Saturday, September 8, 2018

Three Thoughts from Sporting KC v. Orlando City SC

For the first time in a while, I actually managed to make it to a Sporting KC game at Children's Mercy Park. It was good to get back out to the park and see the guys. Here are three thoughts from tonight's game.


Andreu Fontas made his SKC debut. The former Barcelona defender played very well. He and captain Matt Besler pretty much put the clamps on Orlando forward Dom Dwyer. Dwyer was limited to 17 total touches and four shots (only two of which were on target).

When Dwyer did manage to get a shot off, Tim Melia came up big to make the save, including on a breakaway in the first half. Melia came out and cut down the angle like you're supposed to as a goalkeeper.


The key to Sporting's dominance on ball possession in the first half wasn't, at least to me, their duels won percentage. In the first half, Sporting won 52.4 percent of the 50-50 balls they went in on, but they had 64.5 percent of the ball.

Key to Sporting keeping the ball was their passing accuracy. In the first half, the home side completed 274 of their 308 passes (88.9 percent). Orlando, on the other hand, completed 141 of their 174 passes (81.0 percent).


For thought number three tonight, I thought I would include something that is a little personal to me. Sporting KC and Children's Mercy are partnering to launch an anti-bullying campaign. It's called "Red Card: Call It When You See It."

"Students who are bullied report more physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than other students," said Jo Steuve, interim CEO of Children's Mercy. I can attest to that. I was bullied a lot as a kid and I've still got mental health issues.

Steuve went on to say, "In some cases, bullying has led to devastating consequences, such as school shootings and suicide. Our hope is that with the Red Card campaign, we can help increase awareness and inspire action within our Kansas City community to put an end to bullying."

I would have benefited from having a program like this when I was a kid. Maybe some other kid will be saved from a lifetime of mental health issues because of this initiative.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Three Thoughts From Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo

Sporting Kansas City defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-2 on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park. 20,081 fans saw the club overcome a 2-0 halftime deficit for the win that put Sporting in sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Thoughts inspired by the victory...


I think it would be fair to say one of the most relieved players on the field at the end of the match was probably Ike Opara. One of his first half mistakes led directly to Houston's first goal.

Now, Ike wasn't the only player that didn't play well in the opening 45 minutes. When asked in the post-game press conference whether he was surprised by the performance. He said he was more angry than anything else, and I can't say that I blame him. It was probably one of the worst performances of the season in a half, but they battled through it.

When he was asked when he knew they'd they'd turned a corner for their performance in the second half, Vermes said after he got done talking at halftime. Peter knows what to say and when to get these guys to do what needs to be done.


With Khiry Shelton's goal in the 88th minute, the club set a new team record with eight goals off the bench this season. If you include the Open Cup, it's nine across all competitions.

Two things that make that number scary. The team still has half of the season left. 17 games in, 17 games left and they've already set a new team record for goals from the bench. Peter has been pushing the right buttons to put the right players in the right spots.

The other thing that makes this scary? Felipe Gutierrez hasn't played in almost two months. Jimmy Medranda has been injured. There is serious firepower currently unavailable that will make this team that much more dangerous.


For all the negative things Peter had to say about the club's performance in the first half, they still managed to have a majority of the possession in the first half, winning that battle 57.8 percent to 42.2 percent. In the second half, that margin was increased to 66.2-33.8.

There are a couple of reasons for that increase. While Sporting completed almost exactly the same number of passes in each half (220 in the first half, 223 in the second), their passing accuracy went up from one half to the other. In the first half, Sporting completed 75.9 percent of their passes, but 85.2 percent in the second half. Houston's passing accuracy went down, from 78.0 percent in the first half to 65.8 in the second.


Sporting KC's next home match is July 7th against Toronto. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Three Thoughts From Sporting KC v. Minnesota United FC

Three thoughts from Sporting Kansas City's 4-1 win over Minnesota United FC at Children's Mercy Park in front of 20,422 fans on June 3, 2018.

All thoughts are my own and should not reflect on anybody else in a negative way. Well, except Maximiniano.


Citing a lack of urgency from the club in last week's scoreless draw against Columbus, Peter Vermes called out his club, challenging them to do better and saying the players would "feel it" in training this week.

After the performance the club put in, I honestly believe it wouldn't really have mattered who was in front of them on the pitch today. While Minnesota's record away from home is a dismal 1-6-0, they're still an MLS club and Vermes has never taken an opponent lightly, no matter what anyone else might think.

One indicator of the urgency the team was playing with, especially in the first half, is their Duels Won (%). To put it more simply, the percentage of 50/50 balls they won compared to their opponents. In the first half, Sporting KC's margin in that metric was 68.3-31.7. That domination led to a 64.9-35.1 possession margin.

I'm focusing on the first half if only because the Maximiniano send off skews those numbers, as they should. More on him in a moment.


