Chicago v. Sporting K.C. - MLS # 24 - Fireside Chat

USA TODAY Sports

It's Friday. 'Nuff said.

Needless to say, it has been a rough week for Fire fans. And to cap this week off, the Chicago Fire are playing Sporting Kansas City. Ben Gartland over at The Daily Wiz swapped questions with us here at HTIOT ahead of tonight's game. Below are the questions we asked Ben. The other half of the conversation can be found over at The Daily Wiz.

1) At this point is it MLS Cup or bust for Kansas City? Would anything less be considered an underachievement? (via John Jenzeh)

Two years after the rebranding, Sporting's mission is absolutely to get some hardware, whether it's the Shield or the MLS Cup. Failure to get one of those trophies, coupled with the early exit in the US Open Cup, would mean that the goal they started out with this season was not something they reached. The front office wants hardware, the fans want hardware and I think that this season needs to be the season they get one or the fans might grow inpatient.

Personally, I'll just be happy if Sporting can beat Houston in the playoffs. From there, everything else is gravy.

2) Why all of a sudden are media pundits dubbing Kansas City the soccer capital of America? Does the SKC fan base take pride/buy in to this and is it a fair assumption to make of Kansas City after so many years of averaging 10,952 for attendance before Sporting Park was opened? How would you explain the successful brand of Sporting in the Missouri/ Kansas area? (via Adam Merges and Anthony Seymour)

The dubbing of Kansas City as the soccer capital of the country is something that perplexes me. Yes, we have a great fan base and lively atmosphere during matches but we've only seen that during success and for three seasons. In my mind, the success that Sporting has had is similar to Portland and Seattle and both of them should also have claims to that title. That being said, Sporting KC has really changed the culture in the area. Everyone knows who the team is and the great ownership that the team has. They've made their mark and made soccer a very hot ticket item in the city. Kids are wearing sporting jerseys and dreaming of becoming Graham Zusi or Kei Kamara. They make themselves so easy to like because it's obvious they value the fan and as long as Robb Heinemann and co. are in charge, the game will continue to grow and the title of Soccer Capital will become more apt.

3) Kei Kamara has 7 goals in 14 appearances this season since he returned from England. SKC was doing well without him, but do you think the team would still be sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference if Norwich would have bought him? (via Mark O'Rourke)

That's tough to say. I think that if Kamara doesn't come back then Sporting's offensive production scales back and they lose points because of it. Kamara's return did two things: It brought a natural winger back to that position and it allowed Graham Zusi to move back to the midfield and create chances from there. Because of that, the offensive production isn't coming from just the forwards, it's starting in the midfield and being reinforced by the midfield. While Kamara will miss this match with the Fire, his impact since returning has really made a big difference in Sporting's scoring output.

Gracias, Ben.

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