In any given year the anticipation of your first home soccer match would generate a lot of buzz and excitement, but that was an understatement Thursday evening as Sporting Kansas City unveiled the newest jewel of American soccer, the $200 million Livestrong Sporting Park to a national audience on ESPN 2.
After totaling just one win and six points in the standings, the welcoming new pitch was exactly what the club needed as they gear up for a favorable schedule the rest of the way that will include 16 of the remaining 23 matches in front of the home fans.
As expected Coach Peter Vermes' Sporting Kansas City squad came out with a lot of energy at the onset and looked to be a step ahead of many of the Chicago Fire players for the first 20 minutes. Chance Myers and Teal Bunbury both had chances at the opening goal at the stadium in the sixth and seventh minute respectively. Myers shot was blocked by Fire keeper Sean Johnson, while Bunbury went wide of the goal. Moments late Graham Zusi footed in what appeared to be the lead goal, but a Sporting player was called offsides neglecting the goal.
Chicago got more patient with the ball in the latter portion of the first half and was able to get their attack down field with the intentions of striking first, including a shot in the 43rd minute from Dominic Oduro that Jimmy Nielson superbly blocked as both teams went into halftime still drawn scoreless.
It was a clean first half other than one yellow card a piece, Sporting Kansas City's Michael Harrington drew the first in the 21st minute, while Chicago's Gaston Puerari picked one up in the 37th on a tackle from behind of Kei Kamara.
Both sides made a substitution early in the second half as Patrick Nyarko came on for the Fire taking place of Corben Bone in the 55th, while CJ Sapong entered for Sporting in the 58th, taking Kamara's position an the right forward position.
Things got really interesting moments later in the 67th when Jimmy Nielson received a red card for Sporting, a rare instance for a keeper, as Kansas City was one man down the rest of the match,as a result of the card Bunbury left to give way to backup keeper Eric Kronberg. Nielson had committed a handball outside the box.
After things settled down, Omar Bravo had a chance in the 75th with a shot from the top of the box on the left side, saved by Johnson. Chicago answered in the 79th with what what appeared to be a sure goal as Orr Barouch kicked one off the crossbar that Kronberg collected. Seconds later with the ball near midfield, an overzealous fan took to the pitch with visions of scoring his own goal.
When the match was back underway, Kansas City made their last substitution as Birahim Diop entered for David Arnaud. Then came quite a contrversial play as Bravo was tackled inside the box on the left side on a challenge from Bratislav Ristic that left Vermes and the crowd up in arms with the no call. The television commentators were even questioning the tackle and the non-call from the match referee.
An astonishing nine minutes of stoppage time were added onto the end of the match because of delays such as Bravo having to be helped from the pitch after the tackle. Both teams appeared to have their moments during stoppage, but alas the match ended in a scoreless tie.
It may not have been the outcome everyone was looking for, but for having to play the final half hour with a man down, it certainly was a good result for the home team.
Though the match was a draw, the community of Kansas City and MLS fans across the country were all winners during what was a grand celebration in front of a standing room only crowd. The Kansas City locals have a new home for soccer and place that will only make for more enthusiasts to join along the way.