When Toronto FC completed a 4-2 win over the Columbus Crew last night, it concluded what was an overall great day for Sporting Kansas City. Not only had Sporting defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-0 earlier in the day, in what was a must win game for the home side, but that result,combined with the Crew loss, nudged Sporting Kansas City to the top of the Eastern Conference.
True, Sporting Kansas City are still in a virtual lock with Columbus; both teams sitting at 40 points apiece. But the culmination of the Sporting win, and the Columbus Crew loss surely meant one thing for Sporting; the team now has complete control of their destiny in the race for the top playoff spot in the East.
It marks what has to be considered a remarkable turnaround from how the team started the 2011 MLS season; a start that saw Sporting Kansas City on the road for their first 10 games. Sporting struggled mightily, winning only one match in that span.
The team was at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Expectations were grim. Many of the fans, myself included, probably already had one eye on next season. It was hard to watch, and didn't make much sense. Sporting Kansas City was a talented squad, but for one reason or another, things just weren't clicking, and the team just wasn't getting results.
That was before Sporting went on a remarkable 14 straight matches without a loss. It was a streak that would prove to be the catalyst for Sporting Kansas City's meteoric rise to the top of the Eastern standings. Sporting Kansas City hasn't looked back since.
Surely it was a turnaround that none of us could have anticipated, but sometimes these things really can't be explained. I'm sure some of it has been luck to an extent. Some of it has probably been the natural maturation that takes place within a squad over the course of a long season; players becoming more comfortable in the system and with each other. Some of it is probably has to do with Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes finally putting all of the pieces together, realizing which combination of players he needs on the field in any given situation. It's probably a little bit of a lot of things.
Whatever the reasons, whatever has contributed to this complete turnaround, I don't really care at this very moment. I'll have plenty of time later on when the season is over to figure it all out, but I do think we should all take a second to appreciate just how far this team has come this year, and how much this organization has grown, not only this season, but through the years.
I know I'll be taking it all in today, even if it's just for a second. After all, Sporting Kansas City does play Real Salt Lake Saturday.