largely a collection of players who play overseas. Do you think eventually that needs to change?

Don Garber: I don't necessarily think that needs to happen but I do believe, in my opinion — and I'm not the coach of the team — there's no reason why every player on the U.S. national team, with the exception of maybe two or three, couldn't come from MLS rosters. But the coaches make the decision that they think is the right decision to make and one that he thinks will give him the best team. There are so many factors that go into it as far as the way the players are playing, our season is playing through the Gold Cup... frankly it doesn't bother me at all that the majority of the players on the U.S. national team this summer are not coming from MLS rosters because frankly I'd like local fans be able to see those players performing for their teams.

JP: What are the next steps for the league? Where does it go from here?

Don Garber: The overall goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world and I believe that in time we'll be able to achieve that. With all the size of our population and the diversity of our population and our continued development of the soccer player here in this country, I have no doubt that at some point we could be one of the top soccer leagues in the world and we're going to be focused on trying to achieve that.

JP: As the commissioner of MLS I'm sure you've had plenty of opportunities present themselves to you. What's been the best experience in your time as commissioner?

Don Garber: Well you know there are lots of things that continue to get me excited and clearly tomorrow night will be another great moment for me personally. I have a great amount of respect for Cliff Illig and Robb Heineman, and to see their dream come true is going to bring a smile to my face. Seeing the home ownership group of Neal Patterson and Pat Curran and Greg Maday with big smiles on their faces will make me happy, and certainly there's nothing better than seeing a packed stadium in a brand new facility with a team that can come home for the first time in many months and perform in front of their fans. Tomorrow will be a big night for me as well.


Sporting KC captures point in second straight contest

Things are slowly starting to look up for Sporting Kansas City. The team has managed to earn a point in each of its last two road games.

Those two points give Sporting KC a total of six after 10 games. It's the lowest in the league, but as I've stated time and time again here, you have to take into account the number of road games. In the Eastern Conference, no team has more than two victories on the road. In fact, only four of the eight teams in the conference have won on the road at all. Sporting fans should not panic just yet. The team has the pieces it needs to compete with most teams in the league. Some much needed normalcy should help when they're able to play at home and get in a routine.

While a draw and a point may be a step in the right direction for Sporting KC, the team clearly can play better. In Saturday's game against Toronto, Sporting was caught offside on five different occasions in the first half alone. Those squandered potential scoring chances were the most recorded so far this season and show that the forwards and midfielders weren't quite on the same page Saturday.

Sporting Kansas City also posted its first shutout of the season, not allowing a goal on seven shots. Eric Kronberg was forced into action a few times during the match and answered the call each time. It was the keeper's first career shutout and the team's first of the season.

Sporting finally seem to be figuring things out in the back, although it took a fine sliding tackle from Matt Besler to keep things on level terms Saturday.

With the road trip finally over and a much-anticipated home opener in a new stadium just around the corner, you can bet Sporting players will come ready to play Thursday night. Manager Peter Vermes summed up the difficulties of a long road trip and the feeling of finally coming home.

"I think it's easy to understand the travel and all of that stuff, but one thing that most people don't take into consideration about those 10 games is that when you're always the enemy, week in and week out, and you are never home, you lose the connection back to your fans, back to your organization. And you almost, as a player, think 'what are we playing for?' Because when you come home and you do a good play, everybody cheers and they are on your side, that's the twelfth man. We haven't had that."

No, Sporting hasn't had any home comforts or home fans applauding their efforts. But that's about to change. Hopefully the change of venue and atmosphere will lead to a change in results.


Sporting KC ends 10-game road trip at Toronto tonight

It's finally coming to an end. After 10 games, tons of miles and nearly two and a half months, Sporting Kansas City will end its grueling season-opening road trip.

Sporting will travel to Toronto to take on struggling Toronto FC. Kansas City, fresh off a much deserved draw at Colorado last week, looks to ride its confidence down the home stretch. The players should all be pumped up for this match considering they can see the light at the end of what has been a dark, dark tunnel.

