Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Last Pre-Copa Friendly, USMNT Handles Bolivia 4-0 in Kansas City

The thoughts and ramblings shown below are reflective of nothing but the electrical impulses from my brain to my hands and nothing else. The 8,894 fans in attendance (as well as anyone else, to be honest) are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I say.


One of the few things that didn't impress me about Saturday's match at Children's Mercy Park was the attendance. The announced attendance of 8,894 was actually below the average of the four home friendlies the team has played in 2016.

I'm sure there were a few reasons for the ticket sales being so poor. Some of the contributing factors probably included the Royals being in town, the fact it's Memorial Day Weekend and the play the team's shown the last several months, but one of the most common complaints I saw was the price of the tickets.

When the tickets are, as one tweet said, double the price to get into a Sporting KC game, you can't expect people to pay that for a friendly. A World Cup qualifier or a Gold Cup doubleheader, sure, but not for a tune-up against a team they're supposed to beat. If US Soccer is serious about wanting to sell as many tickets to these friendlies as they can, what they need to do is look at lowering the prices. Sure, they'll make a little less per ticket, but they'll sell more of them, making up the difference, as they say in retail, on the volume of the sales.


One of the things that did impress me about this match was the play of Sporting KC's Matt Besler. Anybody who knows me well knows that I love Matt Besler to death as a human being, especially his dislike of talking about himself, rare among professional athletes.

While Besler was played out of his natural position at center back (something of a pattern with Jurgen Klinsmann), I thought it worked well. He got up and down the left side really well, had several overlapping runs, played in some nice crosses from the left and even had a moment of magic in heavy traffic.
That's right, Matt Besler, the steady captain of his hometown club, showed us he still has a couple clubs in his bag that he doesn't use very often, but he should. My chin's still a little sore from where it hit the floor when Besler nutmegged that poor Bolivian.


Now, while the match didn't mean quite as much as some the USMNT have played here since the stadium opened in 2011, don't tell that to the American Outlaws. Most of the South Stand was covered (more thickly in the middle than on the sides) with fans wearing the red white and blue. They were loud and did not stop singing.

There was one bewildering decision by one of the capos in the thickest group of Outlaws that made you wonder just how much they were paying attention to what was going on around them. If you've been to a US match at CMP, you've probably heard the call and response chant "United!" "States!". Well, some goofball down there thought it would be a good idea to start that chant while pointing at the Member Stand. That might have worked if the Member Stand, normal home of the Cauldron, hadn't been virtually empty. How empty? If there were 100 people on that end of the stadium, you may have had to count some people more than once to get that high.


Something else impressive about the match was the field itself. Less than 24 hours after Sporting KC fell to DC United during a torrential rainstorm, the field looked good. How good?
Not only could you not tell a match had been played here Friday night, you honestly couldn't tell how hard it had rained. The drainage on this field is something else and the grounds crew at CMP is the best in MLS with good reason.


Next up for the USMNT is their Copa America opener at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, against Colombia. Mistakes they could get away with making against Bolivia will be punished mercilessly by the Colombians, who the USMNT have a 3-10-4 record against.

On a Wet Night in Kansas City, Sporting KC Drops Another One, Fall to DC 1-0

Thoughts about Friday's Sporting KC loss to DC United are reflective of only those neurons firing in my own head. The 19,118 fans at Children's Mercy Park may, or may not agree with me.


Mother Nature had her hand in this match in more ways than one. First, because of the weather in the Kansas City metro area on Thursday, DC United was unable to fly in, spending the night in Chicago. Since DC was unable to fly out of Chicago until early Friday afternoon, the clubs agreed to delay the match until 8:30 instead of the original 6:00.

After the whistle was blown to end the first half, Mother Nature decided to pop Kansas City again, with torrential rain and frequent lightning. The beginning of the second half was delayed approximately an hour. The full-time whistle wasn't blown until almost 11:30, more than five hours after the original start time.

As Peter Vermes said in the post-game press conference, the weather delays were not an excuse as both teams had to deal with them. It's nice to get some honesty, but Vermes has never been one to make excuses.


