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.

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