Davy Arnaud stood on the Arrowhead Stadium turf surrounded by screaming fans with a satisfied smile plastered on his face.
In the background, the scoreboard read Kansas City 2, Manchester United 1, a fitting – if unlikely – result that capped a historic day for the Wizards and soccer in the Midwest.
And in the midst of the hoopla, Arnaud thought back to man who brought Major League Soccer to Kansas City and made the entire day possible.
“Mr. Lamar Hunt … I think he would have enjoyed what he saw today,” the Wizards captain said.
The 52,424 fans who set a new record for soccer attendance in Kansas City certainly enjoyed what they saw from their hometown team, booing vigorously when Jimmy Conrad was sent off late in the first half and exploding in jubilation when the final whistle blew on United’s first loss during their tour through North America.
On the field, the Wizards absorbed that energy and put it to use, harassing the Red Devils at every opportunity, pinning the visitors in their own end for most of the first half and gamely weathering a late-game barrage that threatened to spoil the result.
And even though it was an exhibition and the points don’t technically mean anything in the grand scheme of things, the Wizards proved to themselves, their fans and the rest of MLS that they are capable of more than they’ve shown this season.
Not to mention the fact that soccer in Kansas City gained another valuable toehold in the race to be a host city during the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
“Realistically, would you think you were going to win the game?” Arnaud said. “No, nine times out of 10, realistically, we probably won’t. But today was a great day for us.”
Truthfully, it was a great day for everyone involved.
Facing a lineup full of marquee names and world-class talent, Kansas City didn’t compromise their game. They put their mark on the match from the very start.
Arnaud burst through the United back line in the 11th minute and latched onto a through ball from Kei Kamara, eventually slotting the ball past young goalkeeper Ben Amos for a goal he will remember the rest of his life.
“It was a great feeling, it really was,” he said. “When you are young, you kind of dream about those situations. You can’t really put that into words.”
For his part, manager Peter Vermes tried to sum up the day, but eventually settled for praising his team’s commitment and acknowledging that results against a team like United don’t come along often.
“We got a little lucky today,” Vermes said. “Respectfully, it was a great game for us for so many different reasons.”
And although luck had nothing to do with it, Kansas City surely got their fair share of breaks—the most important coming in the 42nd minute when Kamara’s header was judged to have crossed the line.
“I didn’t see a replay of it,” Kamara said, “but I thought it crossed the line. I got a goal, and it’s in the history books.”
And so is the result. Exhibition or not, Kansas City can claim an unblemished record against United. The fact that it came in front of more than 50,000 fans simply makes it even sweeter.
“It was a special night for sure,” Arnaud said.