Day Two of the Bundesliga Fanatic Road Trip began in Kansas City Tuesday morning. It was a fun day, highlighted by the CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader at the new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, meeting Bundesliga vets Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones along with many fans of the beautiful game.
Our second day in KC started with a complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Village West near the ballpark. Hadn’t had biscuits and gravy in awhile, and that hit the spot. Several groups of U.S. Men’s National Team fans were clustered around tables, including many from the Lincoln, Nebraska branch of the American Outlaws, who’d bussed down to see the USMNT play.
With hours of free time before the match, Kurt and I headed to the Missouri side of the metro KC area to check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Jazz Museum. Glad we did. Sharing the same building near what was once the hub of the sporting life in KC at 18th and Vine, the NLBM was a great homage to the African-American ballplayers of the late 19th and 20th centuries who were denied access to playing organized baseball in America until the coming of Jackie Robinson after World War II. Despite butting up against racial prejudice and discrimination, these great athletes like Satchell Paige, Josh Gibson and so many more were more than equal to their white counterparts and played the game with joy and accomplishment. You feel their spirit in the old photos, uniforms, newspaper columns and scorecards.
The Jazz Museum was also a ton of fun for a jazz fan like myself. Kansas City was a major jazz center in the U.S. between the wars, and hosted many greats such as Count Basie and territory bands like those of Bennie Moten and Jay McShann. Out of this rich soil came the world-changing alto sax player, Charlie “Bird” Parker. The museum not only is a tribute to these and other jazz greats, but has interactive features that allow one to remix jazz classics and mess with the drumming patterns, piano accompaniment and a tenor sax solo. Kansas City also hosts the world-class National World War I Museum and the free admission Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Great places to visit.
After lunch at the renowned Arthur Bryants BBQ, we rested a bit before heading to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Crowds were already congregating hours before the first match to tailgate outside the park. And what a facility to play soccer !!! The HD scoreboards seemed even more “real” than the action on the field, the PA was clear and sightlines and accessibility were awesome. Truly a world-class facility.
We entered the stadium early for the first match featuring Panama and Canada. We met Yvonne and her son Charles waving both Panamanian and U.S. flags. Yvonne was rooting for her native Panama, but also supports the USMNT as she now lives in the States and saw some Bayern Munich matches while living in Germany.
Canada needed a win over Panama to advance out of Group C, and earned a 1-0 lead when MLS star Dwayne De Rosario converted a penalty kick early in the 2nd half. But despite the efforts of FC Koln’s Kevin McKenna, who seemed to be breaking up every Panama thrust, Canada wasn’t able to finish off the game as Panama scored to draw 1-1 and knock the under-achieving Canadian side out.
By the time the USMNT and Guadeloupe came onto the field for the day’s second match, the stands were full. Bundesliga veterans Steve Cherundolo, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley were in the starting lineup for the Americans. Young forward Jozy Altidore blasted a shot early on that gave the Americans a 1-0 lead, and there would be no more goals despite Cherundolo’s stream of excellent crosses from the right flank into the Guadeloupe box. The Americans missed numerous chances to finish, and Guadeloupe bravely hung in. Guadeloupe competes in the CONCACAF and Caribbean Football Union tournaments despite being part of the French Republic, and despite its small population (about 400,000) many of their players compete in France’s Ligue 2 while captain Stephane Auvray plays for Sporting Kansas City.
After the U.S. win, Kurt and I talked to more fans as they left the stadium, happy with a result that put the USMNT through to the next Gold Cup round. Sadie sported a fantastic American Revolutionary War outfit that she spotted when shopping last fall for Halloween costumes, and with the help of her Mom and sister put together an awesome costume. Sadie also attends USMNT games with her family and is a member of the American Outlaws- KC branch and Sporting KC’s Cauldron supporters group.
We also met Jose Arriega and his sister, Adelaide, outstanding fans who made the 450 mile trip for the match from Dallas. Commenting on LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and the growth of the game in the U.S., Jose described the facility as “world class….something you would see overseas. It’s pretty cool that we’ve gone from playing in NFL, high school and college stadiums in the U.S. to playing in soccer-specific stadiums. It shows how much the game has grown and how much people are willing to invest in something they believe is going to grow, and IS growing.”
Although I had press credentials for the doubleheader, I had sat with the fans behind goal goal but it was time to meet the players. After venturing to the wrong gate, this 54 year-old rookie reporter made it just in time to the corridor where the players were departing for their bus to leave the stadium. With a line of media along one side of a temporary fence, players walked out intermittently. I was focused on getting an interview with Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones for Fanatic readers.
Finally Dolo came out. Wearing Kurt’s Hannover 96 jersey thatI’d slipped over my USMNT kit, Steve stopped and said hello and I questioned him about the his great performance in the match and about the magical season that Hannover experienced, resulting in a trip to the Europa League. Everything was cool, Hannover’s captain was gracious, and then I realized that my digital audio recorder wasn’t set on “record.” Ughhhhhhhhh !!! I caught a few minutes of conversation before it was time for Steve to head on, Nobody said this was easy.
Jermaine Jones came down a few minutes later and this time I actually had the DAR recording. Again, the midfielder was gracious and had a great smile. He finished the brief interview by greeting Bundesliga fans in German.
Jermaine Jones interview
So even considering my bungling of the Cherundolo interview, it was a fun trip. Meeting so many dedicated fans and some world-class players and seeing two international matches in a wonderful, new stadium was a blast, and the inspiration for hopefully some future Bundeliga Fanatic roadtrips.
To see more photos by the talented Jeremy Olson, click here