Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Closeout Special on Aisle Nine

Thoughts on the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo. Thoughts are only my own (unless cited) and should reflect on no one with either club.


As my friend and colleague Steve Brisendine of MLSsoccer.com says, it's in the rules that Hatredball can't finish 11-v-11. That condition of this match was met in the 30th minute when Luis Garrido was given a straight red card for a two-footed, studs up tackle on Sporting KC's Amadou Dia. Even Houston manager Owen Coyle said after the match that it was a straight red and he didn't have a problem with it, other than having to deal with going down a man for an hour.

What Coyle did have a problem with was the match not ending 10-v-10. In the 69th minute, both Houston's Brad Davis and Sporting KC's Roger Espinoza were given yellow cards. Davis was cited for dissent and Espinoza for unsporting behavior. Coyle said he saw Espinoza punch Davis in the face, which would warrant, in my opinion, a straight red card for Espinoza.

Davis told reporters after the game, "I don’t know what he’s doing, to be totally honest there. I’m not going to go into it a whole lot, but you can go back and probably watch it and see yourself."

At the time, Houston had a 1-0 lead. Had Espinoza been sent off, it probably would have changed the game quite a bit. As it was, Benny Feilhaber's 72nd minute strike from distance tied the game and the club didn't really ever look back.


Some people will say they knew the game wasn't going to extra time when Dom Dwyer scored in the 86th minute. I would say that I already knew and Coyle did too.

When Brad Davis came off for Mauro Manotas in the 77th minute, that was Houston's third and final substitution. The fact that Coyle didn't save any subs at all for extra time tells me he thought the game would finish in the 90 minutes, and that is what convinced me. The two goals from Dwyer and Nemeth were just confirmation of what I already knew.


Across all competitions, this quarterfinal match was the team's ninth straight home win across all competitions. The club has played 13 home matches in their 2015 campaign and have yet to lose, going 7-0-3 in league matches and winning all three of their Cup games.

All the winning makes it much easier to write about these games, but I'm sure it makes it much easier to play them as well. Players said as much in the locker room after the game, going so far as to say they didn't want to let themselves down or let the fans down. They say they feed off of the energy from the fans and that fuels the success on the field.


I spoke with new acquisition Amobi Okugo in the locker room after the game. He seems to be a good, down-to-earth guy, one of those good guys Peter Vermes seems to value so much when putting the team together.

When he first found out that he'd been traded to KC, he said he was excited. When asked if he'd spoken to former player Aurelien Collin about what to expect, Okugo said he hadn't had time, but Collin had been talking about Kansas City all season. Okugo even said Collin had left his heart here (Take that, San Francisco) and felt at home here. That should be of some comfort to the fans he left behind.

Okugo also said he was going to be wearing the number 20. I hope he's ready for the expectations that come with that number around here, considering the last guy to wear that number regularly was Uri Rosell. Hope it works out.


Up next for Sporting KC is its third match in seven days with a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, to take on Real Salt Lake. Salt Lake will be without Kyle Beckerman, but Kansas City will still be without Graham Zusi. Kickoff is set for 10:00 p.m. on Friday.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sporting KC v. Domtreal Impact 7/18/15

These are some of my thoughts from tonight's match between Sporting KC and the Domtreal Montreal Impact at Sporting Park on July 18th. The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. So, don't take them you thieving jerks.


Benny Feilhaber continues to play like one of the best midfielders in MLS. His fourth minute goal was his sixth of the season, another career high. His assist on Dom Dwyer's goal in the 34th minute was his 10th in league play and 14th across all competitions, again another career high.

Sporting KC has played 18 games so far this season and Feilhaber has a chance to not only tie, but shatter the club record for assists in a season across all competitions, which is 18.

All this and when I asked Juergen Klinsmann what it was Feilhaber had to do to get called into the national team, all he could say was there were other players ahead of him. Since he didn't answer the question I asked, it probably just means there isn't a good one.


Dwyer is slowly turning into the shark in front of goal that most of us know and love. His 34th minute tally against Montreal is his sixth goal in his last five matches cross all competitions.

