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.

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.