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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sporting KC Run Home Unbeaten Streak to 14; Defeat NYRB 2-0

Sporting Kansas City continued their strong run of form at home with a dominant 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in front of 18,965 fans at Children's Mercy Park.

The win, the club's sixth clean sheet in nine matches this season, pushed Sporting's record to 5-1-3 (18 pts., 1st in the West), while New York dropped to 5-4-1 (16 pts., 2nd in the East). It also extends Sporting's home unbeaten streak to 14 games. Their last home loss was 1-0 to DC United on May 27, 2016.

It was a second half brace from in form forward Dom Dwyer, along with another solid defensive performance by the back line and goalkeeper Tim Melia that powered Sporting to the result.

Dwyer's two goals were both scored on his right foot, making three goals in two games on the surgically-repaired appendage (bone spurs were removed in the offseason). It is the first time Dwyer's scored more than two goals on his right foot in the same season in his career.

The effort to get Dwyer to shoot with his right foot more often has two benefits. One, clubs would not be able to focus on his left foot as much. The second is, according to the team's head trainer Kenny Ishii, it would make Dwyer more durable in the long run by not putting as much strain on his right foot because he wouldn't be using it as his plant foot as often.

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Digging into the stats a bit, it's a little surprising that Sporting were not able to get a goal in the first half. While Sporting did have the lion's share of the possession in the first 45 minutes (62.5 percent to 37.5 percent), what they didn't do is take advantage of New York's poor passing accuracy (only 56.8 percent).

While the Red Bulls' passing accuracy did improve in the 2nd half to 75.1 percent, that only brought the full game figure up to 67.2 percent. You don't win a lot of matches with numbers like that.

You also don't win all that often when you only get off six shots (two on target). Sporting, on the other hand, had 18 total shots, with eight on target.

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Up next for Sporting KC: The club travels to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota United FC on Sunday. The game will be aired on FS1 at 12:30 p.m. CDT. Minnesota will be on a full week's rest, having lost to San Jose 1-0 on April 29th at home.

It will be interesting to see if some of Sporting's starters get rested on Sunday (as one might expect in the third game in nine days) or if Peter Vermes will continue with his "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude. Considering the club's goals against average is 0.33, it wouldn't surprise me if it's the latter.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sporting KC Remains Unbeaten; Smoke Colorado 3-1.

In front of 19,249 fans at Children's Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City put on what could be considered one of their most dominant performances of the season in a 3-1 defeat of the Colorado Rapids. Featuring goals from three different players and a strong performance from the defense, particularly goalkeeper Tim Melia and defender Ike Opara, the club ran their unbeaten streak to five. They are one of only three unbeaten clubs in the league, Dallas and Toronto being the others.

Sporting KC started the scoring early from an unlikely source. Left back Seth Sinovic pounced on a rebound from goalkeeper Tim Howard on a shot by Gerso Fernandes and drove it into the back of the net for his first regular season goal (4th in all competitions).

After the goal, the Cauldron, one of SKC's largest supporters groups, seemed to get under Howard's skin. According to multiple reports from that end of the stadium, Howard made obscene gestures towards the fans behind his goal more than once.

The score remained 1-0 until the 58th minute. Colorado had trouble dealing with the counterattack all evening and this was no exception. Receiving the ball from a long clearance by the SKC defense, forward Dom Dwyer dribbled around three Rapids players before playing a good ball diagonally to midfielder Roger Espinoza. Espinoza held up the ball just long enough to let Fernandes get by him and played a perfectly weighted pass to the Bissau-Guinean forward, who beat Howard to the near post with his left foot to double the SKC lead.

In the 85th minute, Dwyer put the game to bed. In another counterattack the Rapids failed to deal with, Sporting had a series of one-timed balls leading to Sinovic's cross to an on-rushing Dwyer who blasted the ball past Howard for the team's third of the match and the first of the season for the Sporting forward.

In second half stoppage time, Sporting midfielder Soni Mustivar conceded a penalty by bringing Rapids midfielder Dominique Badji down in the area. Kevin Doyle stepped up and converted the penalty to provide the final 3-1 scoreline.

Taking a look at the final stats, it's clear why Sporting won the match. They won more than 52 percent of the duels, had better passing accuracy and controlled almost 58 percent of the possession for the match. Colorado also had a great deal of trouble dealing with the counterattack. As Steve Brisendine pointed out to me, the Rapids were a team that train at altitude and got run off the pitch. As good as the Rapids were last season, finishing second in the West behind Dallas, they are just as bad this season, currently in ninth place.

Up next for SKC, they will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the first place Portland Timbers on Saturday at 9:30 CT on FSKC.