End of epic road trip in sight for Sporting

LIVESTRONG Park

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Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Tarps still cover parts of the concourse and workers aren’t done putting the finishing touches on Livestrong Sporting Park, but that hasn’t stopped Sporting Kansas City from dreaming about their new digs.

Sporting trained at the club’s nearly completed stadium and got their first look at the home locker rooms this week as the build-up to the grand opening on June 9 against the Chicago Fire moves into its final stages.

Players and coaches alike marveled at the quality of a facility that has been years in a making but, incredibly, took only 17 months to construct.

“I’m always in awe when I come here,” manager Peter Vermes said. “Every time I come here, I see more and more of the things that we’ve been talking about for many years. Now to see them actually live, it just blows me away.”

And as much as Vermes and his charges enjoyed touring the facility and getting acclimated to their new accommodations, their presence on the field they’ll call their own in seven days meant only one thing: The club’s 10-game road adventure is finally coming to an end.

Kansas City (1-6-2) still have one more crucial fixture away from home when they face Toronto on Saturday (7 pm ET; watch LIVE online). It'll be one last chance to salvage something from a stretch that hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

Through nine games, Sporting have just five points and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference after conceding 19 goals and scoring 12. Still, three consecutive encouraging performances and an opportunity to end their travels on a high note has kept spirits steady, even if the road swing turned out to be more difficult than expected.

"Honestly, we did expect to go on the road and win games,” defender Matt Besler said. “From that aspect, we’re kind of disappointed with where we are right now. We felt like we were in a position to win a few games that we let slip away.”

All things considered, though, Sporting’s struggles look a little better based on the fact that the rest of the league hasn’t been much better in unfamiliar surroundings.

If Kansas City can find a way to earn three points against a scuffling TFC side, what would be their first league victory since opening day, they will be right on pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference in terms of road performance. They will also return home having played more than half their away ties by the end of June.

So far in 2011, five of Sporting’s conference rivals remain winless away from home and the group as a whole has compiled a 6-27-19 record, averaging .71 points per road contest. To put that in perspective, Vermes’ side is currently averaging just over half a point per game. A victory north of the border would put that number above the conference average — not great, but certainly acceptable.

The flip side is that the East is 21-9-21 at home, something Kansas City will need to replicate at Livestrong Sporting Park should they hold out any hope for playoff qualification.            

“We want this stadium to be our Fort Knox,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “Nobody should run away with anything here.”

A week from officially opening, Livestrong Sporting Park looks primed to be just that. The pitch is pristine, the roof leaves a distinctive mark and, most importantly, the stands will be filled with friendly faces.

“We knew [the road stretch] was going to be tough from a lot of different perspectives,” Vermes said. “The one thing that maybe wasn’t so prevalent at the time was when you play away every single week, you lose the connection back to your fans.”