KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Omar Bravo won’t be in a completely unfamiliar position on Wednesday night when he lines up across from the infamous red-and-white stripes he donned for nearly a decade.
The Sporting Kansas City star may be a Chivas de Guadalajara legend – just the second player to score 100 goals for the Goats – but he has faced his former side once before.
After suffering through an ill-fated spell in Spain at Deportivo La Coruña, Bravo returned to Mexico on loan at Tigres UANL in March 2009. As fate would have it, he came up against his old team just a few weeks into his short tenure in Monterrey, helping lead Tigres to a 1-0 victory.
And even though Wednesday’s match is technically a friendly, Bravo will approach it the same way he did back in 2009. He may count many Chivas players among his friends, but that feeling only goes so far on the field.
“I can have a coffee with them outside the lines,” Bravo said this week through a translator. “But when you are inside, you play the game and behave as a professional. We are enemies inside and friends outside.”
For one night at least, Bravo and his former compatriots will be enemies as Sporting Kansas City take on CD Guadalajara at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, streamed live on ESPN3.com) in a exhibition match that serves as a warm-up prior to both team’s league obligations this weekend.
It will be the first time since leaving the Goats for Major League Soccer and that Bravo will come face to face with the club and passionate fanbase that supported him through a career highlighted by 108 league goals and a World Cup appearance.
And even though he was once revered by Chivas fans, Bravo said he was curious to see the kind of reaction he’ll get wearing another team’s colors.
“Of course, it will be a little weird,” he said. “The fans will probably come to cheer for Chivas and not for me. That’s going to be a little strange.”
Still, no matter how he’s received, Bravo said he is happy with his decision to leave the familiar behind in order to make his name in MLS. So far he’s satisfied with his own play (nine goals and two assists in 24 starts) and the steady progression Kansas City have made on the field after starting the season buried in the Eastern Conference basement.
Bravo says he has found life north of the border to be a refreshing change as well after deciding he needed a new experience following a career at Mexico’s most fanatically supported club.
He can walk his dogs with his children without attracting so much as a sidelong glance. He can run errands without being the center of attention wherever he goes. He isn’t a public figure like he was back home.
In short, life is simpler in Kansas City.
“For me, it’s very different. Very, very different,” Bravo said. “It is more calm here. It’s a change in the pace of the city. There is no traffic. I can walk outside without being hassled and go to a restaurant with my family and enjoy a meal. Not that Guadalajara is bad, but it is definitely more relaxed out here.”
On the field, though, Bravo has been anything but relaxed.
His passion for the game and pursuit of perfection is evident in even the most mundane of training exercises. He demands the same from his teammates and credits their collective efforts and belief in each other for Sporting’s run to the brink of the playoffs.
“It all came down to the big shift, when the mentality and the attitude of the team changed into believing we were capable of playing the big boys,” Bravo said. “You can see through the big games so far that there hasn’t been an opponent that really ran over us, except for that game in Los Angeles. We can beat anybody.”
Of course, it’s important to note that shift really began gaining momentum once Bravo was fully recovered from sports hernia surgery and integrated back into the lineup in late May.
The injury and time spent on the sideline may have thrown Bravo off course in regards to his personal goals, but he said he was happy to sacrifice those for the success he believes Sporting is capable of this season.
“I always wanted to be the top scorer in the league,” he said, “and that was shaken up a little bit by the injury. I’m just going to keep pushing toward the big goal, which is helping Kansas City get to the championship.”