Saturday, June 23, 2018

Three Thoughts From Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo

Sporting Kansas City defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-2 on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park. 20,081 fans saw the club overcome a 2-0 halftime deficit for the win that put Sporting in sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Thoughts inspired by the victory...

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I think it would be fair to say one of the most relieved players on the field at the end of the match was probably Ike Opara. One of his first half mistakes led directly to Houston's first goal.

Now, Ike wasn't the only player that didn't play well in the opening 45 minutes. When asked in the post-game press conference whether he was surprised by the performance. He said he was more angry than anything else, and I can't say that I blame him. It was probably one of the worst performances of the season in a half, but they battled through it.

When he was asked when he knew they'd they'd turned a corner for their performance in the second half, Vermes said after he got done talking at halftime. Peter knows what to say and when to get these guys to do what needs to be done.

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With Khiry Shelton's goal in the 88th minute, the club set a new team record with eight goals off the bench this season. If you include the Open Cup, it's nine across all competitions.

Two things that make that number scary. The team still has half of the season left. 17 games in, 17 games left and they've already set a new team record for goals from the bench. Peter has been pushing the right buttons to put the right players in the right spots.

The other thing that makes this scary? Felipe Gutierrez hasn't played in almost two months. Jimmy Medranda has been injured. There is serious firepower currently unavailable that will make this team that much more dangerous.

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For all the negative things Peter had to say about the club's performance in the first half, they still managed to have a majority of the possession in the first half, winning that battle 57.8 percent to 42.2 percent. In the second half, that margin was increased to 66.2-33.8.

There are a couple of reasons for that increase. While Sporting completed almost exactly the same number of passes in each half (220 in the first half, 223 in the second), their passing accuracy went up from one half to the other. In the first half, Sporting completed 75.9 percent of their passes, but 85.2 percent in the second half. Houston's passing accuracy went down, from 78.0 percent in the first half to 65.8 in the second.

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Sporting KC's next home match is July 7th against Toronto. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Three Thoughts From Sporting KC v. Minnesota United FC

Three thoughts from Sporting Kansas City's 4-1 win over Minnesota United FC at Children's Mercy Park in front of 20,422 fans on June 3, 2018.

All thoughts are my own and should not reflect on anybody else in a negative way. Well, except Maximiniano.

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Citing a lack of urgency from the club in last week's scoreless draw against Columbus, Peter Vermes called out his club, challenging them to do better and saying the players would "feel it" in training this week.

After the performance the club put in, I honestly believe it wouldn't really have mattered who was in front of them on the pitch today. While Minnesota's record away from home is a dismal 1-6-0, they're still an MLS club and Vermes has never taken an opponent lightly, no matter what anyone else might think.

One indicator of the urgency the team was playing with, especially in the first half, is their Duels Won (%). To put it more simply, the percentage of 50/50 balls they won compared to their opponents. In the first half, Sporting KC's margin in that metric was 68.3-31.7. That domination led to a 64.9-35.1 possession margin.

I'm focusing on the first half if only because the Maximiniano send off skews those numbers, as they should. More on him in a moment.

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More evidence of the work the club is putting in to its pro pathway was on display tonight as two former Academy players had impacts with the first team.

Following the early first half injury to Yohan Croizet, Wan Kuzain made his second appearance for the first team in as many games. It didn't take long to make his presence felt. Kuzain got his first goal for the club in the 35th minute. Described by some as the Malaysian Messi, Kuzain's goal played a little pinball on its way to the back of the net.

Jaylin Lindsey made his pro debut for the club just short of the hour mark, due to an injury to defender Seth Sinovic. Normally, Lindsey would be a right back, but Vermes said they were comfortable enough with him to play him on the opposite side of the pitch. Lindsey played well in his thirty minute debut, earning a press conference shout out from his manager.

The goal, according to Vermes, is to someday have an entire starting XI consisting of Sporting KC Academy players. They seem to be on their way.

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From the "This is a record you really shouldn't want" Department, Minnesota United FC midfielder Maximiniano seems to be cruising towards shattering one.

What record does he seem to be on course to absolutely shattering? Fewest minutes played to a yellow card accumulation suspension. After subbing into the match at halftime, Maximiniano picked up his first yellow card two minutes and change into his appearance. Fifteen minutes and fifteen seconds later, he picked up his second, earning a red card and an early shower.

