On Sporting KC: promise, excitement, disappointment and the future
The Kansas City Star
Maybe I should double check, but I do believe Sporting Kansas City had the first disappointing season-ending playoff win in our city’s history.
If you missed it — I watched on TV, and the place looked even more bonkers than I expected — Sporting absolutely dominated the Dynamo and won 1-0, but lost the bigger Eastern Conference semifinal because of the leftover stink from Sunday’s 2-0 loss in Houston.
We’re not getting into how foreign MLS’ aggregate-scoring playoff format seems to a lot of us ‘Mericans, but instead just sort of curse the unsatisfying finish to an otherwise exciting and brand-building season.
I’ll remember this season fondly for Sporting — in my mind it’s a more impressive step than even what happened last year. Because a new stadium and brand re-launch can be written off as a novelty after one year, but when backed up by a season in which they establish as Kansas City’s most successful franchise and sell out all but one home game they start to join the local sports scene’s mainstream.
I’ll still get emails and voicemails either calling me names or telling me I’m wasting my time writing about Sporting, but I think those voices are more and more like dinosaurs. The Chiefs are first and the Royals and the college scene are second, but I do think Sporting is right there on the list.
The team’s ownership — which, despite their large public silence on this issue, is now very much deciding what to do about the Livestrong name on their stadium — thinks they have a little more time in the Honeymoon phase.
They’re probably right about that. The team is not on completely solid footing, not quite yet. But I do think we’re into the part where Sporting is looked at as more than a novelty by a growing number of Kansas Citians outside the club’s passionate-but-relatively-small core of lifer fans.
This is a brand seeded in a young and upwardly mobile demographic that’s only going to become bigger.
The only disappointment came at the end, when Sporting lost to a team it outplayed over the course of the season.
Sporting still has one of the league’s youngest rosters, with a commitment to keeping the core together, but this brings up the next step in Sporting’s maturation into something more serious than a novelty.
The team will eventually need to win in the playoffs. Nothing buys credibility like success.