Hopefully everyone has recovered their voices/composure/sobriety by now.
The Kansas City Star
It's not often here in Kansas City that fans get to celebrate a championship. (Unless you're a Kansas basketball fan I guess.) So, let's hope you lived it up as much as responsibly possible.
Since 1985, when the Kansas City Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals to clinch the World Series title, a professional sports team in this city has won exactly four titles.
All of them by the soccer team.
The Royals haven't made the postseason since that magical '85 season. The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since 1994.
And there's the Sporting Kansas City (Wizards) hoisting the 2000 MLS Cup an Supporter's Shield, the '04 Open Cup and the '12 Open Cup.
So, live it up KC soccer fans.
Beyond that introduction, I've got nothing but unstructured thoughts on the tactics, the action and the result. Let's just dive right in.
• Last night's announced attendance: 18,863. I've written it before, but the attendance at Arrowhead in '04 was 8,819. Essentially, you could fit the difference between these two matches inside a packed CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
• The game was delayed by 41 minutes by the first rain shower in about 63 days. (Or it was just six. I'm getting drought fatigue and can no longer remember when water particulates fall from the sky anymore.)
• The rain did make for a pretty sweet rainbow over the stadium. DOUBLE RAINBOW!
• If you weren't able to make it out to the game, you had two choices: The GolTV broadcast or listening to Callum Williams and Jake Yadrich on 810 WHB.
I tried to do both. It didn't work. The radio broadcast was a full 7 seconds behind the video. So, I went with GolTV.
Now, I don't want to out-right disparage GolTV. They broadcast a lot of soccer and really want to have a toehold in the American market. They legitimately seem to want to care about MLS (as opposed to ESPN, who seem to cover the sport out of obligation). But, this channel doesn't have a lot of MLS coverage and, frankly it showed.
The player names were noticeably off (BESSS-ler, SIN-oh-VICH, SUH-si) and Olum-sounds-like-Gollum) and the knowledge base was off (Julio Cesar is much more used to a defensive role?). Worst of all, though, was this horrible exchange as penalty kicks seemed inevitable. They've got the next two years of Open Cup Finals. I think they'll get better, but they got off to a rough start.
• As for the game. Let's start at the end with penalty kicks.
• First off, this was an awful collection of penalty kicks. There were three well-taken penalties: Brad Evans, Marc Burch and Paulo Nagamura's second attempt. The rest? Forgettable. Matt Besler and Kei Kamara both took deflections. Osvaldo Alonso's attempt was horrible. Christian Tiffert's wasn't much better. And Eddie Johnson? Wow.
• Now, I'll give Roger Espinoza a free pass for his miss (though it was a pretty dreadful attempt). But I'm not gonna let Graham Zusi off so easy. In the immortal words of Brian Fontana: "Take it easy Champ. Why don't you sit this next one out."
• The biggest controversy, of course, was for Nagamura's re-kick. Seattle fans won't like it, but Michael Gspurning was off his line. He was.
• Kei Kamara: Surprisingly clinical from the spot.
• Nagamura: Warrior.*
*I jokingly tweeted that I want to write an epic poem about him. I gave it a game effort this morning. But it really, really sucked. I'm not Homer.
• Anyone who watched Eddie Johnson play here in Kansas City had the thought in the back of their head: "He's going high." I didn't think he was going THAT high. Has that kick landed yet?
• After getting badly burned on the first two Seattle kicks, Jim Nielsen* made a great save and got in Johnson's head on the final kick.
*GolTV's announcers refereed to our keeper throughout as "Jim." I will now refer to him as Jim or James. I think it's hilarious.
• You'll want to watch the full PK highlights again.
• There's so much to say about Besler. He was my man of the match. He made the game-saving tackle on Johnson. He hit a crucial penalty (he was a surprise choice over Julio Cesar in my opinion). Perhaps most importantly: He helped KC overcome the loss of stalwart defender Aurelien Collin by winning headers, making sturdy tackles and keeping Seattle from sniffing the 18-yard-box for the majority of the game.
• He's my Man of the Match. And it's not really close.
• Hey, speaking of the job Besler did, does anyone remember if Fredy Montero actually played? It says right here that he went 105 minutes. Weird.
• There were a lot of questions going into the game about what sort of lineup Peter Vermes could field given the obstacles (injuries/suspension/fatigue) in his path. Let's just say this: He nailed the tactics in this match.
The midfield trio of Espinoza, Nagamura and Cesar was absolutely the right move. They bossed the midfield, over-ran the Sounders in the center and helped KC dominate most of the play in the game.
While I'm not crazy about Zusi playing as a wide forward most of the game, I have to admit: I want to see this midfield trio again.
• While Zusi was "nominally" a forward. He actually played much further back than KC's wingers usually do. The formation was actually a very interesting twist: It was an asymmetrical 4-1-4-1 with Zusi, Espinoza and Nagamura in a line in front of Cesar and Kamara pushed up closer to Teal Bunbury on the left wing.
In this formation, it really allowed them a fluidity in possession and counted on Chance Myers to provide all of the width right.
This could be an interesting way to combat the Dynamo Tactic I wrote about in the preview.
• Seattle's coach Sigi Schmid, wasn't exactly pleased with how the game was officiated. Of course.
• One of the best moments for me was watching the seven local players -- Besler, the hobbled Seth Sinovic, Michael Thomas, Kyle Miller, Jon Kempin, Kevin Ellis and Scott Angevine -- get their medals.
All seven were teenagers (or younger in the case of Kempin) the last time KC won a trophy. Those seven know full well what a championship means to Kansas City.
• Those seven, to me, are proof enough that soccer in this city is a success. Imagine how many kids were in attendance last night that will dream of playing for Sporting Kansas City? It's only going to grow.
• The fans deserve a medal as well. They were amazing last night despite the rain and the palpable tension in the stadium.
• Let's also give a massive amount of respect for the Sounders supporters who traveled to Kansas City to watch that. There were more than 300. What other team in MLS could even dream of sending 300 fans on a roadtrip of that magnitude?
• After a rough start to his time as technical director, Vermes seems to have his fastball when it comes to finding/developing central defenders (we'll call the Pablo Escobar experiment the only real failure). Lawrence Olum had a really solid game back there. A bit rough to start, but he was solid all around. With Neven Markovic looking quite promising and three starting-caliber fullbacks, hard to argue that KC is one of the deepest defensive squads in MLS.
• A little self-congratulations are in order: I totally called an Open Cup victory for KC back in March.
That deserves a self-high five.
• There are questions going forward. Of course there are.
• Will this win galvanize the team going forward for a run at the MLS Cup? There are 11 games left in the season and KC is firmly planted in a playoff spot in the East.
• Can they push for a Supporter's Shield spot? They are currently four points behind San Jose (44) for that trophy.
• Has the home-scoring vex been lifted? Kansas City still only have three goals from open play at home since June 1.
• Will there be an Open Cup hangover on Saturday? Seven regulars played 120+ minutes last night: Besler, Cesar, Myers, Nagamura, Espinoza, Zusi and Kamara.
What's more: Sinovic had to come off in the 100th minute with an apparent ankle/foot injury. And Myers is coming off a month off with a groin strain. Thankfully, it would appear that Aurelien Collin should be back.
What kind of lineup will Vermes use on Saturday in a must-get-points game against D.C. United? You know Vermes will ride this 11 though. Perhaps Michael Harrington slips in for the injured Sinovic. Maybe a beat-down Espinoza gets a rest and Sapong re-joins the XI. Other than that, I'd be shocked (SHOCKED) if he makes wholesale changes.
• The good news? Next week is Kansas City's first week since June 16th without two games.