As it turns out, March 29 holds some serious gravitas in the annals of Sporting Kansas City.
A dozen years ago today, the club played its first of 44 MLS regular season matches at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas. The minor league baseball venue served as Sporting’s temporary home until 2011 ushered in a new era at Children’s Mercy Park.
Downsizing from the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City kicked off 2008 before a sellout crowd of 10,385 as Argentine star Claudio Lopez—the club’s first Designated Player—made his MLS and CommunityAmerica Ballpark debut in a Week 1 matchup against D.C. United.
With the likes of Kevin Hartman in goal, Jimmy Conrad anchoring the backline and Kerry Zavagnin patrolling the midfield, Kansas City raced to a 2-0 win behind second-half goals from Lopez and Ivan Trujillo. Longtime Kansas City midfielder Jack Jewsbury assisted Trujillo’s opener in the 47th minute and Lopez marked his maiden MLS appearance with a goal 14 minutes later to wrap up all three points.
By March 29, 2011, Kansas City’s stint at CommunityAmerica Ballpark was already finished. On this day, Bob Gansler—the club’s beloved head coach from 1999-2004 and a true pioneer of American soccer—was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Gansler spent 1989-1991 as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, notably guiding the 1990 side to its first World Cup since 1950. He was selected MLS Coach of the Year in 2000 after winning the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield double, then led the Wizards to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship and another trip to MLS Cup in 2004. He was Kansas City’s all-time winningest coach until current manager Peter Vermes took that title in 2015.
Fast-forward another three years—to March 29, 2014—and Vermes had transformed Sporting Kansas City into a perennial title contender. The team had added a 2012 Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup to its trophy cabinet and entered the 2014 campaign with palpable momentum as one of the best sides in MLS.
Six years ago today, one of the most exciting games of Sporting’s season unfolded at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. Squaring off against the Rapids, the visitors took a 50th-minute lead through Graham Zusi before falling behind 2-1 on a pair of Vicente Sanchez penalty kicks.
Not to be outfoxed, Sporting restored parity in the 79th minute through midfielder Benny Feilhaber. With all to play for in the dying embers of the match, English striker Dom Dwyer came off the bench and bagged a dramatic game-winner in second-half stoppage time.