The Sporting Kansas City season is at its end and zenith. In less than two weeks, Kansas City will have either have it’s newest championship since 2000 (KC Wizards), or it will add to the history of missed opportunities. Before we get to that last game, inspired by this coming holiday of gratitude sharing, I think it’s appropriate to stop and consider all the things for which we are thankful. I’ll go first.
First thing I’m thankful for pertaining SKC isn’t necessarily related to them. Unlike other sports, soccer has the incredible distinction of another, greater level. Once a player gets through college they become a ‘professional’, but in soccer, they have the chance to represent their country, and, although that privilege isn’t always treated with respect or dignity, it means more than just filling the bank account. I’m grateful that international soccer wasn’t just a ‘for fun’ event, but that it actually became a real competition. It’s what made me decide I wanted to be a soccer fan at the beginning of this year.
I’m also thankful that the U.S. national team is actually pretty good. It would be miserable to follow a team that didn’t have any possible chance of being good. I could use Canada as an example here, but I am not going to stoop that low.
I’m thankful for our goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. The dude played every minute of every game this year. He allowed only 0.88 goals per game, the lowest in the league, and he also had 13 shutouts, which was second in the MLS.
Both Jimmy Nielsen and I are thankful for Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, and other defenders. They provide Nielsen with one of the lowest shots against stat in America. The center back duo of Besler and Collin is among the best in the league, and although they have extremely differnet personalities and backgrounds, they seem to work well together.
I’m thankful that the Sporting KC organization made the acquisitions of midfielders Oriol “Uri” Rosell and Benny Feilhaber. Rosell has turned into a solid, trustworthy central defensive midfielder, and a guy we can now label as a starter. Feilhaber recently found another level of excellence and has provided some big moments in the playoffs so far this year.
I’m thankful for Graham Zusi. The dude is one of our best player and he’s only getting better. Manager Peter Vermes allows Zusi the freedom to go all over the field. Next time you watch a game, keep your eyes on Zusi. You’ll find him on the left side of the pitch, and the right, but no matter where he is, he always seems to be where he is needed. He’s the eventual successor to Landon Donovan on the national team, and thankfully is spending his early career in Kansas City.
I’m thankful for the plethora of talent SKC has in their forwards. Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong, Soony Saad, Teal Bunbury, Dom Dwyer, and the list goes on. Every one of those players mentioned has contributed goals this season. On Saturday night, Dwyer made a beautiful move, (I don’t know what to call it, it was like he slowed down time around him, juking enemy players off their feet, all while the ball hardly moved) and scored the game-winning goal. I’m also thankful that these guys are still pretty young. If Sporting plays their cards right, they have an excellent chance to develop some strong attacking pressure.
I’m thankful for manager Peter Vermes, but before I elaborate on this I want to point out that I am extremely thankful to Troy Taormina, who took the picture to the right. It’s just so dapper.
Now onto the actual performance of Vermes. I once read (meaning I failed to find the source) that Sporting had the 17th or 16th lowest player salary in the MLS for the past three years. Vermes has coached this team to the Supporter’s Shield in both 2011 and 2012, and then got to second this year. He’s done a marvelous job.
I’m also thankful for the fans of Sporting Kansas City, if you’re one of them: Thank you. Without people like them/you, there would be no Sporting KC to root for, to write about, or to be thankful for. They’ve/You’ve made being a fan of Sporting something I don’t regret.
I’m also thankful that Sporting KC is one of the best teams in the MLS. When they’re the best team in 2011 and 2012, along with being really good this year, it just makes the world seem brighter somehow.
Last, but not least, I’m thankful that they made it to the MLS Cup Final. Not every team gets to do this, and it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The journey to the Final has been just as fun as any other sport can make it.
Tags: Sporting Kansas City