Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sporting KC, Weather Down Disinterested Sounders 3-0.

Standard disclaimer: Just because I may represent an organization doesn't mean they necessarily agree with my opinions. It's great if they do, but don't assume they do.


To say that it was hot for Sporting KC's match with the Seattle Sounders in Kansas City, KS, on Sunday would be an understatement. One of the guys would would know told me it was 111ยบ on the field before the game. The fact that the league would mandate playing in this weather seems pretty brutal.

Benny Feilhaber said he didn't think it was "humane" to play in this weather, but I can't say that he's wrong. There are a few places in the league you could get away with playing at 2:00 in the afternoon in July, but Kansas City isn't one of them. Considering the way summers usually go in this part of the country, you can expect it to be hot and humid. Period.

As former major league pitcher Jim Bouton once said, "What's better than a Fourth of July doubleheader in Kansas City? Anything up to, and including, a kick in the ass."


Don't get me wrong, I've never been a fan of the Sounders, but manager Sigi Schmid is someone you can't help but feel a little sorry for. The last time his club had consecutive wins in league play was early May. Since May 7th (a 2-0 win over the Earthquakes), the Sounders are 2-8-1 and are averaging 0.91 goals per game over that span. That last stat is actually a little misleading. They beat FC Dallas 5-0 on July 13th and have been shutout six times, including this afternoon against Sporting KC.

Schmid looks like a broken man. He looked like he hadn't been sleeping well, hadn't shaved before the match, and was very blunt in the post-game press conference, saying that his club wasn't very good today. He even went so far as to say he thought Sporting was "trying to pour it on" late when pushing for another goal. As long as Peter Vermes has been the manager of Sporting KC, would you expect anything less?

I think part of Schmid's demeanor goes to the fact that he's probably a dead man walking. Honestly, I would be surprised if he is still the Sounders manager by the end of the week. Sometimes, when you're pretty sure you're going to lose your job, you say things you wouldn't normally say.


It would be fair to say that if the performance had been better in front of goal, Sporting could have hung a seven-spot on the Sounders. Connor Hallisey should have had at least one and Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei made three saves. Some of the shots were just wide but probably would have gone in if they'd been on frame. That's not to say Frei wouldn't have stopped them, but I'm not sure he would have, either.


To say the defensive performance was good is a fairly major understatement. Sporting's defense officially allowed one shot attempt. Not one shot on goal, but one attempt period. It came in the 88th minute by Joevin Jones and it wasn't much of a shot. It looked more like a cross, to be perfectly honest.

It also came from someone who shouldn't have even been on the field. Jones went into Roger Espinoza two-footed, studs showing, and from behind. If I saw a foul like that in I game I was officiating, they would have been shown a straight red and they would have earned it.


Up next for Sporting KC is the first of a home-and-home with the Portland Timbers. SKC's task became a touch easier yesterday with the injury to Nat Borchers of the Timbers, but it will still be a tough ask, if only because Portland is playing fairly decently and are the defending champs. Kickoff is set for 1:00 on Sunday, July 31st.

Also, next Sunday is the media game at halftime of the match with the Timbers. Yours truly will be on the field and I'm praying as hard as I can that it's cooler then than it was today. Probably wouldn't be a good look for the club if the media people are puking all over the field.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sporting KC Extends MLS Unbeaten Streak to Five; Down NYCFC 3-1 at Home.

Standard disclaimer: My thoughts do not, in any way, reflect on any of my employers, paid or unpaid. Anyone who thinks they do isn't paying attention.


It may just be me, but I think things are finally starting to click for this club. The defensive decision-making is getting better and the offensive pressure is starting to pay off. In this match, Sporting KC managed to get off 18 shots, putting nine on target. If not for some good saves by Josh Saunders, this could have been closer to the 7-0 drubbing they received from NYRB.

And it's not just guys like Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer that are scoring. Last week, Matt Besler got his first goal since the season finale in 2011. Tonight, Ike Opara got his first goal since getting the game-winner against NYCFC on the road on March 28, 2015, and Jimmy Medranda got the first goal of his MLS career on a shot from about 25 yards out.

The defensive performance tonight was outstanding. Sporting's defense held NYCFC to only four shots and 34 percent of the possession. That's the lowest percentage of the ball that NYC's had since they joined MLS last season. Tim Melia really didn't have that much to do all night, but he got the job done when he had to.


Speaking of Jimmy Medranda, I may give him flack over his shot selection (once tweeting that he'll take a shot from anywhere on the field, including the bench), but he's probably one of my favorite guys on the club.

He's one of the nicest guys on the club, and that's saying something with this group. He has also worked incredibly hard since he arrived from Deportivo Pereira in 2013. He's athletic and he's still very young, only having turned 22 in February. Jimmy still has a lot of upside and can get even better than he showed on the field tonight.

And even when I do give him flack on Twitter, he understands what I tell everybody I'm acquainted with. If I'm not giving you a hard time, it's because I don't like you.


Speaking to Ike in the locker room after he scored his first goal since he returned from his latest season-ending injury, he said he wanted to thank the fans for all of the messages they sent him. He said he loves the fans as much as they love him and wanted to thank them all individually.

In fact, during the standing ovation he received on his way off the field, he said deep down inside he was getting really emotional and had to "smile it out." He's incredibly appreciative of all the fans and how the club and coaching staff stood by him. But it's how he stood by himself that the rest of us appreciate about him.


Next up for the club is a mid-week match in Chicago to take on the Fire at Toyota Park before ending the week in Denver to play the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. They will return home on Sunday, July 24, to play the Seattle Sounders at 2:00 on ESPN.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ted Unkel Missed Potential Game-Changing Call

Standard disclaimer: I'm speaking for myself only. Anyone I'm connected to may agree with what I say, but don't assume they do.


Now, people who know me know that I've been defending referees on this blog, especially since I began carrying my own whistle as a USSF-certified official in August of last year. I've been trying to stick up for them when I think they're being maligned unfairly while also pointing out when they've made mistakes.

Today, it's the latter. I have to call out Ted Unkel for missing a potentially game-changing call in the second half of Sporting KC's 3-2 win over Columbus at Children's Mercy Park tonight.

Quoting from the Laws of the Game, 2016-17, Law 12 (Fouls And Misconduct) emphasis mine:
An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:
  • controls the ball with the hands for more than six seconds before releasing it
  • touches the ball with the hands after:
         -releasing it and before it has touched another player
         -it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate
         -receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate
In the 88th minute and with the score tied, Corey Ashe intercepted a Sporting KC pass and directed the ball back to goalkeeper Steve Clark. By the rule cited above, that would be a back-pass, and punishable by an indirect free kick from the spot where Clark picked it up.

Now, in the end, it didn't matter. Matt Besler scored his first goal since 2011 a couple of minutes later, but it shouldn't have come to that.


Speaking of that Besler game-winner, it was good, but it doesn't happen without an inch-perfect cross from Jimmy Medranda that Ike Opara heads to Besler to put it in. Take another look.


Graham Zusi was in fine form tonight. He was in "Shoot first, ask questions later" mode, something we really haven't seen from him in a while either.

In the first half, he put a 25-yard free kick off the crossbar, but it was this strike in the 55th minute that really showed how well he played...


Next up for Sporting KC is a date with NYCFC, or as some of us like to call them, Manchester City JV. Kickoff is set for 7:00 on Sunday, July 10, also on FS1.