It was certainly a pretty interesting year for soccer in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Star
Sporting Kansas City won its first trophy in nearly a decade and had one of the best regular seasons in franchise history. Livestrong Sporting Park entered the conversation as a regular for U.S. national team games. And we found out a women's professional team is coming to Kansas City.
2013 promises even more. There will be four professional soccer teams at various levels in KC: Sporting KC (MLS), FC Kansas City (National Women's Soccer League), Missouri Comets (Major Indoor Soccer League) and Kansas City Shock (Women's Premier Soccer League). And plenty of action at Livestrong Sporting Park: A few CONCACAF Champions League games, most likely a World Cup qualifier and potentially some CONCACAF Gold Cup games.
Needless to say, it's a great time to be a soccer fan in Kansas City.
Even though it's technically the new year now, I wanted to take a step back and point out some of my favorite things (soccer, music, gifs, otherwise) from 2012.
Best Game of the Year
No brainer: The U.S. Open Cup final. Kansas City desperately wanted to paint the wall this year and, on August 8, they did it by dispatching the Seattle Sounders. The atmosphere was great -- It was voted the MLS 2012 Moment of the Year. -- and the result was a sweet payoff for a city (and franchise) devoid of notable accomplishments recently.
It was only fitting that the tough, hard-fought game went to penalty kicks and former Wizard Eddie Johnson launched his kick into lower orbit. Epic.
Best Non-Sporting KC Moment
It was a good year for women's soccer (the U.S.A.-Canada match in the Olympics was the best game of the year in all of soccer). Hopefully, we finally have the right format -- U.S. Soccer and the federations from Mexico and Canada pitching in to help with salaries -- for a professional league to succeed in the U.S.
FC Kansas City -- owned by the same group who own the Missouri Comets -- will be part of the inaugural NWSL season. We don't know yet where the team will play or who will be on the roster.
Three Local Bands You Need To Knew Before They Blow Up
I also would like to give a nod to Deco Auto. But I'm a little bit biased -- my wife is the bass player.
Best Goal of the Year
With all due respect to Kei Kamara, Julio Cesar, C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi and Jacob Peterson -- all had very nice goals -- my pick for the best goal of the year goes to the last goal scored on the season: Seth Sinovic's incredible diving header against Houston. This was literally my reaction.
Many people will gloss over that in this conversation because A) It ultimately meant nothing as KC were still eliminated by Houston and B) It wasn't a traditional goal-scorer who recorded it. Not me. The technique involved, the hope it gave the fans, the pass from Zusi. Fantastic. The first goal of Sinovic's MLS career might just go down as his greatest goal ever.
Julio Cesar's "technically perfect" gift to Kansas City fans was a very, very, very close runner-up.
Best Goal Celebration
St. Patrick's Day. Hands. Down. (It even won the MLSsoccer.com award!)
Best Story You Heard Very Little About
Unbeaten, untied and unrivaled in Kansas City history among girls soccer teams, Olathe East claimed the mythical national championship last spring.
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America, which is based in Kansas City, Kan., bestowed that honor on coach Terry Hair and his Hawks after a 21-0-0 campaign. It was the fourth Kansas 6A title for Olathe East, which also won championships in 2001, 2004 and 2008.
The Hawks, who finished No. 4 in the ESPN Fab 50 rankings, claimed a stirring 4-3 win in overtime against Blue Valley West in the title-clinching win.
The Hawks who became the first girls soccer team in Kansas history to go 21-0-0 joined the 2009 St. Thomas Aquinas boys soccer team and the 2010 St. James Academy volleyball teams in the pantheon of recent national champions from Johnson County.
My Favorite Gifs of the Year
This was the year of the gif -- in case you hadn't heard yet. We've used them around this blog more than a few times. They're easy to link to, often hilarious and there's something quite mesmerizing about the infinite-looping nature of them. (Like this.) They also allow folks like me to embed a meta-reaction to what they've just written.
Here are my three favorites. (Make sure you click the blue words to see them -- but you already know that.)
• I could watch Felix Baumgartner's jump from space all day long.
• Ahh, Sweet Brown.
Strangest Award-Season Quirk
Everyone in KC knew that Zusi was pretty good. Heck, he won the 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award. (An award, by the way, that Matt Besler won this year.)
But did anyone expect that he'd continue his upward trajectory and become a legit MVP candidate and a U.S. men's national team regular?
Um, not really.
His surprise year started with a stellar performance during the January MLS-heavy U.S. training camp, continued with an MLS-leading 15 assists and ended as a starter against Guatemala -- at Livestrong Sporting Park -- to help the U.S. clinch a spot in "The Hex." Nice job Zues.
Livestrong Sporting Park emerged as a key venue for U.S. soccer after showing the men's team a stout and energetic atmosphere for the Guatemala game in October. I fully expect LSP to get a match in this busy year of final qualifying. It might not be the much-sought-after Mexico match, but it will be a good time.
Player Most Likely to Be a Surprise in 2013
Mark it down: Seth Sinovic will emerge as the best leftback in Major League Soccer. He's already pretty close and there will be much gnashing of teeth on Twitter when he's left off the Gold Cup roster by Jurgen Klinsmann. He will have earned it. I said it first.
My Five Favorite Albums of 2012
I'm a metal guy. I've sort of always been. And this was the year that reminded me how much I really like the genre. (For the record and the sake of diversity, I think Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" was really great and you should listen to it twice -- it's just not my bag.)
• Woods of Ypress "Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light." A conceptual death (literally) metal album about loving what you've got while you're still here because life can often end too soon. Sadly, the lead singer died in a car accident shortly after completing this album. It's more haunting than you can imagine.
• Baroness "Yellow & Gold." Really, really, really good (well, the "Yellow" disc is) alt-metal by a band that also suffered tragedy. While on tour in England, the band's bus slid off the road and injured all four members -- some quite severely. I hope they get well and back to work in 2013.
• Converge "All We Love We Leave Behind." Among the most brutal albums I've ever listened too. If it had a genre, it would probably be "Complicated Catharsis Post-Metal." I felt strangely thirsty and exhausted the first time I finished listening to this disc.
• Gojira "L'Enfant Sauvage." Conceptual (and a bit pretentious) French metal that conjures up a tiny bit of Tool. It's all the way awesome.
• Godspeed You! Black! Emperor! "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" This is quite simply the best thing I've heard in a long time. It's the beautiful symphonic sound of destruction, the first album by the Canadian collective in almost a decade. The album is only a four songs long (two 20-minute epics followed by 6-minute post-scripts) but it's worth a full listen.
In 2013 I hope that...
Claudio Bieler is the goal-scoring threat that Kansas City needs.
• FC Kansas City finds a reliable home field with enough room for growth.
• I finally figure out the MISL playoff format.
• MLS settles on a playoff format and doesn't change it for at least one season.
• Roger Espinoza becomes a regular starter for Wigan.
• NBC Sports uses its strong-ish ratings from 2012 to build a "This Week in MLS"-style highlight show.
• Sporting doesn't have a CONCACAF Champions League hiccup and progresses at least beyond the group stage.
• Livestrong Sporting Park hosts Honduras (June 18) in the World Cup Qualifying "Hex." If only because it'd be nice to see Espinoza back in Kansas City.