In front of 19,784 fans at Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City held on for a 1-1 draw against the visiting Red Bulls. They managed the result despite playing the final 20 minutes down to ten men after captain Matt Besler was sent off in the 70th minute.
There were a few new faces in the starting lineup for Sporting KC, and one old favorite returning. The most impressive of the debutantes was rookie outside back Amadou Dia, first round pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft. Dia played with a lot more poise than you might have expected from a rookie in his first league game as a professional. Normally a left back, Dia was inserted at right back and played really well. His performance was just one more reason to be impressed with this year's draft class and proof that Peter Vermes really enjoys (and is very good at) the technical director part of his job.
The feel-good story of the night was the return from injury of Ike Opara. Injured against the Colorado Rapids on March 29, 2014, Opara put in a very good shift against the Red Bulls. The cherry on top of the sundae was his goal in the 50th minute, a header on a cross from Benny Feilhaber. In the locker room after the game, I asked him if he could have imagined going the full 90 minutes and getting a goal in his return. He said that he could have envisioned it, but he certainly didn't expect it.
Another of the new faces in the starting XI for Sporting KC was goalkeeper Luis Marin. I asked goalkeeper coach John Pascarella after the game what it was that stood out for the staff that told them Marin might be their guy. Pascarella said it was his moxie. He makes everybody relax and say, okay, we've got this. Pascarella also said that when the club went down to ten men, goalkeepers all over the world would do what Marin did, start to slow the game down, but that's not what Sporting KC wants to do, and that's one thing Marin needs to learn.
A familiar face making his return to the Sporting KC lineup was Roger Espinoza. After his last appearance for the club in the 2012 playoffs, Espinoza made his way to England, where he helped Wigan Athletic win the FA Cup over Manchester City. The club was, unfortunately, relegated and Epinoza spent the 2013-14 season in the Championship. I asked him after the game how it felt to get back out in front of the Sporting Park faithful again and he said it felt good and he got a little emotional when he saw the crowd.
Up next for the club is a trip to Frisco, TX, to play FC Dallas. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
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