Kansas City, Kan. — Peter Vermes didn’t mince words: Livestrong Sporting Park is stunning. The atmosphere was more spectacular than anyone could have expected. Jimmy Neilsen’s red card was the right call. But Fire defender Bratislav Ristic’s aggressive tackle on Omar Bravo in the Chicago area in the 85th minute was definitely a penalty.
“For the referee to miss the moment in an environment like this tonight, there is not a place in the world where it would have been missed like it was tonight,” Sporting KC coach Vermes said after his side’s 0-0 draw with the Fire. “I’m extremely upset for the organization, for the fans and our team, because they did enough to win the game tonight.”
Watch Highlights: Sporting 0, Chicago 0
Of course, Vermes and his players desperately wanted to open their new stadium with a win in front of the 19,925 antsy fans that filled the stands at an immaculate Livestrong Sporting Park.
Instead, Kansas City extended their winless streak in league play to 10 games. And the no call on Bravo, who was stretchered off the field following the final whistle, really stuck in Vermes’ craw.
Here’s how the play happened: C.J. Sapong flicked a long goal kick on to Graham Zusi at the top of the Chicago box. Zusi collected the ball and found Bravo streaking into the penalty area.
Bravo took one touch toward the inside, and was immediately upended by a sliding Ristic. The Fire defender might have gotten a glancing touch on the ball, but he got all of Bravo. However, referee Michael Kennedy waved play on, leaving the Mexican striker sprawled on the ground clutching his back.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Bravo said through a translator following the match. He was hunched over and in obvious pain in the locker room. “I just fell right on my back on the ground. It felt like I got hit by a train.”
Based on their reaction to the no call, so did the fans who packed Livestrong Sporting Park’s stands, clubs and concourses to witness the first game in the club’s $200 million gem of a facility.
From Lance Armstrong bringing the crowd to its feet prior to the game to the tifo displayed by a jubilant Cauldron and the chants that sprung up throughout the 90 minutes all over the park, Kansas City’s fans made their presence felt on a hot and humid night for soccer.
“The atmosphere and the fans and the stadium and everything we’ve been waiting for was bigger and better than I thought it would be or could be,” captain Davy Arnaud said. “I think tonight we really showed what soccer has become in Kansas City. We packed the place out and the fans created an unbelievable atmosphere. One I haven’t seen in this city before.”
Still, it was difficult to see those same fans leave without the result everyone in the organization was hoping for to help jumpstart Sporting’s thus-far disappointing campaign.
But, at the very least, Sporting learned what kind of home-field advantage they will have in their new digs.
“We’ve experienced it now,” Arnaud said. “But now we want to make this a tough place for teams to come and play, and we want to make this a place where we get wins. That’s got to start pretty soon.”