Saturday, July 29, 2017

Trying To Get Back To Normal

After what have been a rough couple of days, losing the person I suppose I could consider my "soccer mom" to liver cancer, it was a relief to get back out to Children's Mercy Park and try to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Now, I'm not the only person Deanna was important to. It's not even close. One way you could tell how many people she had an impact on would be to see how people reacted to the news of her passing.

Both Sporting Kansas City and the Kansas City Comets (indoor soccer) both used their official social media accounts to express their sadness at the news. Players and team staff (both current and former) took to Twitter to express their emotions.

Carter Augustine, the voice of the Swope Park Rangers, reacted this way.


Goalkeeper Scott Angevine, who spent time with Sporting Kansas City before going to play overseas, said:

2013 MLS Cup MVP Aurelien Collin, never one to hide his emotions, let us know how he really felt.


How long did Deanna have an impact on soccer in Kansas City? Curt Johnson, general manager of the Wizards (Nov. 1999-2006) had this to say.
Baker? Yeah, Deanna used to bake cookies for the players. It took the nutritional staff of the club to finally get her to stop.

Deanna had an impact on these teams because of her unconditional support for the players not only for their efforts on the field, but as people off of it. Former Wizard/Sporting KC defender Jimmy Conrad reminded me that she would attend all of his radio shows. Afterward, she would lecture him on how she thought the team should be doing.

The way she treated all of the players like they were her children and loving them unconditionally came from her strong religious faith and her career as a teacher. She was always nice to me and treated me more like I was one of her kids. When I went to her husband's funeral, I would have probably, left to my own devices, picked out a seat somewhere near the back. No, Deanna wasn't having it. She insisted that I sit up with her and her kids.

Now, when I walked into Children's Mercy Park tonight and headed up to the press box, I knew the club had appreciated Deanna. I'm not sure I really knew how much until I looked out across the field and saw the stadium's flags were all at half-staff.

Then the game started and the team played with a freedom and flow I'm sure Deanna would have appreciated, especially considering the team extended its home unbeaten streak to 20 matches.

I think I'll close with something one of her fellow fans said about her.


Amen to that. RIP, Deanna. You've certainly earned it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

SKC Academy U16s Fall in Quarterfinals 3-0 to RSL Academy

KANSAS CITY, KS -- The playoff run of the Sporting KC Academy U16s came to an abrupt halt at Children's Mercy Park on Thursday afternoon as they fell 3-0 to the team from Real Salt Lake's academy.

Real Salt Lake opened the scoring in the fifth minute on a goal off of a set piece by Juan Obeso. The corner deflected out to Obeso at the top of the penalty area. Obeso popped it up and volleyed it into the upper 90 on the far post.

RSL doubled the lead on an easy tap-in from Benjamin Ortiz. After a bad giveaway in the defensive third, the ball got played in to Julian Vazquez at goalkeeper Alex Brown's right hand post. When Brown moved to shut him down, Vazquez played it across goal to Ortiz, who tapped it in.

Vazquez closed out the scoring in the 57th minute. Goalkeeper David Ochoa played it long to Sebastian Soto. After dribbling forward just a bit, Soto played it out to the left for Vazquez. Vazquez drove straight in on Brown and slotted the ball under him for the third and final goal of the contest.

Sporting KC's comeback efforts were given a setback in the 67th minute when midfielder Mason Visconti was shown his second yellow and sent off, but the game seemed almost settled at that point.

Sporting KC was able to generate a few chances, but most of the opportunities were sent either well wide or high. The best chance of the match came in the 77th minute when Grayson Barber lofted a long shot/cross into Ochoa's goal and it deflected off the crossbar.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sporting KC Fight Back For Draw, Lose Gerso Against Portland

KANSAS CITY, KS -- In front of another sellout crowd of 20,933 fans at Children's Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City fought back to claim a share of the points after a poor first half, but lost winger Gerso Fernandes to injury against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.