It also marks the seventh goal he's scored against Montreal in the last two seasons. How impressive is that? It ties him with his hero (and the inspiration behind his uniform number) Thierry Henry for most goals against Montreal. When he was asked why he has so much success against the Impact after the game, he said, "Maybe I just love scoring against Canadian teams."


Something that Peter Vermes mentioned during the postgame press conference kind of struck a chord with me. He said that one thing that's really driving him crazy right now is the special treatment that Designated Players seem to get from the referees in this league, as opposed to everyone else that's not making that kind of money.

He specifically mentioned Dwyer and how he gets manhandled every game and yet doesn't get the calls. When asked about that in the locker room and whether his aggressive style worked against him, he said it probably did. He said that if you try to stay on your feet and play through, you should be more likely to get the call when you do, in fact, go down.

I agree with both of them. As Vermes said, the player with the ball should be the one the refs are looking to protect, regardless of his paycheck. It's one of those inconsistencies that are really making him crazy and I don't blame him. I can't blame him not because he coaches the local team, but it's because he's right. Just because you're a DP doesn't mean you should get wrapped in bubble wrap so you don't get hurt, while everyone else is on their own.


On a side note about officials, I'm about to become one. I have registered with the states of Missouri and Kansas to officiate high school boys and girls soccer (boys in the fall, girls in the spring). I now have the date, time and location of my first experience on a soccer field as the man in the middle, but I'm not sure I want to let that many people know this information. I'm not sure I want to have a bunch of people show up to watch me make a fool of myself (hopefully, I won't, but...).


Up next for the club is yet another elimination match at home against the Houston Dynamo. The quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kick off on Tuesday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. The winner will host Real Salt Lake in the semifinals on the 11th or 12th of August.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Now THAT'S A Beating

Thoughts and stories from Sporting KC's fifth round US Open Cup match-up with FC Dallas. These thoughts are only my own and no one else needs to take any responsibility for any of them. Promise.


A couple of records got either tied or broken tonight at Sporting Park. The club scored six goals in a match for the first time in almost a decade. The last time they scored a touchdown but missed the extra point was August 3, 2005. The victim that night was the Des Moines Menace and the match was a Round of 16 match-up in the US Open Cup, just like tonight. In that match, Davy Arnaud had two goals and an assist, Josh Wolff had two goals (both from the spot) and two assists and the other two goals came from Scott Sealey and Sasha Victorine.

An individual record set was goals in a game as Dom Dwyer put in four, the first time any one in club history has ever done that. It was also the first time any player had gotten a hat trick for the club since Birahim Diop scored three against the San Jose Earthquakes at CommunityAmerica Ballpark on October 23, 2010.

Benny Feilhaber got in on the record-setting action as he became the first player with three assists in an Open Cup game in club history.


Krisztian Nemeth's second goal in the 59th minute was one of those goals that you had to see to believe. Now, I've seen players chip the keeper before. I've seen players shoot from impossible angles before. What I've never seen is someone do both at the same time.

Nemeth had the ball within a foot of the end line and a little space to do something with it. It looked as if he was thinking about whether or not to take it and decided, "Why not?" When he was asked after the game whether it was a shot or a cross, he said, "Both."


That golazo by Nemeth also provided another first. The assist went to rookie defender Saad Abdul-Salaam, his first as a pro. All three first round draft picks made appearances in this match and again had an impact. I would think it would be fair to say that Peter Vermes chose very well when he chose Abdul-Salaam, Connor Hallisey and Amadou Dia.


The win puts the club through to the Open Cup quarterfinals. Their opponent is one they know well. The Houston Dynamo will make their 2015 debut at Sporting Park on July 21 at 7:30 p.m. Houston may have some of the same players, but long-time head coach Dominic Kinnear left for San Jose after last season, to be replaced by Scotsman Owen Coyle (who's also coached Burnley, Bolton and Wigan Athletic in England).

One person who could shed some light on his tendencies would be Roger Espinoza, who played for Coyle at Wigan. It will be their second match against each other, but first in Kansas City. One would imagine an electric atmosphere as the club would look for another Open Cup sellout against one of their big rivals.