Tuesday, May 27, 2014

That Was Better, But...

While the final score of the Sporting Kansas City-NY Red Bulls match was 1-1, it could very easily have been 5-1 or 6-1. With the flurry of chances Sporting KC had in the first 10 minutes, they should have gotten more than one.

In the 2nd minute, defender Igor Julião got in behind the NYRB defense and had chipped it over goalkeeper Luis Robles, but defender Chris Duvall cleared it off the line. Two minutes later, Sal Zizzo's shot was also cleared off the line, this time by Ibrahim Sekagya. More on him later.

You don't get much closer to scoring without actually scoring than Benny Feilhaber did in the fifth minute. Feilhaber's rocket hit the crossbar and came down, but not quite over the line. It's truly a game of inches, considering that if Feilhaber's shot would have been two inches lower, it goes in.

It wasn't until the ninth minute when Toni Dovale put the ball in the back of the net that the efforts bore fruit. They would, unfortunately, be made to rue the missed chances.

In the 50th minute, Thierry Henry put a ball through to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who regained the league lead in goals with his 11th tally. The crowd thought Wright-Phillips was offside, but he'd been held onside by Julião.

Overall, it was a good effort by Sporting KC. It seems to me that once Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi return from national team duty and Uri Rosell comes back from injury, this team could be scary good come November. And they will be playing in November.


In approximately the 73rd minute, Sekagya simply fell down in the NYRB penalty area. Just dropped like he'd been shot. He laid there for a while, absorbing the boos of the crowd. He tried getting up, but then laid back down, drawing more boos and forcing the stretcher to be brought out.

While Sekagya was being carried off the field, NYRB head coach Mike Petke decided to bring on a substitute for his defender. When the sub was announced, Sekagya was "miraculously healed" and got up off the stretcher and walked back to the bench. It led Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com to tweet that faith healer Benny Hinn must be the NY trainer. That was funny.


In the locker room after the game, the team gave Dovale the ball he scored his goal with. He kept saying, "For me?" He was genuinely touched that they would do that for him. He was told to bring it to training so his teammates could sign it for him. I thought that was a nice touch.


Sporting KC invited fans to watch the USMNT friendly with Azerbaijan on the pitch after the match. A few hundred people took them up on it. It just seemed to me that it was more evidence of Kansas City's claim to the title of Soccer Capital of America.

During halftime, ESPN showed a short clip of the fans watching the game and that got a good cheer from the crowd.


Next up for the club is a trip to the nation's capital for a match with DC United. Kickoff is set for 6:00 CDT and will be shown on KMCI-TV (ch. 38).

Friday, May 23, 2014

And Then There Were None...

Maybe it's just me, but if Peter Vermes were to come to me to play center back for this team, I'd probably run the other direction.

It's not just that I'm an overweight 43-year-old, which I am, but considering all the injury problems this team is having with the center back position, I don't want any part of it.

Those problems continued tonight when Chance Myers went down late in the first half against Toronto. The early word is that it's a left Achilles' injury and Myers will have an MRI in the next day or two to see how bad the injury is.

All that said, with the patchwork quilt quality to the lineups that Vermes is having to use, it's still impressive they were in a position to win the match entering stoppage time. Unfortunately, this team has now given up five goals in second half stoppage time this season, which leads the league.

Not only were they up a goal, but they were up a man after Steven Caldwell's 63rd minute red card for his foul on Toni. Caldwell went into Toni with his studs up, connecting with Toni's groin. Referee Baldomero Toledo did not hesitate in dismissing the Toronto skipper.

Sporting KC was up 1-0 at the time, but quickly gave up the equalizer.


Dom Dwyer took over the league lead in goals with his ninth and 10th tallies of 2014. He is also the third person in franchise history to score in four consecutive matches. Dwyer's scored six goals in that span.

Dwyer is tied with Eddie Johnson (2007) for 2nd-longest such streak. The club record is held by Preki, set in the club's inaugural season in 1996.


Former Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen received his MLS Cup championship ring on the field before the game. He received a loud roar from the sellout crowd at Sporting Park.

It was loud enough that I had a little trouble hearing PA announcer Eric Danielson. That's loud.


And in the weird moment of the match, when Igor Julião was down on the pitch in the first half, he yakked on the grass. It was obvious that's what it was because it appeared to be bright orange from up here in the press box. Lots of people commented on it and it came close to getting stepped in. Ball almost rolled through it once.

They waited until halftime to actually clean it up, though.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thoughts on Today's Game (pre-game)

With everything that's happened lately, I'm sure Peter Vermes has gone from "Who do I pick for the back line?" to "Who CAN I pick for the back line?"

With Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum unavailable through national team duty and with Aurelien Collin and Ike Opara out injured, Vermes is left with little to choose from.

Depending on whether or not Uri Rosell is available (Vermes called him a "game time decision" on Friday), we may see Eric Palmer-Brown make his MLS debut at the tender age of 17.

What impresses me about EPB is how well put together he is at his age. Here is a kid not even old enough to vote who may get a start for the defending MLS champions.