According to the fine folks at FiftyFiveOne, that made four yellow cards in only 106 minutes, an average of one card every 26:30 of play. One more and he gets a one match suspension (to go along with the suspension for the red card). I'm not sure what the record is, but I'm sure this guy will shatter it.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Three Thoughts from Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado - May 5, 2018

Three quick thoughts about the Sporting KC match-up with Colorado at Children's Mercy Park on Cinco de Mayo. The home side took all three points with a 1-0 win. The victory gives SKC 20 points on the season through 10 games, a four-point lead on second place LAFC (who have two games in hand).

1. If it looked like Colorado was pulling back on 50/50 balls in the 2nd half, they actually were. Duals won in the first half were 51%-49% in favor of Sporting KC. In the second half, that margin grew to 62.9%-37.1%.

2. Khiry Shelton, brought in to score goals, has an incredible work rate on the defensive side of the ball. I asked Peter Vermes about it after the match and he said Shelton is selfless and fits into the club's system really well.

3. SKC hit the woodwork a total of four times in the match. Daniel Salloi and Khiry Shelton each did it twice. The odd thing was that Shelton hit the same post twice on the same play. In the 16th minute, Shelton's diving header glanced off of Tim Howard's left-hand post. The ball came back and hit Shelton in the leg and then hit the post again. After it bounced off the post again, Salloi punched it in the back of the net for the only goal of the game.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sporting KC Start New Season, Drop Opener to NYCFC

Sporting Kansas City opened their 23rd MLS season on Saturday night in front of 20,381 fans at Children's Mercy Park. Those fans did not leave as happy as they came in as the home side dropped a 2-0 decision to NYCFC.

Sporting KC has looked vulnerable on the counter before, but they looked more lost against an improved NYCFC side. One factor that may have contributed to the less than stellar performance fans have come to expect from the Sporting defense may have been the play of Christian Lobato at left back. To be fair, left back is not Lobato's natural position, but he did spend time in the position in 2017, so it's not totally unfamiliar to him, or so you would think. The one good play Lobato seemed to make all night was a goal-saving run near the end of the first half. Due to a poor set-piece, David Villa was leading NYCFC on a 3-on-1 breakaway. At the end of a 60-yard sprint, Lobato caught Villa from behind and made a spectacular tackle, saving a sure goal and keeping the margin at 1-0.

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The biggest impact on the game, though, was felt through the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

In the 79th minute, forward Daniel Salloi was taken down in the box by goalkeeper Sean Johnson and referee Mark Geiger initially pointed to the penalty spot. It appeared, at the time, that Geiger had made the right call. Johnson made the signal for VAR repeatedly, which would have been a yellow card last season. Geiger went over to the monitor at midfield and, after a quick review, reversed his original call.

In the 86th minute, forward Gerso Fernandes was hauled down from behind at the top of the penalty area. This time, play was actually allowed to continue. After the next stoppage in play, however, Geiger went to the monitor again and gave defender Maxime Chanot a straight red card for the foul and set the free kick a yard or two outside the penalty area. After having seen the replay, the contact did start outside the penalty area. The important part when it comes to penalty kick calls isn't where the contact starts, but where it ends. In the replay, it appeared Fernandes was still upright and Chanot still had a hand on his back after Fernandes crossed into the penalty area.

Had VAR been used correctly, in my opinion, Sporting KC would have been awarded two penalties and may have managed to pull a tie out of this match.


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Next up for SKC is an away match against Chicago on Saturday, March 10. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. The next home match is Saturday, March 17, against the San Jose Earthquakes. Kickoff for that match is set for 7:30.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gulati Has To Go

Responsibility, according to dictionary.com, means the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one's power, control, or management.” It's a word I don't think US Soccer president Sunil Gulati really understands.

I say that because, on his conference call with the media on Friday, he said, “I take full responsibility.” However, moments later, he said, “No, I don’t plan to resign.”

The fact that Gulati still hasn't resigned reminds me of Vizzini from the movie The Princess Bride. After he cuts the rope the Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up the Cliffs of Insanity, Vizzini says, “He didn't fall?! Inconceivable!” Inigo Montoya then says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In just about any soccer (or football as the rest of the world calls it) nation on the planet, if the national team fails in as spectacular a fashion as the USMNT did on Tuesday in its loss to Trinidad, the coach usually resigns before the plane returns home. When England laid an egg against Iceland in the 2016 Euros, manager Roy Hodgson resigned during the post-game press conference. Luiz Felipe Scolari resigned as manager of the Brazilian national team after his team lost the third place game at the 2014 World Cup. Cesare Prandelli resigned as the manager of the Italian national team after their group stage exit at the same World Cup.

