Don’t look now, but we may have a small problem on our hands, Sporting Kansas City fans. And, unfortunately, it’s one we’ve created all our own.
Sporting KC, the football team, are on an absolutely splendid run of form right now. In fact, that doesn’t near do it justice. Thus far, they’re perfect in 2012. They’re top of the league as a whole, and as far as anyone affiliated with Talkin’ Touches is concerned, they’re the best that MLS has to offer.
To quickly recap, Sporting are a 100 percent 18 points from a possible 18-team, outscoring their opponents 9-1 on the season, and having only trailed the opposition for a grand total of 20 minutes on the season.
It’s an awesome time to be a Sporting KC fan, without a doubt. But, come November and December, potential mass hysteria and catastrophic outrage awaits. There’s expectations of the highest order on this team’s shoulders that only grow larger with each consecutive victory.
Expectations are a seriously ugly thing. The United States National Team U-23 team was expected to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games this summer, but crashed out in the group stage of qualifying last month in Nashville, Tenn. Similarly, teenage phenom Freddy Adu was expected to become a global star of the highest quality, but has only recently – eight years later – begun to show signs that he’ll one day get there. And completely unrelated, the Kansas men’s basketball team is expected to make the Final Four each and every year, simply because they are Kansas, but have done so only three times the last decade.
Now, Sporting Kansas City are baring the brunt of similar expectations. Peter Vermes’ squad are expected to win the 2012 MLS Cup; not just get to the game or host it at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, but to win the thing. And, perhaps most unfortunately, it’s not just Kansas City that’s heaping these lofty goals onto the likes of Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, CJ Sapong and Matt Besler – a handful of players on a roster that collectively have won one MLS Cup trophy (Paulo Nagamura in 2005 with Los Angeles Galaxy). That’s no slagging off of those players, because they’re simply young, and never been on a team anywhere near as good as their current setup.
Before the season began, the Talkin’ Touches podcast hosted what became known as “The Great Expectations Debate“, an hour worth of debate about just what should be expected of this year’s Sporting team. Charles Gooch, James Starritt, and myself argued the merits of what expectations and hopes really mean for a season. As a whole, it was pretty well surmised that Sporting KC would be a playoff team, likely in the Eastern Conference finals, with the absolute ceiling being an appearance in the MLS Cup final where, at that point, anything could happen.
Then, Sporting KC kicked the season off away to DC United, and they won. Then they won again, and again, and haven’t done anything since.
The current lot of players are much more than just the media darlings they’ve become; they can really play. They’ve run through two of the top teams in the league in consecutive weeks, and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The way the Eastern Conference is shaping up early on, they’ll run away with the division and probably mathematically lock it up sometime in early-September, and the hype will continue to grow.
I love Kansas City wholeheartedly; I’ve lived in this beautiful city the entirety of my 23-year existence and have grown to love pretty much everything about the place, but they sure do love them a winner, don’t they?
Oh, and the other thing about Kansas City sports fans: none of us have any clue what to do or think of this Sporting KC team right now, do we? We’ve been trained practically since birth – or at least I have – to harbour the “just wait until the wheels fall off” mentality in regards to the teams we support. Simply put, it’s not going to end well, because it never does.
It’s a fact that many still have one eye closed as Sporting tear MLS apart at the seams week-by-week, thinking only “surely this can’t go on forever, can it?” The first real test of the fanbase and city that’s slowly but surely come around on this “soccer thing” comes this week (away to Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers in a four-day span), when you can almost count on Sporting – gasp – losing their first game of the season, if not two of them.
Still, Kansas City is longing for a professional sports title (the 2000 MLS Cup stands as the lone major league trophy of my lifetime, by the way), and as Sporting KC continue to look the beautiful bride-to-be as that wedding day in the Caribbean approaches, the city and the nation’s eyes have shifted to them, sitting solo atop the league, ready to walk the aisle and take their place as the sole proprietors of Major League Soccer, otherwise known as a man and a woman’s wedlock.
But if they trip on those 6-inch stiletto heels* or step on the dress train and lose the fabric all the way to the waist exposing a not-so-lovely and hairy backside, it’ll be nothing short of this year’s “worst choke job of all-time,” and it’ll be all our fault it’s seen that way, because we got those little ole Kansas City hopes up and created the monster we’re all sure to witness.
*Full disclaimer: I don’t know if women actually wear stiletto heels on their wedding day. Actually, I don’t even know what stiletto heels are, so don’t judge me.