Be afraid, New England Revolution.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Be very afraid.
When Sporting Kansas City opens the home portion of its schedule Saturday, Livestrong Sporting Park is expected to be an absolute madhouse.
Of course, Sporting KC can’t wait.
“You saw how much of an impact the fans can have last year,” forward Kei Kamara said. “Playing on the road for so long, it was tough. For me, the fans bring the energy to the game. Great fans can boost a team extra and really get the guys going.”
Not only is it the home opener for a club that claimed the Eastern Conference regular-season championship last year, but it’s the first game since a stirring 1-0 win in stoppage time last Saturday in the season opener at D.C. United.
The game also happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, which by itself provides more than enough reason for many in Kansas City and the Cauldron — Sporting KC’s band of diehard fans — to engage in a day of merriment.
“It could be scary with how good of an environment,” all-star center back and Blue Valley West graduate Matt Besler said. “With St. Patrick’s Day, the home opener and the weather being good along with the anticipation of us coming back, the ingredients are there for a wild atmosphere. We’re all really excited.”
Since its debut in June, Livestrong Sporting Park has earned a reputation — a well-deserved one — as one of the toughest venues for opponents in Major League Soccer.
But the stadium might hit a new benchmark when the Revolution rolls in for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“As players, this is what we are looking forward to when we start up in early January with the running and lifting,” captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “This is the moment we’re waiting for, so of course we’re really excited. It’s going to be Blue Hell out here — or maybe Green Hell.”
Sporting KC, 1-0-0, hasn’t started the season strong historically, but the franchise would love to change that. An important ingredient in that quest is locking down three points in home games.
“One of our goals is to make this place like it was last year and make it our fortress,” Besler said. “We want it to be one of the toughest places to play for opposing teams.”
Nielsen issued a challenge for spectators, especially the more rowdy among Sporting KC’s fan base.
“St. Patrick’s Day is a crazy day in Kansas City anyway, and with the home opener, we have to expect a crazy atmosphere,” Nielsen said. “It’s going to be unbelievable. My advice to people is to take it easy with the drinking. It’s going to be a long day.”
Sporting KC’s players face a similar challenge in not getting too wrapped in the evening’s shenanigans.
“As players, we know how to manage those emotions,” Besler said. “We have to funnel that energy. The fans can go as crazy as they want even before the game with tailgating, but for us, we’ll be excited but have to hold that energy in until the first whistle.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer