1 minute, 43 seconds. That's all it took after nearly a 5 month offseason of waiting and anticipating for Sporting Kansas City fans to first explode with exuberance in 2011. MLS SuperDraft first round choice C.J. Sapong opened his professional scoring account with a well-taken goal after the Chivas USA defense failed to properly clear the ball following a Sporting KC free kick. And boom, just like that SKC was off and running.
Sapong, being the surprise starting inclusion that he was, failed to disappoint for his many critics after being the number ten overall pick in January's draft. Coming from James Madison University, a relatively unknown place in the soccer world, many fans were quick to label the pick a questionable decision, or even a waste. For Sapong, it was all about proving those doubters wrong.
Outside of the opening goal less than two minutes into the game, he continued to show himself as a dangerous outlet in the center of head coach Peter Vermes' 4-3-3 frontline. He could have easily had a second and third goal, seeing headed chances carry just wide of the post on a couple occasions. It really was a dream start for the rookie forward. His goal was one of the fastest scored goals in the club's history.
Reading thus far, you would think that Sapong was the big star of the night, right?
So wrong you are. The man of the night; heck, of the entire offseason was newly signed Designated Player Omar Bravo. Vermes raved on and on about his abilities, his game and his effect on the team. Up until Saturday night, it was really all lip service, as no one had seen him play in a game for the club. Oh, how right he was.
Bravo made the game 2-0 in first half stoppage time after fellow forward Kei Kamara played a speculative through ball over the top to the head of the 18-yard box. The ball skipped past Sapong and a Chivas defender, directly into the path of Bravo who, with the first touch, chipped Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton from the top of the box. It was a brilliant piece of ingenuity, dubbed "a moment of Mexican magic" by Sporting's new British announcer Callum Williams. "Mexican magic," it sure enough was.
Vermes continually said the team didn't have a player of Bravo's skill set, and that certainly showed on the goal. It would be a tall task to name another player on the team that could take that touch, that shot and that goal with the precision that Bravo used to bounce it over the line.
If you followed the team in 2010, though, you know they don't do anything the easy way. You know that things always come full-circle, and that will never be more evident than the moment when Chivas defender Jimmy Conrad, who left Kansas City after eight years with the club this offseason, pulled one back for the Goats. As was the case with KC's first, it was a set piece that went uncleared, bounced around in the box, right to the foot of Conrad. As karma seems to go, he banged it home right past KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen. Karma, sweet karma.
The former face of the franchise answering the current face; Conrad to Bravo. It was Omar's turn. He made it 3-1 with another beautifully slotted goal off another cheeky touch with the outside of his right boot. Kamara headed forward, once again right in the little Mexican's path, (that's two assists for Kamara to Bravo, for the record) who once again made Thornton's attempt look a fool with another flashy first touch into goal from the left side of the 6-yard box. It was a dream start on his debut, scoring a brace for his new club. Return on investment.
Once again, if you followed this team in 2010, nothing comes without a bit of drama. Another (doesn't this seem to be a re-occurring theme: repetitive mistakes) failed clearance off a corner kick that was allowed to stay around the box ended up at the feet of Ben Zemanski, who was literally five yards out from Nielsen. A powerful blast to the left side of the goal saw the game close to 3-2 in favor of KC.
A few more nervy moments in the last minutes of regular and stoppage time ensued, but the club formerly known as the Wizards held on for a dream start to a 10-game road trip to start the season.
Knee-jerk Man of the Match: Omar Bravo - a brace on his debut and countless other chances created made him a handful for the Chivas backline all night. Sapong garnered the award for the first half after absolutely abusing Conrad and the rest of Chivas' defense. But, simple math says that 2 goals > 1 goal.