Portland midfielder Diego Valeri opened the scoring in the 26th minute. After receiving a short pass from Sebastián Blanco near midfield, Valeri ran through the space he was given by the Sporting defense he was given for about 30 yards. When no one tried to close him down, Valeri let loose a rocket just outside the penalty area and it ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net. To be fair, while defender Kevin Ellis should probably have tried to close on Valeri, he did have a run coming in behind him and was caught between a rock and a hard place.

About three minutes later, Fernandes went down in the Portland penalty area after an apparent foul from a Portland player. When play was finally stopped, Sporting's medical staff was able to attend to him and had to help him off the pitch, supporting his arm and shoulder. It was later revealed that Fernandes had separated his shoulder, but it had popped back in. An MRI will be performed soon and, assuming everything is clean, Fernandes should be out for two to three weeks.

Approximately two minutes after Diego Rubio was subbed on for Soony Saad to provide a spark to the offense, Sporting got the equalizer it needed. Midfielder Roger Espinoza put in an inch-perfect ball over the top to forward Daniel Salloi from about 40 yards away. Salloi settled the ball with his right foot and then roofed it over goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, also with his right foot. It was Salloi's first MLS goal and made him the 7th youngest player in club history to score in league play.

Twelve minutes later, Portland was awarded a penalty kick after it appeared Portland's Fanendo Adi had been taken down in the penalty area by Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia. However, after watching replays, it looked like Melia didn't make contact with Adi at all. Valeri stepped up to take the penalty and shot the ball down the middle, but Melia was ready for it and palmed it away. Sporting's defenders were alert and made sure Portland wasn't able to pounce on the rebound.

The penalty kick save was Melia's third of the season, one away from the league record for spot kick saves. The record is held by Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, who saved four in 2014. Melia's also saved three more PKs than Sporting KC has taken all year. The wait continues for the club to be awarded a spot kick.

If there's one thing that's different about this year's version of Sporting KC it's that they can play poorly and still manage to find a way to get at least a point out of a game. Even Peter Vermes admitted after the game that Portland was the better team in the first half. The thing about this team is they don't let adversity get them down. In past years, this team would have lost a game they played this poorly in the first half, but that's not true in the current incarnation of the residents of the Soccer Capital of America.

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Tonight's sellout was the 96th straight sellout in MLS play at Children's Mercy Park. If the streak continues (which it should, considering the way the team's playing), the 100th straight would be Saturday, August 19th against Dallas.

The next home match, though, is Thursday, July 6th at 7:30pm against the Philadelphia Union. Former Sporting KC forward CJ Sapong leads the Union in scoring with eight goals to go along with three assists.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sporting KC Drop Points; Draw Montreal 1-1.

If there's one thing Sporting Kansas City has been good at this season, especially at home, it's taking care of the ball. The careless giveaways last season led to dropped points, at home and on the road.

It's unfortunate, then, that a giveaway led to a Montreal equalizer late in the 2nd half. Midfielder Soni Mustivar's pass looked like it was intended for either Kevin Ellis or Tim Melia, but wasn't really towards either one. Second half substitute Matteo Mancosu ran onto the tweener, chipped it over Melia and into the back of the net in the 82nd minute.

There are a couple things that make a result like this disappointing/frustrating. First, Sporting KC controlled the vast majority of the possession. For the match, the home side had 66.1 percent of the ball (70 percent in the first half, 62.2 percent in the 2nd).

This was, though, a byproduct of the way Montreal came to play (or not play, as Peter Vermes would say in the post-game presser). The formation Montreal started the game with was a 5-4-1. When you come out in a formation like that, what you're saying to the other team is you'll be happy with a draw and you really don't care if you score. When Ignacio Piatti took Montreal's second shot in the 21st minute, it looked like he really didn't care if it went in or not. At least, I think that's fair, considering that it bounced on it's way into Melia's chest. In fact, four of Montreal's five first half shots came from outside the 18, but only two of the five were on target.