Toronto has recorded two victories from 13 games so far this season. They sit in seventh place in their division. In the team's most recent outing, it conceded six goals to Philadelphia at home. Kansas City is in a similarly terrible position in the conference table, although Sporting's played four fewer games. Kansas City is currently playing the role of bottom dweller in the entire league with only five points in nine games. They've suffered several backbreaking losses in their opening road trip.

Both teams Saturday will be missing a number of players because of national team call-ups. Sporting should have the edge with roster depth and experience, seeing as how many of their games thus far have been played with different starting lineups.

The most notable loss for Toronto is also the most advantageous for Sporting. Adrian Cann, Toronto's starting central defender, suffered a season-ending injury during training this week. Losing the core of your defense is never easy and I fully expect Sporting to take advantage of Toronto's adjustments by finding gaps and creating good chances. Ryan Smith should be starting and his speed and creativity should help Sporting break down the defense in Kei Kamara's absence.

Prediction: Sporting KC takes this one 2-1 with some timely goals.

Less than a week before LIVESTRONG Sporting Park opens.


Kaw Valley Soccer Association youths get taste of Sporting Kansas City in Lawrence

Before I get into the Kaw Valley Soccer Association goodness, I'll quickly recap Sporting KC's Saturday game against the Colorado Rapids.

Kansas City played well throughout on both sides of the ball. They were up against the defending MLS champions, again on the road and following a disappointing loss a week before. Sporting had to come from behind but did so in dominating fashion. They moved the ball well and created chance after chance. Finally the team's work was rewarded with a blast from Ryan Smith in the 75th minute.

The point is more than just a point for a team that had been struggling so mightily as of late. It's perfect timing leading into the team's final road game of its 10 game season-opening road trip. Only one more game stands between the team and its home opener on June 9.

The point was well deserved and the confidence that should come with it may just make for an interesting home portion to Sporting's season.

A few Sporting Kansas City players and staff were in south Lawrence Thursday evening for a training session with some of the area's active soccer youths.

The kids, all involved with the Kaw Valley Soccer Association, had an opportunity to pass, dribble shoot and play small-sided scrimmages with some of the Sporting KC players, including Overland Park product Matt Besler and Luke Sassano.

The event happened in large part because of a recent announcement made by Sporting Kansas City and its parent company, Sporting Club. The partnership named KVSA as an exclusive affiliate of the team's Sporting Juniors Program.

The whole idea of the program is pretty neat and it's a great opportunity for Lawrence and other area soccer players to get exposure with the professional team. The goal of the program is to find and develop local talent for the professional ranks of Major League Soccer. The partnership also enhances the coaching and training made available to members of KVSA. The idea is to have consistent coaching and training through all developmental levels in the league, perhaps to ensure smooth transitions for those players possessing the skills required to play professionally in the U.S.

For a full photo gallery, click here.

The kids who attended the event Thursday seemed to be excited by the opportunity. They hung around to get player autographs and stayed afterward to continue to play.

They also had a short question and answer session with 24-year-old Besler and 25-year-old Sassano, taking advantage by asking anything they could think of. Some of their questions were not unlike some on this blog, including wondering the reason for the team's name change. Here are a few of the kids' questions and players' responses:

Q: What do you guys eat?

Sassano: Mostly chicken and pasta. It's boring stuff but it's good for you.

Besler: And fruit, we like to eat fruit before games.

Q: What are your favorite teams besides Sporting Kansas City?

Besler: I am a fan of Manchester United.

Sassano: I'm going to go with Barcelona. (Cheers from kids) No I'm a Man U fan, too. Sorry guys.

Q: Who are your favorite players?

Besler: I like to watch Messi (Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona) play because he's scores a lot of goals and also Christiano (Christiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid) but I also like to watch a few defenders since that's the position I play. So I like Rio Ferdinand (of Manchester United) and Xavi, if anyone knows Barcelona players.

Q: What's your least favorite team to play in MLS? Who's your rival?

Besler: Personally I really don't like the New York Red Bull.

Sassano: I don't like Chicago.

Q: What colleges did you guys go to?

