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Posts tagged with Sporting Kc

Keeper key in Sporting KC draw at Philadelphia

Jimmy Nielsen was all-star quality in Sporting Kansas City's midweek contest against conference power Philadelphia Union.

Recording seven saves on seven shots on target, Nielsen single or double-handedly earned the team a precious point on the road (he also had a kick save). While the back line was decent, the keeper was the only thing keeping the scoreline respectable. Let's look at the statistics:

Stat - Kansas City - Philadelphia Union

Shots - 8 - 26

Shots on goal - 0 - 7

Saves - 7 - 0

Fouls - 11 - 11

Offside - 2 - 1

Corners - 4 - 6

That's right, twenty-six. That's how many shots Philadelphia launched during 90 minutes of playing time. That's easily a season high for a Kansas City opponent and a clear indication that the midfield and defense wasn't closing on their marks quickly enough. On numerous occasions during the match Nielsen engaged in lengthy sprints to yell at teammates who were out of position or not marking properly. And he had every right to yell. Watching the game, there were several instances when Sporting midfielders could be seen walking or jogging back to mark a Union player with the ball. That's not going to get it done and it wouldn't have Wednesday if it weren't for the professional play of Nielsen. At one point the announcers on KCMO remarked at how the defenders had hung Nielsen out to dry, only to have him make a fantastic diving save to thwart a free kick goal.

Sporting's defensive backs were not completely to blame. For the most part they played well, even if the majority of the good work they did was in a recovering scramble. You can only place so much defensive blame on a team that records its fourth shutout in five games. It's also possible the defense looked worse because there was absolutely no offense from Sporting KC. Through 90 minutes the team notched eight shots, none of which were on target. They didn't even test the Union keeper. It's the third time in the team's entire history that players have failed to record a shot on goal. That just shouldn't happen in a game.

Perhaps the absence of midfielder Graham Zusi played a part in the offensive lapse. The midfielder had been at least partly responsible for four goals in the past two games. Missing due to an ankle sprain, Sporting simply could not find an adequate substitute for Zusi's creativity and current run of form.

It's probably safe to go ahead and mark Wednesday's game down as an off night for Sporting KC. The team was plagued by errant shots and an unusual number of errant passes. Despite the shortcomings and inefficiencies in the game on both sides for Kansas City, the team still managed to earn a point on the road from a team that still hasn't lost at home.

Sporting has now left the field with at least one point in six straight matches. The current trend is promising for a side still looking for consistency in the lineup. Sporting holds league honors for longest unbeaten streak behind only the Chicago Fire and league leading LA Galaxy. That's not a shabby turning of the tide for a team sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting Kansas City returns home to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Saturday for an evening match against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. Sporting will have the services of Aurelien Collin once again as he will return from his single game suspension. Sporting should also have defender Roger Espinoza back in the lineup as Honduras fell to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Wednesday, freeing him of his national team obligations.

As ESPN noted in its power rankings for the league this week, Sporting has played itself back into playoff contention.

Let's hope the trend continues.

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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 ESPN3.com. 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).

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Quick Critique: Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas

Finally.

Sporting Kansas City: 4 — FC Dallas: 1

It's been a long time coming but Sporting KC finally put a full 90 minutes together on both sides of the ball. Graham Zusi played with confidence and it showed. His two superb goals were the clear difference against a FC Dallas side sitting in second place in the Western Conference.

Apart from one defensive lapse that saw Dallas player Brek Shea beat four defenders before passing the ball by Eric Kronberg, Sporting Kansas City did everything right. Missing some key players to national team duties and with Kei Kamara coming off the bench, Sporting looked like the team we've seen glimpses of all season.

Most importantly, Sporting earned three crucial points on the road. The victory puts them one or two victories from being right back in the thick of the Eastern Conference standings. With a nine-game home stand slated starting in July, this could be just the boost the team needs to make a serious run in the standings.

More to come tomorrow.

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LIVESTRONG Sporting Park opens with entertaining scoreless draw

For not winning a game, the home opener for Sporting Kansas City against the Chicago Fire at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park Thursday night still felt like a victory.

The atmosphere created by the fans in the hours leading up to the opening kick were the same as any other major sporting event in the area. People were grilling and drinking in the parking lots. Fans were breaking out in team chants by their cars. People who didn't know each other mingled and talked about the sport, the stadium and the team. Live music outside the stadium along with the usual slew of snack and drink vendors created a relaxed environment. There were fans of all ages wearing all manner of soccer fan attire.