Sporting KC, on the other hand, had 10 shots in the first half, four on target, and half were inside the 18. With some better luck, they might have had at least two goals at halftime, if Dom Dwyer's shot in the 15th minute hadn't dented the crossbar. In fact, if they hadn't already taken down the goalposts, they might still be vibrating.

The other thing that makes it frustrating is that it seemed like Montreal had more of the possession after Chris Duvall picked up a straight red in the 86th minute. I don't have any numbers I can point to, but it just seemed that way. Now, Sporting did have the last three shots of the game, but they all came more than four minutes after the red card. They did almost manage a winner out of it, but the unfortunate keyword in that phrase is almost. And almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear weapons.

The fortunate thing about a disappointing result like tonight is the team has another game on Wednesday, as Minnesota United comes in for a fourth round match-up in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The two clubs last tangled on June 3rd, with Sporting KC coming away with the 3-0 victory. While it stands to reason the Loons will come in trying to prove they're a better team than they showed last time they were here, who really know what kind of changes coach Adrian Heath might have in store. Kickoff for the match is set for 7:30.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sporting KC Down MN United 3-0; Extend Home Unbeaten Streak to 16

If  you were to describe Saturday's match between Sporting Kansas City and  Minnesota United with a movie title, one good choice could be "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." Another (courtesy of Steve Brisendine) could be " It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," or maybe "The Gods Must Be Crazy."

To give you an idea of just how crazy this game was, Sporting had 17 shots in the first half (five on target), six were from outside the 18. MNUFC had one shot from outside the 18, but it wasn't on target.

The goal giving SKC the 1-0 lead at halftime came from defender Ike Opara and could only be described as a worm-burner from distance. Before taking the shot, it appeared that Opara took a look around and decided, "Why not?" He wound up from about 30 yards out and the ball was never more than a few inches off the ground as it passed a flat-footed Bobby Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth still hadn't moved when the ball came back out of the net and hit him on the left hand.

There were five yellow cards in the first half, but none in the second. The weird thing would be that both goalkeepers were given yellows. In the 43rd minute, Shuttleworth is booked for time wasting. When you're given a yellow for time wasting, that's one thing. When you get it in the first half, that's just stupid, especially when you have already been warned.

Just over a minute later, Tim Melia was shown yellow for dissent after asking referee Jorge Gonzalez to show a yellow card for a MNUFC foul. Gonzalez showed yellow all right, but to Melia instead.

The weirdness continued in the 54th minute. Soony Saad put a shot off the underside of the crossbar that appeared to bounce behind the goal line. No goal was signaled, so Jimmy Medranda followed up and headed home the rebound. With goal-line technology, Saad would have scored his first of the season, but as it stands, Medranda got his first of the campaign.

Not to take anything away from his accomplishment, but another weird event would have to be Saad Abdul-Salaam scoring the first goal of his career. Gerso Fernandes put the ball across the face of goal, where second half sub Dom Dwyer attempted to toe-poke it into the back of the net. Shuttleworth saved that shot, but the rebound came straight to Abdul-Salaam, who popped it in in the 87th minute.

The win extended the club's home unbeaten streak to 16, and the announced attendance of 20,361 marked the 94th consecutive MLS sellout at Children's Mercy Park. At least some things are still normal in Kansas City

Next up for the club is a home match against the Montreal Impact. Kickoff is set for 7:00 on Saturday, June 10th.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sporting KC Run Home Unbeaten Streak to 14; Defeat NYRB 2-0

Sporting Kansas City continued their strong run of form at home with a dominant 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in front of 18,965 fans at Children's Mercy Park.

The win, the club's sixth clean sheet in nine matches this season, pushed Sporting's record to 5-1-3 (18 pts., 1st in the West), while New York dropped to 5-4-1 (16 pts., 2nd in the East). It also extends Sporting's home unbeaten streak to 14 games. Their last home loss was 1-0 to DC United on May 27, 2016.

It was a second half brace from in form forward Dom Dwyer, along with another solid defensive performance by the back line and goalkeeper Tim Melia that powered Sporting to the result.

