Not so long ago I was standing in my coveralls, huddled up with about 20,000 freezing fans at Sporting Park, watching Lovel Palmer drill one off the crossbar.
That chokejob sealed the deal for Sporting Kansas City. The players stormed the field and hoisted the MLS Cup for the second time in franchise history.
Man, it was cold out. That was less than three months ago. Offseason? What offseason?
And here we go again, folks. KC’s season opener is this Saturday at the Seattle Sounders. Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order of chronology or coherence.
- Repeat? Doubtful. Though KC returns virtually everyone from their championship run a year ago, they lost arguably the most important player: White Puma Jimmy Nielsen. Sure, he was old and not particularly athletic. And ya, he smoked cigarettes and did that disgusting tongue thing. But make no mistake, that albino Dane earned Sporting copious points with his spot-on reading of angles and little kick saves. It’s going to be tougher than most think for Eric Kronberg to fill out that hot pink jersey, even with the MLS’ best back line in front of him. As a longtime American college coach told me, “If you only have one scholarship to give, you get a keeper.”
- Can El Taca become a legit, top-level goalscorer? Word is, DP Claudio Bieler is in much better shape than he was at any point last season. Which begs the question, what the hell man? Why wasn’t he better prepared last year? Did he try to get out of town as was rumored, only to be denied by Sporting, then decide to make a real go of it in 2014? Remember, he played sparingly down the stretch last season, and questions surfaced about whether he had ended up getting red-assed by KC boss Peter Vermes ala Omar Bravo. But he’s been in fine form so far in preseason, and Vermes has been nothing but complimentary.
- Can Sporting’s depth hold up? Though widely credited as one of the deepest benches in MLS, this year’s schedule is brutal. The boys in blue start off with 5 games in 15 days, including a trip to Mexico to face Cruz Azul in the CCL. Then, of course there’s the World Cup in Brazil this summer that Matt Besler and Graham Zusi will definitely be called for. And perhaps Benny Feilhaber, though I doubt it. What I’m saying is get yourself ready Jimmy Medranda. Time to play with the big boys Erik Palmer-Brown.
- Stadium expansion? Not so fast. I’m told there’s a waiting list of over 5,000 for season tickets right now. And it costs $100 to get on that waiting list, so do the math yo. That said, Sporting CEO Robb Heineman recently took to Twitter to answer some random questions and in reply to one about stadium expansion, he said that it would take 6 years of sell outs before they’d do it. Keep in mind, Robb frequently trolls his followers (blue turf anyone?), so it’s hard to tell sometimes.
- March 4th, the club is throwing a sexy party, unveiling a new kit at a swanky downtown party spot. It’s called Sporting Takeoff, 5:30 – 9:00 in Hangar 1 of the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport. It’s free for anyone, but you have to register to get a ticket, and I believe that registration is now closed. But if you can sneak past the guards, you can expect to see the team emerging from a private jet, and this year’s captain will be announced. There will be food, drinks, games, probably a huge video montage, some smoke machines. You get the deal.
- Did you know you can get a meat pie at Sporting Park now? According to Sporting, they’re “European” and filled with ground beef, carrots, onions, you get the idea. Also new is a baked potato topped with barbecue beef, chicken, or pork, then slathered with the Champions’ Club barbecue sauce. No word on pricing. Important stuff, people.
Ok, that’s enough for now.