While they may disagree over who should be considered a favorite in the Western Conference Semifinal Thursday (7:30 p.m. CT on FOX), there’s one thing Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United can agree on — theirs is “the nicest rivalry in sports.”
In an area of the country known for niceness, the midwestern teams billed their rivalry as such last year with their supporters playing up the feelings of amity between the fanbases.
Sporting, though, haven’t been very hospitable in matches played at Children’s Mercy Park. They’ve won all five home games in the series, outscoring the Loons 11-1 in those games. That includes a 1-0 victory on Sept. 13.
"Blue Hell" hasn't been very nice for Minnesota United, but Loons coach Adrian Heath believes he's got the group to change their fortunes come Thursday night.
"I've made no secret of the fact that when we got through [Round One], and we knew that we were going to play KC, I said the only thing that we have to do is play an awful lot better than we have done," Heath said in a video conference call with reporters Monday. "We've been, at best, awful at times there, hopeless at times. We have to address that, we have to play better. We have to go in there with a different mindset. ... The one thing i am sure about is we will be better than we've been certainly there in the last couple of years. This group will be better. I'm almost certain of that."
This is the fourth encounter this year, although it feels like a lot more.
Will the niceness continue Thursday night? It’s the first-ever Audi MLS Cup Playoffs meeting and the berth in the Western Conference Final on the line should certainly test that.