Dwyer's two goals were both scored on his right foot, making three goals in two games on the surgically-repaired appendage (bone spurs were removed in the offseason). It is the first time Dwyer's scored more than two goals on his right foot in the same season in his career.

The effort to get Dwyer to shoot with his right foot more often has two benefits. One, clubs would not be able to focus on his left foot as much. The second is, according to the team's head trainer Kenny Ishii, it would make Dwyer more durable in the long run by not putting as much strain on his right foot because he wouldn't be using it as his plant foot as often.

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Digging into the stats a bit, it's a little surprising that Sporting were not able to get a goal in the first half. While Sporting did have the lion's share of the possession in the first 45 minutes (62.5 percent to 37.5 percent), what they didn't do is take advantage of New York's poor passing accuracy (only 56.8 percent).

While the Red Bulls' passing accuracy did improve in the 2nd half to 75.1 percent, that only brought the full game figure up to 67.2 percent. You don't win a lot of matches with numbers like that.

You also don't win all that often when you only get off six shots (two on target). Sporting, on the other hand, had 18 total shots, with eight on target.

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Up next for Sporting KC: The club travels to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota United FC on Sunday. The game will be aired on FS1 at 12:30 p.m. CDT. Minnesota will be on a full week's rest, having lost to San Jose 1-0 on April 29th at home.

It will be interesting to see if some of Sporting's starters get rested on Sunday (as one might expect in the third game in nine days) or if Peter Vermes will continue with his "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude. Considering the club's goals against average is 0.33, it wouldn't surprise me if it's the latter.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sporting KC Remains Unbeaten; Smoke Colorado 3-1.

In front of 19,249 fans at Children's Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City put on what could be considered one of their most dominant performances of the season in a 3-1 defeat of the Colorado Rapids. Featuring goals from three different players and a strong performance from the defense, particularly goalkeeper Tim Melia and defender Ike Opara, the club ran their unbeaten streak to five. They are one of only three unbeaten clubs in the league, Dallas and Toronto being the others.

Sporting KC started the scoring early from an unlikely source. Left back Seth Sinovic pounced on a rebound from goalkeeper Tim Howard on a shot by Gerso Fernandes and drove it into the back of the net for his first regular season goal (4th in all competitions).

After the goal, the Cauldron, one of SKC's largest supporters groups, seemed to get under Howard's skin. According to multiple reports from that end of the stadium, Howard made obscene gestures towards the fans behind his goal more than once.

The score remained 1-0 until the 58th minute. Colorado had trouble dealing with the counterattack all evening and this was no exception. Receiving the ball from a long clearance by the SKC defense, forward Dom Dwyer dribbled around three Rapids players before playing a good ball diagonally to midfielder Roger Espinoza. Espinoza held up the ball just long enough to let Fernandes get by him and played a perfectly weighted pass to the Bissau-Guinean forward, who beat Howard to the near post with his left foot to double the SKC lead.

In the 85th minute, Dwyer put the game to bed. In another counterattack the Rapids failed to deal with, Sporting had a series of one-timed balls leading to Sinovic's cross to an on-rushing Dwyer who blasted the ball past Howard for the team's third of the match and the first of the season for the Sporting forward.

In second half stoppage time, Sporting midfielder Soni Mustivar conceded a penalty by bringing Rapids midfielder Dominique Badji down in the area. Kevin Doyle stepped up and converted the penalty to provide the final 3-1 scoreline.

Taking a look at the final stats, it's clear why Sporting won the match. They won more than 52 percent of the duels, had better passing accuracy and controlled almost 58 percent of the possession for the match. Colorado also had a great deal of trouble dealing with the counterattack. As Steve Brisendine pointed out to me, the Rapids were a team that train at altitude and got run off the pitch. As good as the Rapids were last season, finishing second in the West behind Dallas, they are just as bad this season, currently in ninth place.

Up next for SKC, they will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the first place Portland Timbers on Saturday at 9:30 CT on FSKC.