More evidence of the work the club is putting in to its pro pathway was on display tonight as two former Academy players had impacts with the first team.

Following the early first half injury to Yohan Croizet, Wan Kuzain made his second appearance for the first team in as many games. It didn't take long to make his presence felt. Kuzain got his first goal for the club in the 35th minute. Described by some as the Malaysian Messi, Kuzain's goal played a little pinball on its way to the back of the net.

Jaylin Lindsey made his pro debut for the club just short of the hour mark, due to an injury to defender Seth Sinovic. Normally, Lindsey would be a right back, but Vermes said they were comfortable enough with him to play him on the opposite side of the pitch. Lindsey played well in his thirty minute debut, earning a press conference shout out from his manager.

The goal, according to Vermes, is to someday have an entire starting XI consisting of Sporting KC Academy players. They seem to be on their way.


From the "This is a record you really shouldn't want" Department, Minnesota United FC midfielder Maximiniano seems to be cruising towards shattering one.

What record does he seem to be on course to absolutely shattering? Fewest minutes played to a yellow card accumulation suspension. After subbing into the match at halftime, Maximiniano picked up his first yellow card two minutes and change into his appearance. Fifteen minutes and fifteen seconds later, he picked up his second, earning a red card and an early shower.

According to the fine folks at FiftyFiveOne, that made four yellow cards in only 106 minutes, an average of one card every 26:30 of play. One more and he gets a one match suspension (to go along with the suspension for the red card). I'm not sure what the record is, but I'm sure this guy will shatter it.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Three Thoughts from Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado - May 5, 2018

Three quick thoughts about the Sporting KC match-up with Colorado at Children's Mercy Park on Cinco de Mayo. The home side took all three points with a 1-0 win. The victory gives SKC 20 points on the season through 10 games, a four-point lead on second place LAFC (who have two games in hand).

1. If it looked like Colorado was pulling back on 50/50 balls in the 2nd half, they actually were. Duals won in the first half were 51%-49% in favor of Sporting KC. In the second half, that margin grew to 62.9%-37.1%.

2. Khiry Shelton, brought in to score goals, has an incredible work rate on the defensive side of the ball. I asked Peter Vermes about it after the match and he said Shelton is selfless and fits into the club's system really well.

3. SKC hit the woodwork a total of four times in the match. Daniel Salloi and Khiry Shelton each did it twice. The odd thing was that Shelton hit the same post twice on the same play. In the 16th minute, Shelton's diving header glanced off of Tim Howard's left-hand post. The ball came back and hit Shelton in the leg and then hit the post again. After it bounced off the post again, Salloi punched it in the back of the net for the only goal of the game.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sporting KC Start New Season, Drop Opener to NYCFC

Sporting Kansas City opened their 23rd MLS season on Saturday night in front of 20,381 fans at Children's Mercy Park. Those fans did not leave as happy as they came in as the home side dropped a 2-0 decision to NYCFC.

Sporting KC has looked vulnerable on the counter before, but they looked more lost against an improved NYCFC side. One factor that may have contributed to the less than stellar performance fans have come to expect from the Sporting defense may have been the play of Christian Lobato at left back. To be fair, left back is not Lobato's natural position, but he did spend time in the position in 2017, so it's not totally unfamiliar to him, or so you would think. The one good play Lobato seemed to make all night was a goal-saving run near the end of the first half. Due to a poor set-piece, David Villa was leading NYCFC on a 3-on-1 breakaway. At the end of a 60-yard sprint, Lobato caught Villa from behind and made a spectacular tackle, saving a sure goal and keeping the margin at 1-0.


The biggest impact on the game, though, was felt through the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

In the 79th minute, forward Daniel Salloi was taken down in the box by goalkeeper Sean Johnson and referee Mark Geiger initially pointed to the penalty spot. It appeared, at the time, that Geiger had made the right call. Johnson made the signal for VAR repeatedly, which would have been a yellow card last season. Geiger went over to the monitor at midfield and, after a quick review, reversed his original call.

In the 86th minute, forward Gerso Fernandes was hauled down from behind at the top of the penalty area. This time, play was actually allowed to continue. After the next stoppage in play, however, Geiger went to the monitor again and gave defender Maxime Chanot a straight red card for the foul and set the free kick a yard or two outside the penalty area. After having seen the replay, the contact did start outside the penalty area. The important part when it comes to penalty kick calls isn't where the contact starts, but where it ends. In the replay, it appeared Fernandes was still upright and Chanot still had a hand on his back after Fernandes crossed into the penalty area.

Had VAR been used correctly, in my opinion, Sporting KC would have been awarded two penalties and may have managed to pull a tie out of this match.


Next up for SKC is an away match against Chicago on Saturday, March 10. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. The next home match is Saturday, March 17, against the San Jose Earthquakes. Kickoff for that match is set for 7:30.