Unofficially, Sporting Kansas City’s quest for a third straight MLS Eastern Conference regular-season championship kicked off Friday when the club opened preseason training with a brief workout at the Chiefs’ indoor practice facility.
“I didn’t sleep a wink last night and the hair on the back of my neck is raised right now,” Sporting KC President and CEO Robb Heineman said. “I love this stuff. I love this team and I love the guys we have, the coach we have and the setting with fans.”
Heineman also didn’t mince words when asked about expectations for the season.
“We have every opportunity to be very good this year, and I think the expectation for this club and this city should be a championship,” Heineman said. “There’s no other thing to go do than do that. We’ve got the right coach, we’ve got the right team, we’re built to win, we’ve got the right set of guys, so the championship’s got to be our focus.”
Sporting KC’s players seem to recognize that.
“We just have to keep building on what we did last year,” left back Seth Sinovic said. “I think we had a strong year last year and we obviously have some new players we want to incorporate throughout the team. We’re excited for it.”
Most of those new players — forward Claudio Bieler, midfielder Josh Gardner and centerbacks Ike Opara and Yann Songo’o — were on hand for the first practice.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber wasn’t.
He is still training with the U.S. men’s national team along with two of his new Sporting KC teammates, former MLS All-Stars Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.
Goalkeeper Jon Kempin and first-round pick Mikey Lopez, who are in Mexico training with the U.S. under-20 men’s national team, also were absent along with injured veterans Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury.
Neither Peterson nor Bunbury is expected to be available when the season begins March 2 at Philadelphia.
The players will convene Monday in Tucson, Ariz., where preparation for the 2013 season will begin in earnest.
“Expectations should be really high and I think we should have some fantastic games at whatever the stadium winds up being called when the season starts,” said Heineman, who once again addressed the controversy surrounding the now-defunct stadium naming-rights agreement with Livestrong.
Heineman revealed that several inquiries about securing the new naming rights to Sporting Park have been made already, but reiterated that there is no timetable for a new stadium name.