The stadium was full of people, all grabbing what apparel they could, even with the registers down and a cash-only policy in place throughout most of the venue. It was the only glitch on an otherwise memorable opening day.

I attended the game with a group of friends Thursday, sitting in the general admission section in the stadium's south stands. The seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room, something I'm usually not accustomed to at sporting events. We ended up sitting about seven rows from the field behind what would be Chicago's net the first half.

Fans, even those who purchased the standing-room-only tickets, were treated to pre-game festivities that included fireworks, Lance Armstrong and a stealth bomber flyover. Everyone seemed pumped for the game.

When it finally did, the first 45 minutes were impressive. Sporting Kansas City created a number of chances, several of them good. Fans couldn't help but stand every time the Sporting players made a run down one of the wings. People held their breath as balls were played into the box. Everyone wanted to see that first goal.

And they did. Kind of.

About 15 minutes into the inaugural match, Kei Kamara played a ball low into the box. Omar Bravo seemed to botch the shot attempt and the ball trickled through to a streaking Graham Zusi. He passed the ball into the net with authority and the crowd around me exploded. From where we were sitting the run of play seemed to be within the rules. The linesman had called Bravo offside, so the goal was disallowed.

The intensity didn't die down much for the rest of the half. Sporting created a few more quality chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The crowd cheered loudly when keeper Jimmy Nielsen was first called into action. His save in the opening 20 minutes was fantastic, blocking a shot to the near post away effectively. There was a collective sigh of relief from the fans who know all too well the quick change in fortunes that has dominated the team's early-season headlines. There were no fatal errors made in the first half. The team played well from top to bottom. Teal Bunbury couldn't find a touch near the box all half, but his presence seemed to created some mismatches with the defense.

The second half started out with the same energy. Sporting moved the ball well but started giving away too many balls in the midfield. Chicago opted to play balls over the top of the defense for the majority of the second 45. Luckily for Sporting, Aurelien Collin, stationed at center back, was on his game. He went up hard for every ball and won the majority of them. When he didn't, the ball trickled harmlessly back to Nielsen.

Until Nielsen got ejected.

Most of the 19,925 fans expected to see a goal. They almost did when Chicago's Dominic Oduro found himself alone with only a charging Nielsen left to beat. Odura beat Nielsen to the ball and played what would have been a perfectly weighted chip over the keeper. Then Nielsen, maybe on instinct, maybe knowing he was beat, played the ball with his hands outside the box. In all my watching days, that's what I'd call a professional foul. Instead of taking the lead in the game, Chicago gained a man advantage and a free kick. The team squandered both. They would manage to hit the crossbar on a gaffe by Sporting's replacement keeper Eric Kronberg, but that was the extent of Chicago's true scoring chances.

The second half of the contest had just about everything. There were mistakes, close misses, good defense, cheers, drums, questionable calls...and of course a fan running on the field. I don't mind the random fan getting arrested at baseball games or football games, but soccer is different. There is an important flow to the game that can cause things to change in an instant. The fan, who chose the dying minutes of a close game for his stunt, could well have ruined any flow Sporting had built while down a man. Security will need to be a bit quicker if it happens again, which I hope it doesn't.

The most controversial moment in the game was not the security tackling the fan dressed as a cow though. It was a no-call on a hard foul in the box that probably should have resulted in a game-winning penalty kick for Sporting. Bravo had a ball played to him and made a strong move into the box, only to be hip checked by the Chicago defender. No whistle was blown. That may have been the loudest moment in the stadium. All boos. The replays shown on the big screen showed a pretty clear foul.

No call was made and even nine minutes of stoppage time couldn't separate the two teams. The first game played at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park ended in a scoreless draw.

After the game, manager Peter Vermes talked about the difference playing in front of a home crowd makes.

"I think the crowd can affect you in a lot of ways. I think that was a big thing we miscalculated on the 10-game road trip, that there is a complete disconnect with the fan base. You almost lose your sight on who you're playing for. We never really got too much love in those places. When you come home, the crowd is like the 12th man and tonight they for sure were."

Sporting Kansas City doesn't have much time to rest. The team travels to Texas to take on FC Dallas Sunday.

(Most of these photos are courtesy of LJWorld photographer Kevin Anderson. You can probably tell which one is mine.)

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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.

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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.

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Sporting KC vs. New England Revolution

This will be a quick game preview.

Sporting KC is coming off its first poor offensive performance of the season. The team is still without designated player and striker Omar Bravo. He'll be out another 2-4 weeks recovering from a sports hernia. Sporting Kansas City will also be without defender Julio Cesar after he received a red card against Columbus last week.

