Portland and Vancouver are justifiably getting the attention this year, along with the Sounders. But maybe I'm just helplessly MLS 1.0, because I'm really excited about Kansas City.
Well...not the roster, so much. But everything else.
Oh, God, no, not the name. Yes, all these people are wrong. I don't care if they're all smarter than me, especially Sam. I don't care if I'm violating my rule against criticizing names of teams thousands of miles away from me. But that's not the point.
The Kansas City Wiz, after a decade and a half of neglect and derision, have a home. And a very pretty one. Nick Firchau at Major League Soccer Soccer and Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star give a taste of how gratifying it must be for long-time not-Wizards fans. I can't imagine how happy actual factual KC fans are right now. If they're even happier right now than after winning the double in 2000 - well, I'd agree with them. Because, finally, soccer in Kansas City is here to stay.
Having a stadium, at least according to Don Garber, isn't a guarantee of profitability - but you'd have to think Sporting Club is pretty optimistic. The last time I read about someone paying $4,000 for a chair, it was the Defense Department. I'm sure Sporting KC will settle for being half as successful.
It's probably impolite to put it this way, but even Lamar Hunt gave up on soccer in Kansas City. But Sporting Club - I believe that's the new collective name of the ownership group, the artists formerly known as OnGoal - came through. A $200 million stadium - in Kansas City.
Just to rub this in - MLS now leads the NASL in stadiums built, 10-0. Every single one a commitment to stability and permanence - yes, even Columbus Crew Stadium. When you think back on where this league was in the 90's - let alone where the sport was in the 1980's - and what MLS has accomplished is absolutely astonishing.
I think Livestrong Park will encourage great players from all over the world to want to sign for them. Because, what's it like to sit in a $4,000 chair in a locker room? That's got to be the five dollar milkshake of sitting. In fact, maybe that's how they got Omar Bravo away from Guadalajara.
So...when will the stadium host a playoff game? Maybe this year. Well, maybe. They're still in the East, at least until the next expansion, and MLS has the biggest home field bias in North America. They have Omar Bravo and Teal Bunbury, who aren't being overly burdened with national team commitments. They, um...they haven't lost in a little while. Did I mention they have a lot of home games remaining?
There has been some talk that the name may end up being a liability, but I frankly don't see it. Even if Lance Armstrong has to give up all this Tour de France titles - well, it's still a better name than, say, Enron Field was. And KC still doesn't have any pyramid schemes as sponsors, unlike a couple of California teams I could mention.
Although this is the week to talk about soccer and drugs, isn't it? Neither Brian Mullan, Dario Sala, nor Ricardo Clark are the most penalized players in MLS history - that honor belongs jointly to Jon Conway, Jeff Parke, and now Josh Williams of the Crew, who was broken into bite-sized pieces by the league this week:
Ten and ten were the sentences handed down to Parke and Conway, who also ingested the wrong vitamins from the wrong national chain. At the time, teammate Mike Petke lamented that taking legal substances that can metabolize to illegal substances could catch innocent players unawares.
Perhaps a similar misfortune befell Williams...although, you'd think after Parke and Conway, MLS trainers would have sent the memo out to all of their players telling them to clear their supplements in advance.
What makes this weird, though, is that the substance in question metabolized to methandienone, and is quite, quite illegal.
A Google search on methandienone can also lead one to charmingly named sites such as "juiceunderground" and "onlineanabolic." Classy little subculture.
It's possible that Williams, like Parke and Conway, picked that particular supplement at random, and had no idea the effect that particular supplement would have on the human body. It's also possible that was specifically why Williams picked that particular supplement.
Hey, for all I know after he went to GNC, he had a steak dinner with Guillermo Ochoa and Zinha.
Now, why am I giving Lance Armstrong a pass, more or less, but mocking Williams (and Parke and Conway, and Zinha and Ochoa)? Mostly the cancer charitable work. That makes up for a lot, as far as public relations are concerned.
And, well....maybe I'm just naive about how pervasive performance enhancing drugs are in soccer, and in other sports. But cycling? Come on. The Tour de France is the biggest pharmaceutical trade show this side of the Red Sox locker room. PEDs diminish the accomplishments of Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez, because not every one of their teammates and opponents were cheating. I'm not sure you can say that about the Tour de France. Maybe there's one or two poor fools there, finishing fiftieth every year, and no one realizes they are actually the greatest cyclists in the world.
In any case, even if Armstrong goes before Congress and says "I had more needles in me than Lou Reed," I don't think this hurts the Wizards.
I mean, the Sporting.
Yeah, I'm just going to keep calling them the Wizards.