Sassano: I went to a school in California called UC-Berkeley.

Besler: I went to the University of Notre Dame.

Next Wednesday I'll be interviewing Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS. If you have anything you'd like me to ask, feel free to let me know in the comments.


LIVESTRONG Sporting Park update and a weekend prediction

The last time I took a tour of Sporting Kansas City's new stadium-in-the-making, it was March and the final strip of grass had just been placed. There were a few seats installed and there was concrete and wire everywhere. It was still an impressive sight, but it was hard to imagine what it might look like on opening day.

Fast forward to Friday. I took my second tour of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The stadium is set to open in just 12 short days on June 9. This time around, it was much easier to imagine a crowd in the stands and players on the field. In just under two months, the crews working to get the stadium ready have been putting in some intense hours and it shows. All the seats are in place. The video boards are functioning. There is carpet in both locker rooms. The taps are even installed in the bars.

Now it's just a sprint to the June 9 finish line, when Sporting KC will finally end its 10-game road trip and debut against Chicago in its brand new home. There's still a lot of work to finish, but crews are working double-time to make sure everything gets taken care of. The experience on that first game night should be memorable.

I put together a video walk-through of the stadium for those who haven't had a chance to see it yet. This tour takes you around the field on all sides, through the home and away team locker rooms and up to the VIP seats. There were plenty of highlights this time through, too. There is no bad seat in the stadium. They all have a gorgeous view of the field and the incline of the seats is such that you feel close to the field no matter where you sit. The seats are comfortable, too. That is always a good thing.

The open roof covers all the seats. It should be interesting to see how well the stadium retains crowd noise. My guess is it will probably get pretty loud.

Check it out:

Less than two weeks now...

Saturday's game

There is some other business pending for Sporting KC. The team travels to take on Colorado at 8 p.m. Saturday night. Colorado currently sits in fourth position in the Western Conference. Sporting, after dropping the game against Seattle last week, is currently all of MLS.

There was some good news for Sporting KC this week though. The team played its final qualifying game against New England on Wednesday. For the first time this season, Sporting played as the home team, holding the match in Overland Park. The team responded with a 5-0 dismantling, crushing their conference opponent with relative ease and posting a shutout. The team played well on both sides of the ball for the entire 90 minutes.

My hope is that the midweek contest gave the team some much-needed confidence. I also hope that the offensive explosion is a sign of things to come for Sporting in the next few weeks. It's unfortunate that when Sporting finally put everything together for a game it didn't earn any points toward the league. It did earn a spot in the U.S. Open Cup though, which isn't a bad consolation prize. It means more exposure and competitive play for a team that is behind most in the league for games played so far this season.

Looking at the numbers, it's safe to say Saturday's game against Colorado is one which Sporting should walk away from with at least a point. Colorado has scored 14 goals and conceded 12 on the season, which points to some defensive issues that haven't yet been addressed. Sporting, with its speed in the midfield, should be able to find gaps and create decent scoring chances. You could compare Colorado's stats with Kansas City's, but that's a little hasty, considering Colorado has played five games at home, where it's supposed to score and win. Kansas City, obviously, has played zero home games. Sporting's play during the past few weeks may have been shaky and at times awful, but no team in the entire league has won more than three away games. KC's is pretty comparable to many in MLS, especially in the Eastern Conference where no team has more than one road victory.


Who wins this game will come down to which Sporting KC team decides to show up in Colorado. If it's the team that played New York to a 1-0 loss or the team that won 5-0 on Wednesday, Kansas City walks away with its first regular season victory since March 19. If it's the Sporting team that makes critical mistake after critical mistake, it could be a long night. My prediction is that it'll be somewhere in between the good and the bad. If the defense can just play together for the full 90 minutes, Sporting will walk away with at least a point, even with four players missing from the lineup with national team duties.

I'm picking Sporting to piece together a victory somewhat shorthanded with solid defense. They win, 2-1.

Game: Sporting KC at Colorado Rapids

Time: 8 p.m.

TV: KSMO on channel 3 (standard def) or 203 (HD)