And yet, he seems to me to be very calm, mature beyond his years, and quietly self-confident. Vermes told us (Steve Brisendine, Sam McDowell and myself) on Friday, he's seen EPB play since he was nine years old, trying out for the team's academy.

Consider this: Juventus of Italy's Serie A offered the club $1.5 million for (at the time) a 16-year-old kid who has yet to play in an MLS match. That has to tell you something about his talent level.


Olum's call-up to the Kenyan national team provided its own problems. The Kenyan FA didn't request Olum's release until this past week for games on Sunday and May 30.

Vermes said the team could have prepared differently had they known they would be without Olum's services. He also called the Kenyan FA "unprofessional" for the way the situation was handled.

I don't think Vermes is upset with Olum for wanting to go represent his country, but I do think he's upset with the Kenyan FA because of the timing of their request, in addition to the other problems the club's having with depth at central defender.


And I must say that I'm more than a little jealous of the more than 450 Sporting KC fans that have traveled to Chicago to see today's game at Toyota Park.

It's been a while since I've been on a road trip with the team, so I haven't been in a group quite that large going into "enemy territory."

Travel safe and have fun.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not a Good Sendoff at All.

I have seen a lot of poor performances in my time at Wizards/Sporting KC matches, but I would have to say tonight's match with Philadelphia was one of the worst.

I think it was summed up best by defender and team captain Matt Besler, who said, "We played like crap."

He's right. The team seemed to lack any sense of urgency, or focus, come to think of it. After all, how do you score a wonder strike like Dom Dwyer's one minute and then give up a goal the next. Literally.

Given the depth of the centerback position for this team, or the lack thereof, Sporting KC fans are likely to be concerned with the 61st minute substitution of Aurelien Collin. In the locker room after the match, Collin said he may be out for two weeks. With Besler leaving for the USMNT training camp, that doesn't leave much cover for one of the most important positions on the field, in my not so humble opinion.

In addition to missing Besler for possibly the next six matches, Graham Zusi is also headed for Stanford, CA, for training camp. Zusi had some moments of brilliance tonight, but not enough to outweigh the absolute lack of desire from the rest of the team.

That's not to say there weren't any bright spots. Brazilian teenager Igor Julião made the start at right back and went the full 90 minutes, becoming the youngest player in franchise history to do so in a league match. Since being acquired on April 4th, on loan from Fluminense FC (Brazil), he has done enough to impress Peter Vermes and earn a starting place with the defending MLS champions. I like what I saw from him and I'm looking forward to see what he can do as the season progresses.

Writing after a loss, especially a lethargic performance like this one, is not easy. The easy thing to do is simply go home, possibly stopping off for a pint on the way. Maybe this is my way of trying to divest myself emotionally from this team. Do I want the team to win? Sure, but I also don't want to take the losses as personally as I used to before I started obtaining media credentials and sitting in the press box. Removing a source of stress is never a bad idea.

Up next for the club is a match Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL, to take on the Chicago Fire. Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm CT and the match will air on KMCI-TV locally and nationally on UniMas, in Spanish.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sporting to Columbus: May the Fourth (Place) Be With You.

The day couldn't have been much better. The sun was out and the weather was warm. The coaches and players were presented their rings by a group of specially selected fans. The stands were full and the visitor's net was empty.

Sporting Kansas City celebrated their 2013 MLS Cup title before today's game with the Columbus Crew. About an hour before kickoff, players and coaches received their rings. Billed on the video board as the largest ring in MLS history, it had diamonds galore, including in the club's shield on top. As each player or coach's name was called, a fan came up with their ring in a nice wooden box, which actually had a light inside when the lid was open.

As for the game, Sporting KC likes to play Columbus. They are unbeaten in their last seven against the Crew (6-0-1), and have scored a first half goal in their last eight matches the yellow soccer team.

It didn't take long to get on the board. Jacob Peterson, with the rare start, was in the right place at the right time and put a rebound in the back of the net. It was unassisted, but Nagamura's shot created the opportunity.

The play of the game for me was actually made by goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. Columbus midfielder Will Trapp played the ball into Bernardo Anor from just outside the penalty area on the right. Anor jumped and snapped a powerful header almost directly at Kronberg's feet. Kronberg dropped almost on top of the ball and got an arm down to keep the ball out and Oriol Rossell cleared the rebound. It was a Save of the Week candidate.

Claudio Bieler tapped in a goal in stoppage time in the 2nd half to complete the 2-0 scoreline. It put the icing on a victory that seemed to be a foregone conclusion, at least to me, when Trapp picked up his second yellow card in the 80th minute for a foul on Benny Feilhaber. To make matters worse for Columbus, the ref could have handed out a second red for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, but played the advantage, which resulted in the Bieler goal.

Next up for Sporting KC is a match on Saturday, May 10, in Montreal against the Impact.

By the way, the idea for the headline on today's post came from MLSSoccer.com beat writer Steve Brisendine. Told me he couldn't use it, but I couldn't pass it up. Thanks, Steve.