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After 15 months, we came back and it can be summed up with one word. Exultation.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Exultation. Webster’s Dictionary states that it’s the act of being filled with or expressing great joy or triumph. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Total and complete exultation. That is the only way to describe the feeling of being back in Children’s Mercy Park and being in a full capacity crowd. After 15 months of empty stadiums and then limited capacity crowds, Sporting Kansas City welcomed back a full crowd of fans for the match Saturday night and boy was it good. 20,086 fans filled with great joy.

I was able to attend several, if not all, of the matches available for limited capacity and after the shut down of the 2020 season and then the MLS is Back tournament I felt so happy to be back in the stadium, even if the crowd was miniscule. It felt good to be able to see some live action soccer and cheer along with other fans. It was fun and it felt good, but something was missing.

I realize now that what was missing was the feeling of exultation. That feeling of great joy. The crowds at the limited capacity matches did their best. We cheered. We jumped. We yelled at the refs and the opponents, but it just didn’t feel as joyful. But then came Saturday night.

We all know what the last 15 months have been like. The fear, the anger, the loneliness, the lack of joy in almost all aspects of life. Birthdays with no parties. Weddings with just a few family members. No big holiday get togethers. It was 15 months of negativity, sadness and fear. But then came Saturday night.

Saturday night was full of great joy. There was a smile on every face around the stadium. The Cauldron was packed and they were arm and arm, together, celebrating with great joy. The South Stand, the west and the east sides of the stadium. The standing room only fans lined up around the stadium. Everyone was feeling a feeling of exultation. We were back and we were joyful. We were triumphant.

I’ve been to a lot of games at Children’s Mercy Park. I’ve seen some amazing goals, amazing comebacks, wild PK shootouts, but I’ve never had goosebumps and chills like I did on Saturday night. The crowd was so loud and the ball hadn’t even been kicked yet. We were high fiving people around us. Hugging people that we haven’t seen in over a year. It was like one big family reunion. And it was full of joy.

The team fell behind in the first half. Didn’t matter. We kept right on smiling. We kept right on cheering. Then came that Busio banger and boy were we joyful. Then the Pulido PK and boy were we loud and then the Kinda goal and it just felt like everything was right in the world again. Two hours with a crowd of likeminded people and no fears or sadness. Just exultation. Joy. Triumph.

This game wasn’t a season deciding victory. We didn’t win the league, a shield or a cup, but it was one of the most important games I have been to. It was a moment for us, as a fanbase, to come back together after 15 months of sadness and fear, to celebrate a team that brings all of us joy. We came back. After 15 months we came back. 20,086 of us came and boy it was joyful. Can’t wait to do it again. And again. And again.

Thad Bell