It’s that time of the year again SKC Nation. Playoff soccer time in Kansas City and I don’t know about you all, but I am full of emotions every time playoff season rolls around. I’m excited, nervous, optimistic and apprehensive. A little bit of everything all rolled into one!
Mostly I’m excited. What’s not to love about the fact that Sporting Kansas City has a home playoff game?! Children’s Mercy Park on match day is my favorite place to be and it’s even better for a playoff match. The crowd is wild. The stadium is full. The Cauldron is hopping. The South Stand is screaming. The players are pumped and ready to go. How can you not feel some excitement as the playoffs roll around?
But then there are the nerves. Knowing that a bad game means the season is over. Just like that. No more match day until February. No more Twitter banter. Nothing. I mean lets be real, we are all aware of how Sporting Kansas City ended the season. Three straight losses. Alan Pulido unavailable for a good chunk of time. No Johnny Russell. Daniel Salloi missing games due to an ankle injury and consequently not scoring a goal since early October. So it feels right to have those nerves. Maybe that is part of why playoff soccer is so fun. You have that win or go home feeling amongst the fans and the players have that win or go home mentality on the pitch. Knowing that everything depends on this one match.
Despite those nerves though, I am feeling optimistic. And why not?! Sporting has been sitting at or near the top of the Western Conference all season long. Even with those three losses to end the season Sporting were still one missed handball call away from finishing in first place! We have a league MVP finalist on our squad. Alan Pulido is back to full training. Johnny Russell has been an absolute monster to finish the season. The team has had time to prepare and train together. Daniel Salloi and Gadi Kinda were both called up to their respective national teams, but both stayed in Kansas City over the international break. We, as a fanbase, should feel optimistic going into Saturday’s game. We get to go out and cheer for a good team.
But, I think, this fanbase also has a right to feel very apprehensive. As an eternal optimist, I always go into playoff season feeling good. Thinking about all of the things that Sporting has going for them. Hyping myself up that I am going to have to make sub plans and take a personal day so I can fly to watch Sporting win MLS Cup and then it ends in heartbreak. Disappointing first round losses. Late match winners to lose in the Conference final. Year after year. Season after season. It would be crazy to not feel at least a little apprehensive about playing Vancouver on Saturday. They have been really good in recent months. Recently, Sporting hasn’t.
But I can’t do it. I won’t allow myself to go into Saturday’s match feeling apprehensive. I will allow myself to be excited. I’ll for sure be nervous. But I will go in feeling 100% optimistic. I have to. Will I be heartbroken again with a home playoff loss in the first round? Maybe, but I won’t be thinking about that when the ball is dropped and that game starts Saturday at 4:00. I’ll be chanting, yelling, cheering and willing Sporting on to victory with 18,000 of my closest friends. What about you? How are you feeling?!