Over the last 10 years, few professional sports franchises have experienced a more transformational journey than Sporting Kansas City. From Wizards to Sporting, from minor league baseball park to world-class soccer stadium, from MLS afterthought to perennial title contender, the 2010s ushered in a Kansas City soccer renaissance as Sporting enjoyed a meteoric rise both on and off the pitch.
Throughout this decade of success, everyone tied to the club—from players and coaches to owners and fans—made priceless memories that will last a lifetime. As the 2010s come to a close, SportingKC.com is counting down the top 20 moments of the decade. The daily series will run from Dec. 12-31, looking back on the biggest matches, announcements and off-the-field developments that left lasting impacts on the club. The top 20 list was determined through voting among front office associates at Sporting. Click here to visit the top 20 as it unfolds.
In order to break through to the 2013 MLS Cup and host the league's championship game on home soil, Sporting Kansas City needed to get over a hump.
That hump came in the form of the Houston Dynamo.
After finishing atop the Eastern Conference regular season standings in 2011 and 2012, Sporting's playoff run was cut short by an experienced and savvy Houston side. The Dynamo won 2-0 in the 2011 conference finals and prevailed 2-1 on aggregate in the 2012 conference semifinals, leaving Manager Peter Vermes' men with bitter tastes of postseason heartbreak.
On Nov. 23, 2013, Sporting heaved that proverbial monkey off its back.
Facing Houston for the third straight postseason, Sporting had earned a scoreless road draw in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship two weeks earlier. The second leg at electric Children's Mercy Park began ominously, as the Dynamo took just three minutes to take a lead through Boniek Garcia.
Nerves were slightly settled 11 minutes later, however, when C.J. Sapong pulled Sporting level. The hosts dictated terms and ultimately surged ahead near the hour-mark when Benny Feilhaber's brilliantly incisive pass found striker Dom Dwyer, who slotted low past Tally Hall to ignite wild, cathartic celebrations throughout the stadium.
The lead was never relinquished as Sporting punched Houston out of the playoffs and went on to lift the MLS Cup a fortnight later.