The news isn't all bad for Sporting KC though. They will likely have the use of newly signed defender Aurelien Collin and it's possible we could see the return of Ryan Smith, who was one of KC's most effective scorers last season.

New England currently sits two spots ahead of Kansas City in the Eastern Conference standings. They are up on KC by two points, but have also played two more games. The Revs have struggled offensively but have been decently solid defensively, allowing seven goals in six games.

This game, which marks the halfway point in Sporting KC's road trip, has a similar feel to last week's contest against Columbus. Sporting will have to find ways to get striker Teal Bunbury more involved and will have to focus on getting their shots on target. It would be smart for KC to come out and attack the home team from the first whistle before the New England defense has the chance to settle down.

Prediction: There are plenty of changes and adjustments that will have to be made by Sporting KC in this game, both in personnel and tactics. Those adjustments will likely slow the pace and flow of the game, at least for a half. There will be goals in this game, but they'll cancel each other out. I'm guessing this one ends in a 1-1 tie.

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Physical play, smart substitutions net Sporting KC overtime victory

I didn't have the opportunity to watch this game via technology Wednesday, but that doesn't change the outcome. I'll do my best to analyze the game from statistics and what I've been able to read so far.

Just fewer than 2,400 attended the late afternoon match in College Station. That simply means a lot of soccer fans in the area missed out on a fantastic finish. That finish, which by now shouldn't be a surprise to Sporting KC fans, was an overtime victory courtesy of rookie C.J. Sapong.

Defense

The final score of this U.S. Open Cup match against Houston Dynamo was 1-0 in KC's favor. Teams in the professional ranks don't get shut out over the course of 120 minutes without solid defensive play. Enter the new and improved Sporting KC defense. It was the first clean sheet (no goals allowed) that Sporting Kansas City has posted so far in this young season. It came in stark contrast to the three goals KC allowed in just 20 minutes of Saturday's draw against Vancouver.

So what was the difference Wednesday? How about goalkeeper Eric Kronberg? The last line of defense, in his first start of the year, gave his team 120 flawless minutes between the posts. He recorded six saves, many of them acrobatic and completely necessary. On a day when Sporting KC's offense couldn't find the gaps, the team's defense did what it had to to win the game.

Physical play

Sporting KC played with intensity and purpose Wednesday.The team effectively rebounded after its disappointing draw this past weekend. The team had 18 called fouls during the game, four more than it's counterpart. Kansas City made the smarter fouls, too. Of the five yellow cards given during the run of play, only one was credited to Sporting.

Young talent

Sapong, who has tallied two goals early in his rookie campaign, credited his timely contributions to training.

"I just make a habit of myself to word hard. Every time I get on the field, I know I have to be ready."

According to what I've read to this point, Sapong placed his game-winning shot perfectly, curling it around the opposing goalie into the far corner. If I can find video of the goal, I'll post it here.

Tactical substitutions

Coach Peter Vermes was wise with the sub situation throughout the second half and overtime periods. The first change came in the 46th minute with Sapong. The young player's fresher legs and speed were critical in his ability to separate and effectively place his shot around the Houston keeper.

Vermes also took advantage of experience on the bench by subbing usual starter and captain Davy Arnaud at the beginning of overtime. The stability near the back was likely a welcome change in the late-game situation.

Though the result doesn't count toward league standings, it goes a long way in boosting the team's confidence and showing the team what it can be capable of. The defense will have a base off of which to build for the remainder of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if it cuts the goal differential (goals scored - goals allowed) in half from here on out.

The team has another thing to look forward to in that it won't play again until April 16. That will give the road warriors plenty of time to rest and recuperate before meeting up with the Columbus Crew. Sapong said the tournament game was important, even outside the regular season schedule.

"You want to be the best at everything you do. It's our first opportunity to prove that. So we're giving it our all obviously and we got one step closer tonight."

What better way to start a break than with a hard fought victory? This game could well be a turning point for Sporting KC in the young MLS season.

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Sporting KC looking to rebound, roll in U.S. Open Cup qualifier

One year ago, the Kansas City Wizards came back from two goals down to beat the Houston Dynamo 4-3. The final, game-winning goal came in the final minute of second half stoppage time. Fans who saw it should remember it well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VM_9wfIRlM

This year, with a new team name, Sporting KC will hope for the same result, though maybe in less dramatic fashion. If current form and records say anything, that's exactly what will happen at 7 p.m. tonight.

