Meet Our New Foes: Sporting Kansas City

This is the fifth part of a series in which we introduce Orlando City fans to the teams our Lions will be facing in 2015 when the team starts play in Major League Soccer. Today we take a look at Sporting Kansas City.

Telling us about SKC is Ben Gartland, editor at SB Nation’s Sporting Kansas City blog, The Blue Testament.

What are the three most important things Orlando City fans need to know about SKC?

Ben Gartland:

1. We’re an old team with a new face. Making the move from the Kansas City Wizards to Sporting Kansas City before the 2011 season changed everything, including the kits, colors, and stadium, and completely revitalized the fan base. Everyone knows the story of the transformation from the Wizards to SKC and the success that followed, both on and off the pitch, but there’s also some of that history of being one of the original clubs.

2. The club is focused on growing the game in the city under the name of the club. This includes luring the national team training center to Kansas City, hosting USMNT and USWNT matches, and also building soccer fields (well…eventually they will) around the area. They have a lot of focus on things outside of the field that involve building the brand of the club and they’ve done it rather successfully. I think that’s been a big part in them growing in popularity, although having a winning team does help.

3. Sporting typically plays in a 4-3-3 pressing style that works when the defense is playing well. Having the defense ready to sit back and defend the counter helps the attack feel more confident in moving forward and applying pressure to the opposing defense. Now, this style isn’t foolproof and doesn’t always work game-to-game but it’s worked well with the current personnel and it’s starting to become part of Sporting Kansas City’s identity on the field.

What nicknames, chants and slang are unique to Sporting Kansas City, and can you please explain them if they aren’t readily apparent to the outsider?

SKC Designated Player Graham Zusi hails from Longwood, FL.
SKC Designated Player Graham Zusi hails from Longwood, FL.

BG: There’s the abbreviations, Sporting KC and SKC. Some will still refer to the team as the Wizards, mostly in chants that carried over from before the rebrand. Speaking of chants, there’s a few that are unique to Sporting, mixed with some that have been molded into Sporting KC style. My favorite is the one the Cauldron uses when playing the Fire, shouting “Wiz on the Fire!” A nod to the Wizards’ original name, the Kansas City Wiz. There’s also the “I believe that we will win” chant, which is neither unique nor original to the club but has received a lot of attention from the club and is used as part of each pregame ritual on the video board. It’s really cool to see the whole stadium doing it at once. Also in there is the “No Other Club/But SKC/For the Glory/Of The City/“ chant, which, as far as I can tell, is an SKC original.

Other chants have been borrowed from European and Latin American football culture, such as the “Wings of a Sparrow” chant (NSFW language), Vermes Army (borrowed from Ireland’s World Cup song), and We love Ya (Borrowed from every other MLS team that uses it). A lot of lyrics can be found here.

What are the can’t-miss things to do when Orlando City fans visit an SKC game?

BG: The Cauldron will usually have a pregame tailgate in the parking lot that’s always a bunch of fun. Restaurants will typically depend on what part of the city you’re in, given that Sporting Park is in Kansas City, Kansas. The area around the stadium is known as “The Legends” and has lots of cool shops, entertainment and places to eat. If you venture into downtown Kansas City on the Missouri side, you’ll find a much more metropolitan feel and it has lots of cool attractions.

Baseball fans should definitely check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, one of the best sports museums in the entire country. There’s also the World War I Museum, the only WWI specific museum in the country. Power and Light District is fun at night (so I’ve been told, not old enough to get into any of those places ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), plus there’s the Plaza, which is an awesome group of shops, eateries and entertainment made into some beautiful Spanish architecture.

For food, there’s great BBQ places all over the city. It’s always up for debate on which is the best so I’ll just list a few and let you decide once you visit. There’s Oklahoma Joe’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates and Jack Stack just to name a few. If you leave Kansas City with a clean shirt, you’re doing it wrong.

Who are the key players on Sporting Kansas City that we should know about?

DP Matt Besler is one of MLS's top defenders.
DP Matt Besler is one of MLS’s top defenders.

BG: I’ll start off with our captain, Matt Besler. Besler anchors the defense and is one of the best center backs in the entire league. He has fantastic positioning and is a huge part in Sporting KC having one of the best defenses in the league the past few years. Moving forward, Benny Feilhaber has really come into his own in the Sporting KC midfield and has become a big threat on the offensive side. Having him in the center attacking midfield spot allows Graham Zusi to perform well on the wing and helps Sporting KC’s offense in general. Speaking of Zusi, he’s another key player who is very dangerous on the wing and has been a big part in Sporting KC’s attack.

Which SKC players do you think might get exposed in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft?

BG: No one. You’re not allowed to have anyone.

As long as the expansion draft rules stay the same from 2011, Sporting will have to protect their designated players, Besler and Zusi. I would not be surprised to see Claudio Bieler left open, however, given that he has been crowded out at center forward. Goalkeepers Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum will probably get left open and, should one of them be chosen, Sporting will pull the other back and make them the starter for the next year.

Other players that will likely get left unprotected, just because Sporting has to protect their starters, are Mikey Lopez, Lawrence Olum, Ike Opara, C.J. Sapong, Victor Munoz, Christian Duke, Kevin Ellis, Igor Juliao, Michael Kafari, Jimmy Medranda, Jacob Peterson, Soony Saad, Martin Steuble and Sal Zizzo.

Thanks so much to Ben for his insight into Sporting Kansas City. We look forward to the Lions face players like USMNT regulars Besler and Zusi, an Orlando native.

Previous “Meet Our New Foes”:

Columbus Crew SC
FC Dallas
New York Red Bulls
Seattle Sounders


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