The clearest example, though, comes from France. After the French national team crashed out in the group stage at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Jean-Pierre Escalettes resigned as president of the French federation. In his statement announcing his resignation, he said, “I clearly accept my responsibility.” Escalettes clearly does know what that word means.

There are a few reasons I blame Gulati for the failure of the USMNT to quality for the 2018 World Cup. The biggest one is his failure to fire coach Jurgen Klinsmann in time. He waited until after the team lost its first two games in the Hex, putting the next coach (in this case, Bruce Arena) into a hole before they even got started.

If it had been up to me, I would have relieved Klinsmann of his duties more than a year before Gulati did. At a bare minimum, I would have fired Klinsmann after the 2015 Gold Cup debacle, which necessitated a playoff for CONCACAF's slot in last summer's Confederations Cup. If not then, definitely after the loss to Mexico in that playoff.

In a quote widely attributed (probably wrongly) to Albert Einstein, insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. If US Soccer wants to change the results, they need to change the way they do things.

As Taylor Twellman (love him or not) pointed out in his rant on ESPN following the loss to Trinidad, the Germans laid an egg at the Euros in 2004 (I know he said 2000, but I blame the concussions). The DfB (German soccer federation), Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga got together and charted their path forward for the next 10 years. Ten years later? They won the World Cup in Brazil.

Now, I'm not saying the United States will win the World Cup in 10 years if they change the way they do things, but if they don't change the way they do things, they may not ever win it.

Before you get on my back, yes, I'm aware the USWNT has won the Women's World Cup three times. I love the USWNT and the way they play (most of the time). I'm clearly referring to the men's team. Unfortunately, because of the way sponsor money works in sports, the USWNT has to depend on the success of the men's team for their funding. Is it right? No. It's just the way it works, as much as I'd love to change it.

So, what's the answer? I don't know. What I do know is that the USSF has to change the way they do things if they want to change the results they get. Who'll be the next coach of the USMNT? I don't know that either, but what I do know is that it shouldn't be Gulati's choice.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sporting Edge Galaxy 2-1; Extend Home Unbeaten Streak to 24.

Sporting Kansas City continued their vein of good form with a 2-1 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 19,028 fans at Children's Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon.

The victory extends the club's home unbeaten streak to 24 matches. It also propelled the club into second place in the MLS Western Conference, one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps. Sporting KC also sits 3 points ahead of both Seattle and Portland, with one game in hand on both.

On a hot, humid day in Kansas City, Sporting KC seemed like they were the only team that came to play in the first half. It was the most disinterested I'd seen a team play since Sigi Schmid's last visit with the Sounders. It also, as it turned out, was Sigi's last match with the Sounders, as he got relieved of his duties shortly after that.

The way the club is playing, it seems to me Peter Vermes may have been on to something on Wednesday in his speech to the club before the champagne started to fly. "This isn't the last one this year," Vermes said, "let's go."

When Dom Dwyer was traded to Orlando at the end of July, some people wondered aloud who would provide the offense for the club for the rest of the season. As it turns out, those worried about where goals would come from needn't have worried. With a goal and an assist from Diego Rubio and a goal in consecutive games from Daniel Salloi, the club has shown why the deal was made. Love him or not, Dom was expendable. There wasn't really a need to get another forward before the roster freeze because Dwyer's replacement was already in the building, so to speak.

If the defense can hold up down the stretch and into the playoffs, and there's no reason to believe they won't, this could be a very special season. I'm not saying that it isn't special already. After all, the club has already picked up a piece of hardware, but if they were to complete the double, it would be closer to spectacular.

The stat of the day really goes to show just how impressive Tim Melia has been this season. In order to have a goals against average of 1.00 for the season, Tim would have to give up 11 goals in the last five games. So far this season, Tim's given up more than one goal in a game just three times, the last on July 29th in a 3-2 win against Chicago. I simply don't see it happening that many times between now and the end of the season.

Will the run continue? We'll see, starting Saturday, September 30, against Vancouver. Kickoff is set for 8:00.

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.