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Sporting KC extends streak with more late-game heroics
After a few weeks away for family weddings and other business, the stoppage time blog is back.
And there's plenty to catch up on.
Player acquisitions, player injuries and an impressive league streak have all been part of the club news the last two weeks.
Let's start with the good. Sporting KC has not lost a league game since May 28. It doesn't matter what sport or league you play in, going undefeated that long is impressive. The way that the team has won or tied a few of the matches, including Saturday night's thriller against the New England Revolution, has been even more impressive.
Sporting has shown a balance in scoring that most managers only dream about. It's seemingly someone different every game who steps up to secure a point or three for a team that just two months ago was dead in the water. It helps playing in front of a home crowd. Let's look at the statistics:
KC is unbeaten at home this season in league play. They've claimed victory in three matches and earned draws in the other four. That puts them even with MLS leaders Los Angeles Galaxy, the only other team in the league yet to suffer defeat in front of its own fans.
Sporting's home cooking is particularly promising when you consider that KC's remaining schedule includes 11 more home games. It's unrealistic to think they could finish the season unbeaten in their new arena, but even emerging from 2011 with just a few losses would be fantastic.
The team, as I mentioned earlier, has been finding ways to score. The goals, 29 of them so far this season, have come from a variety of players. Designated Player Omar Bravo leads the team with six, while Kei Kamara owns five and four players are tied with three. The remaining goals are divided among four other players, bringing the total number of KC goal scorers to 10. Only two of the goals have come from players who've started fewer than 10 games this season. Having eight of your starting 11 scoring goals is a pretty sweet deal.
When a team's not losing, sometimes it's easy to overlook poor defending. Recently defense has been a problem for Sporting, who conceded seven goals in six games during the month of July. That defensive issue isn't going to be any easier to fix with the announcement that Aurelien Collin will miss at least a month with a back injury. Collin was the enforcer on defense. He owned his space no matter who came into it. Someone is either going to have to fill that role or manager Peter Vermes is going to have to find a suitable formation change to compensate.
While Sporting may have lost Collin for the time being, it also gained a potential game changer in Brazilian Jeferson. The newly anointed designated player said he chose Kansas City because of the state-of-the-art facilities and the team's style of play. Although Jeferson's transition to MLS won't happen overnight, it's a promising sign for the future of this year's team and the club moving forward.
Sporting KC vs. New England Revolution critique:
Teal Bunbury mimicked his own bobble head Saturday after scoring in the 89th minute to secure a point and extend Sporting KC's unbeaten streak to a club best 13 games.
Bunbury, who came on late as a substitute, found himself in the right place after a failed clearance and did what players of his caliber are supposed to do. He finished.
The goal was well deserved after the offensive pressure Sporting applied in the waning minutes of the second half. Like many recent games this season, Sporting's persistence paid off in the end. The goal could have been a game-winner if it hadn't been for a suspect no-call on New England's goal. The Revolution player appeared to be well offside when the ball was played, though the replay angles I saw weren't definitive.
Sporting took the conceded goal in stride and came out pushing in the second half. Some key substitutions late allowed Sporting to continue pushing forward with fresher legs. The team is fun to watch when they go for goals the way they do. I just wish they'd do it for games when I'm in attendance.
Sporting will continue its home stand Wednesday against Real Salt Lake. Game time 7:30 p.m.
Bob Bradley is finally out. That should have happened after the U.S. flamed out of the World Cup against Ghana. With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm, I like the future of U.S. soccer a whole lot more.
Shark Week starts today on the Discovery Channel.