Sporting Kansas City vs Central FC 19-10-2016
Sporting Kansas City 3:1 Central FC (CONCACAF Champions League)
Children’s Mercy Park – Kansas City, Kansas
After a break from football traveling, it was time to get a fix of footy. Looking for somewhere to go, I was hoping to cross off a new football ground. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to
be so I figured out that I could catch two Sporting Kansas City matches, one on my to Dallas and another on my way home from Dallas.
My first game was a Wednesday night fixture in the CONCACAF Champions League. Much like the European version, there’s a group stage in the autumn and a shorter knockout stage in the Spring. As the 2015 US Open Cup Champions, Sporting Kansas City qualified and were drawn in a group against the 2015 Canadian Championship (Canadian FA Cup) winner, Vancouver Whitecaps, and the 2015-2016 champion of the TT Pro League, Central FC, from Trinidad and Tobago. With only three in a group, one team from Mexico or the United States is in each group and those are normally the teams that advance. Unusually, Vancouver already won the group with this final game a dead rubber.
I have already been to Children’s Mercy Park once. My previous experience was an afternoon game in July, an obvious mistake on my part. I love football, but it was sunny, humid and 95 degrees that day, I was unable to last much past halftime, so I was looking forward to a return visit when it wasn’t so unspeakably hot.
A short 7 hour drive and I was there 30 minutes before the 7pm kickoff. I was surprised by how much activity was outside the ground, as this was an night game, on a week night, between two teams with nothing to play for. This was the final game of the group, with Vancouver on 12 points and Central FC and Sporting KC both with a single point. Eliminated from the competition, they were both looking to end their continental foray on a strong note.
Sporting KC rested all of their starters, as they play the final MLS game on Sunday and haven’t assured their spot in the playoffs yet, so squad players and several players from their reserve side, Swope Park Rangers, got a run out. I actually enjoyed this, as I saw these guys play for SPR when I went to one of their games a couple months ago. Central FC also played mostly squad players, which meant I missed my chance to see former Stoke City frontman Kenwyne Jones, who is playing for Central FC on loan from the MLS expansion team, Atlanta United.
The attendance was announced at 11,000, which looked a bit optimistic, as I would guess closer to 8,000. This still wasn’t a bad turnout for a meaningless game between reserves, with no discount on tickets. This was a game that was low on quality, but Sporting were easily the better side. They pinned the T&T team back from the first minute, and kept them there throughout the game so it was a bit of a surprise when Jem Gordon put Central FC up 1-0 just before halftime, completely against the run of play.
After the interval, Sporting decided it was time to try putting the ball in the big white frame that was inconveniently placed at the end of the pitch. 2 goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half put them ahead, followed by a 3rd goal in the 89th minute let Sporting KC claim a fairly easy 3 points.
I left fairly happy as I got to see some football. I also got to see different competition, and there is nothing that beats the excitement of the CONCACAF Champions League. Europe has nothing on this level of skill. I enjoyed getting to return to Children’s Mercy Park without sweating like a Michael Jackson impersonator during an amber alert. It’s a truly fantastic ground and hopefully more clubs in the US build grounds like this, and I’ll get to see it again in a few days.