As Sporting Kansas City prepare for their third MLS Cup final in franchise history on Saturday, one of the leagues inaugural teams only has one previous triumph to look back on for inspiration.
Lets take a trip back to the start of the new millennium as the Kansas City Wizards, as they were known then, won the teams only MLS Cup to date.
Coming off the back of a stellar regular season in 2000, KC had the best defensive record in MLS and U.S. national team ‘keeper Tony Meola was in the form of his life. But they were up against Midwest rivals the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium, the Wizards had a slight edge after excelling in a breakout season for Bob Gansler’s men.
But Bob Bradley and the Fire were the highest-scoring MLS side that season with Ante Razov and Hristo Stoitchkov leading the line and rookie of the year Carlos Bocanegra marshaling things at the back.
Almost 40,000 crammed into RFK in the nations capital on a sunny fall day and it didn’t take long before the KC contingent were in raptures following the games opening goal. After just 11 minutes Danish striker Miklos Molnar (remember him?) calmly finished after good work down the right from a young Chris Klein.
The rest of the game turned into the ‘Meola Show’ as the reigning MLS MVP and goalkeeper of the year put on a clinic of terrific shot-stopping as he made 20 stops to secure a shutout and keep the Fire at bay. At the final whistle KC rejoiced as the MLS original won its first MLS Cup in franchise history, while Chicago’s experienced side full of stars look shell-shocked after dominating large spells of the game and outshooting KC 20-6. But Molnar’s early goal turned out to be the game-winner as the Wizards won it all.
For his heroics Meola was named the MVP of MLS Cup 2000 and only one other ‘keeper in MLS Cup history, Nick Rimando in 2009 in RSL’s defeat of LA, has been handed the MVP award.
Safe to say, most Sporting KC fans would take a similar workmanlike 1-0 victory this weekend against Real Salt Lake. Anybody putting any money on SKC’s captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to win the MVP award and record a shutout?
Kansas City Wizards — Tony Meola, Nick Garcia, Chris Klein (Francisco Gomez 89), Brandon Prideaux, Peter Vermes, Chris Henderson, Matt McKeon, Preki (Uche Okafor 74), Kerry Zavagnin, Mo Johnston, Miklos Molnar
Chicago Fire — Zach Thornton, Carlos Bocanegra, Tenywa Bonseu, C.J. Brown, Chris Armas, Diego Gutierrez (DaMarcus Beasley 70), Dema Kovalenko, Jesse Marsch, Peter Nowak (Lubos Kubik 83), Ante Razov, Hristo Stoitchkov