KANSAS CITY, KS - NOVEMBER 02: Members of Sporting Kansas City huddle prior to the start of the MLS playoff game against the Colorado Rapids on November 2, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
It's been four months since that game. Four long, impatient months that seemed to mock us, the fans, as we waited for the new season.
For the new chance.
Four months gives a guy a long time to think about things. Here's some of the emotions I, and other Sporting fans, have been feeling during the offseason in anticipation of 2012.
Today is the day. The day that the 2011 Eastern Conference Championship game is forgotten. The day that the chase for the MLS Cup starts. There's reasons to be excited.
Oh so many reasons.
There won't be the 10 game road trip to start off the season that Sporting faced last season. They will be able to start right out of the gate in defending their regular season Eastern Conference championship.
LiveSTRONG Sporting Park is sure to be full of fans, new and old, next week when Sporting opens against New England. The fans will be anxious to see the 2012 Sporting team of last year's magical season continue its success.
And they should be. The signs are all there that Sporting will have another great year. CJ Sapong is coming off of his Rookie of the Year season and is looking to have another great year. Teal Bunbury, Graham Zusi and CJ Sapong are all coming off of stints with the U.S national team and will be better than ever.
At least, that's the hope.
Sports teams in Kansas City have given fans a reason to be skeptical. Just when it seems they might be turning the corner, they could falter. What if Sapong doesn't reciprocate his play from last year? What if Sporting runs into the injury bug? What if Dom Dwyer doesn't live up to expectations? What if letting Omar Bravo go was a huge mistake?
What if last year was a fluke?
It's a legitimate concern to think that last year's success might not translate to this year. The hardest part about success is not attaining it, but maintaining it. The steps are certainly there to have the same amount of success, if not more. It will all come down to the execution.
The thing about coming off of a huge breakout season is that pessimism will be there. But the great thing is the optimism that is coming out. It's hard to be a pessimist about this season when you look around the fandom and see the excitement. It's hard to be a pessimist when you see so many young players with a lot of experience on the big stage.
It's a mix of emotions coming into this year. First and foremost is excitement. That part is obvious. New stadium, good, if not great, team, crazy fans; It's all here for an exciting season.
There's also that doubt, that skepticism that it won't be as good in 2012 and the momentum that Sporting gained during 2011 will be lost. It's a thought stuck in the back of the mind that won't leave.
There's a lot of pressure this year. Last year there was the pressure that we needed to see some success or else changes might have to have been made. Now the success needs to be maintained. Now Sporting needs to take 2012 by the horns and do what they haven't done since 2000 and that's win the MLS Cup.
Now is the time for Sporting to become a dynasty that represents American Soccer with New York and Los Angeles. Now is the time to rise above the middle level and become elite.
Now, it is time for the 2012 season.
Let us begin.