Sporting KC learns that experience matters in drive to MLS Cup

12/08/2013 6:44 PM

12/08/2013 6:44 PM

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler

laughed a bit as he shrugged his shoulders. He knew the question was coming.

For the third time in the postseason, a reporter wanted to know what was different about this season’s team — why it was able to overcome playoff deficits teams of the last two seasons were unable to do.

And for the third time, Besler didn’t have an easy answer.

“There’s not one (specific) thing that we’ve learned, but it’s just experience,” Besler said. “I wouldn’t say we were hungrier this year. We were hungry the last three seasons. I think it’s just learning how to manage the playoffs.”

That sign of maturity is hard to ignore after Sporting KC won the MLS Cup in penalty kicks Saturday against Real Salt Lake. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw before Sporting KC won 7-6 in 10 rounds of penalty kicks.

It took Sporting KC three tries to turn its regular-season success — it won the Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2011 and 2012 — into an appearance in the MLS Cup Final.

Once there, it took only one try to cash in on the opportunity — even though Sporting KC fell behind in all three playoff series.

Sporting KC lost the first leg of a two-game series against New England. It fell behind by one goal to Houston in the second game of the Eastern Conference finals, and it trailed again by a goal Saturday against Real Salt Lake.

“I think we could have made it easier on ourselves by scoring first,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “But I also think it shows that if we’re down, we’re never out. I think that shows the kind of confidence that Peter (Vermes) has instilled in us.”

Defender Chance Myers said the team approached the three deficits with a different outlook than past seasons.

“We had a few close encounters, but there’s never been a panic, and there’s never been a moment when we doubted ourselves,” Myers said. “And that’s a credit to the group of guys around us to put in that fight.”

Cup celebration

Sporting KC will have its official MLS Cup celebration at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Union Station. The event, which will last two hours, is open to the public and includes free admission.

Sporting KC players will take part in the festivities, which will allow fans to take pictures with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.

Fans are encouraged to park in front of Union Station or in the visitor garage on the west side of the building.

Celebration continues for Besler

Seven days after winning the first MLS Cup of his career, Besler will tie the knot. He plans to marry girlfriend Amanda Miller on Dec. 14.

That will cap a most memorable year for Besler, who also enjoyed a breakout season with the United States men’s national team. He helped the U.S. win the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Asked how he could top this year, Besler replied,” I don’t know. Maybe a World Cup.”

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