Sporting KC is looking to secure a spot in the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Wednesday's match serves as the first phase of qualifying action. The tournament has been held annually since 1914, with Kansas City taking home the trophy back in 2004. Apart from the excitement of tournament-style play, the winning team will also earn $100,000 with the runner-up earning half that total.

Houston currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference, winless after three matches. The Dynamo have scored only two goals in those contests, allowing three to reach their 0-2-1 record. Tonight's game will be played at College Station, as close to a home game as Houston could hope for.

It will be interesting to see how Sporting KC bounces back from a disappointing draw in its Saturday game. The late meltdown will likely be a nagging thought on players' minds all season, whether they'd admit to it or not. After allowing two goals to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final minutes of stoppage time, both players and coach for KC sited leg cramps and thick turf rubber as reasons for late-game substitutions. For a team saying it's not making excuses for the draw, it sure sounds like it is.

Sporting Kansas City's Teal Bunbury, left, carries the ball past Vancouver Whitecaps' Michael Boxall during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, April 2, 2011.

Sporting Kansas City's Teal Bunbury, left, carries the ball past Vancouver Whitecaps' Michael Boxall during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, April 2, 2011. by Joe Preiner

Cramping usually results from a deficiency in fitness or a lack of proper hydration. It appears that not all the players for Sporting KC are game fit yet. There's really no excuse for professional athletes to cramp up during the course of one game, especially in the absence of high temperatures. Captain Davy Arnaud said he hasn't cramped up like that since he was probably 14 years old. Why would it happen now?

The focus tonight for Kansas City will likely be on the defensive end, and don't be surprised if Vermes once again changes the starting lineup. Striker Omar Bravo should be back in action up top, joining team leading goal scorer Teal Bunbury. Kei Kamara will likely work out of the attacking midfield to compliment the talent on the front line.

Look for KC's defense to play well tonight against a sub-par scoring threat from Houston. This game should be a confidence builder for Sporting heading into its regular season match against Columbus on Saturday.

Prediction: Sporting KC will feel the need to prove itself tonight and will do so, for the first time this season, on both sides of the ball. The attacking trifecta of Kamara, Bunbury and Bravo will find ways to break down a stingy defense allowing only one goal per game. Kansas City wins this one, 2-0.

Game: Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo

Time: 7 p.m.

Watch, listen: A live stream of this game is available starting at 6:30 p.m. HERE. You can also listen to the game live HERE.

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Just the beginning: Welcome to the LJWorld soccer blog

There's a first time for everything and this post will serve as the first of many for this, the Stoppage Time blog. There is a clear and established soccer community here in Lawrence and the surrounding areas and this blog will attempt to cover and address whatever may be happening within those arenas.

During the next few months, a primary focus will be Kansas' own professional team, Sporting Kansas City. Anyone who's been living in the state the past few years will probably know the team as the Wizards. You'll have to bear with me as we all adjust to the new name this season.

This blog will act as a conversation starter for seasoned hooligans, new fans and those interested in or simply curious about the local adaptations of the world's most popular sport. I don't pretend to know everything there is, and that's where you get to help. I will always engage readers and commenters in what I would hope would be intelligent conversation. LJWorld's rules for appropriate comments still apply here.

In embarking on this, my first true blogging experience, I'll do what I can to bring relevant and insightful information to you, the readers.

If you're wondering how I landed this gig, I think that's fair. I've been working with the Journal-World for about two years now. I believe there's a soccer community we're missing out on here and I'd like to start catering to it. I've been involved in all aspects of the game. I've played for more than 17 years. I've coached the game and I've also been the one with the whistle. Seeing the game from so many angles and for the number of years that I have has given me a solid foundation on which to build. That's what I want will happen here.

I've followed Major League Soccer from its humble beginnings. I followed the 1996 season closely and was hooked after the first championship game went into overtime. D.C. United was my team. The combination of players like Roy Lassiter, Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno was remarkable. I also remember when Kansas City was the best team in the country in 2000. They were back again in 2004 but fell just short of the glory. Since then it's been a battle just to stay in the top half of the conference.

I wasn't born yesterday and understand the general feelings regarding soccer in the U.S. Taking that into consideration, I'm going to approach this by including a mix of the basics of the sport for beginning enthusiasts as well as some more technical information for the more veteran fans. It still won't be for everyone, but it'll be for anyone who wants it.

This blog will undoubtedly be tweaked and improved as the season progresses, that's just the nature of learning. I'm excited to get this up and running and give soccer fans of all levels somewhere to converse. Feel free to leave comments or suggestions below and I'll do my best to address them.

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