Another source of some honesty after the match was midfielder Paulo Nagamura, Sporting's captain for Friday's match. In the locker room, Nagamura said that it was obviously frustrating and the club's just not good enough right now. I honestly don't think very many people would disagree with him right now.

The thing is, they're really not playing that badly. In fact, Friday's performance was a better than last week's against Real Salt Lake. They seemed to have quite a bit of the possession and, other than the one glaring example of Kamara's goal, DC didn't really have that much of an attack. The problem is that one exception to the rule. The thing Vermes has been stressing in his postgame press conferences of late is the giving away of soft goals. He says that while the lack of finishing is something they need to address, the defensive mistakes are what's killing the team. Allowing soft goals means you're dropping points, something Sporting KC has been doing a lot of lately, especially at home.

According to a tweet from Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst), so far this season, Sporting has dropped 14 points at home (a draw and four losses). The six teams above them in the Western Conference (Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose and Real Salt Lake), have dropped 17 point at home combined.


There was at least one positive thing about this match tonight. After the weather delay, there was no standing water on the pitch. None. Considering the amount of water that got dumped on that field, that's simply amazing. Even as the rain picked back up after the match resumed, the only puddles were the ones on the concrete walkway around the grass.


After Thursday's match away to the Galaxy, they have 13 days off until their next match (a road match to begin the defense of their US Open Cup title. That would be a perfect time to fix whatever it is that needs to be fixed, considering the club has already almost reached the halfway point of the season.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sporting KC Drop Third Home Match of 2016, Fall to RSL 3-1.

Thoughts about tonight's game, witnessed by 20,618 fans in attendance at Children's Mercy Park, are reflective of only my own head. Agree or don't, that's okay.


The first sign this night wasn't going to go according to plan was probably even before the game started. While KSHB meteorologist Gary Lezak was giving the forecast (pre-recorded) that said it would stay dry, it started to rain. Some in the crowd used a chant they usually reserve for officials ("You Don't Know What You're Doing"). I may give the weather guys flack for what they say or how they say it, but as Bryan Busby from KMBC would say, "Predicting the future is hard."


During the match, I was asked for my "off the top of your head" reason that I thought this team wasn't very good right now. I said too many turnovers in the defensive third and not enough good finishing. Now, there wasn't really anything that Sporting could have done about the second goal. I mean it's hard to do anything with a ball the defender, Brad Davis in this case, can't see coming.

I think it's fair to say, though, you can't really put much blame on goalkeeper Tim Melia for either of the other two goals. He got hung out to dry by his defense. It's hard to fault him for the third one. Tim came out to cut down the angle and Movsisyan chipped it over him. It's just one of those things.


Considering how talkative RSL manager Jeff Cassar was at his postgame press conference, you would think the club would have an open locker room after the match, as they're required to do by league policy.

Evidently, that's what you get for thinking. After trying to get into the RSL locker room, Sam McDowell of the KC Star came back to the SKC locker room to talk to public relations head honcho Rob Thomson, telling him RSL had refused him access to the locker room. For those who've never gotten the 25 cent tour of Children's Mercy Park, there is a sign on the door to the locker room that says media access is granted 15 minutes after matches. It's not just league policy, but an order from MLS commissioner Don Garber. When the man in charge says to do something, you really need to do it.

I could possibly see not wanting to give access after a bad loss, but RSL won their second straight game in Kansas City for the first time in franchise history. This isn't so we can embarrass professional athletes talking about stupid stuff. This is so we can tell people about the game that just happened, just in case they couldn't watch it, or if they did, give them more context about what went on that night. MLS needs to make sure RSL is following league policies, or what do they even have rules on this stuff for, honestly.


It's a short week as they return to Children's Mercy Park on Friday to take on Handball United, also known as DC United. Sporting will be without Graham Zusi and Matt Besler as they've been called into the USMNT for Copa America Centenario. Here's hoping the time away can help them find whatever it is that's missing from their games. I wish them, and the US team luck in the tournament, even if I do want Jurgen Klinsmann to get fired.