It had to end sooner or later. Very few teams go undefeated at home the entire season in professional sports.
Saturday night saw Sporting KC fall at home for the first time this season against the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. Sporting led for most of the game before a questionable ejection left the players scrambling for the final 30 minutes of the contest. Despite creating chances, Sporting reverted back to a form fans haven't seen since the beginning of the season, allowing two goals in the last few minutes.
It was hard to watch as tired defenders lunged for balls and missed tackles. They kept going to ground, which is never an effective way to defend. You've always got to keep your feet moving and that's exactly the opposite of what happened.
The offense also sputtered late, making some poor decisions in the attacking third. Perhaps the most glaring mistake was Teal Bunbury's decision to not pass to a streaking Chance Myers, who likely would have put a shot on goal, if not score.
Give credit in the game to keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who made some spectacular saves before being hung out to dry by his back line. Credit is also due to Kei Kamara, who created chance after chance for his teammates.
While the end result was not desirable, perhaps the loss and end of the streak will allow Sporting to relax a little more moving forward. There were plenty of positives to take from the game and I wouldn't be surprised if the team at least attempted to appeal Omar Bravo's red card. Watching the replay it's clear he got ball. While the play may have been a foul, the straight red was a mistake by the official.
More to come later.
There is no quit in Sporting Kansas City.
There was no quit in the team when it embarked on a 10-game road trip to open the 2011 MLS season. There was no quit in the team when it lost and tied games by conceding last minute goals.
There was no quit in the team when it was sitting in last place in the entire league with a single victory and there was no quit in the team Saturday night against Chivas USA.
After what can probably be called the worst half of the team's season thus far, Sporting KC found a way back into the game in the second half. Players moved the ball well and created quality chances. If it weren't for spectacular saves from the Chivas keeper, the game could have been much different. Instead, Sporting had to claw its way back into a game that it trailed 1-0 for the majority of. The team had to stay in the game mentally after Kei Kamara's shot, destined for the upper corner, was swatted away. The team had to stay in the game when Omar Bravo's low driven header was pushed just wide of the post.
They had to stay in the game. And they did.
Inside the third of four added minutes, a little luck and a lot of 'right place at the right time' allowed Sporting to score and extend its unbeaten streak. Kudos to Bravo for continuing his run and staying in that final offensive push. He was rewarded with the goal.
Sporting Kansas City is still undefeated in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The team next competes in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
The results just keep on coming for Sporting KC. After its brutal 10-game road trip at the beginning of the 2011 MLS season, the team has gone unbeaten in seven league games since opening LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Seven games without a loss is impressive, but Sporting Kansas City has also won its last two Open Cup games, securing a spot in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
That spot in the elimination portion of the tournament came with a dominating 3-0 performance Tuesday evening against Chicago Fire PDL (Premier Development League). In a game Sporting was expected to win, it did not disappoint, scoring in the third minute and not letting up. Three more performances of that kind will net the team some silverware.
The victory continued the team's form from the weekend, which saw Sporting respond to the first goal scored against them in the new stadium. The players rallied and with the help of a correctly called penalty kick took a 2-1 lead into the halftime break. Though the defense was a little shaky in the second half, Sporting hung on to secure another three points in the conference.
The recent run of form and surplus of points has gotten Sporting KC out of last place in the conference and into the middle of the playoff hunt. Sporting currently sits nine points out of the top spot.
The news, as has often been the case with Sporting this season, was not all good this week. Captain Davy Arnaud is scheduled to have sports hernia surgery in California next Wednesday. The surgery, which kept striker Omar Bravo out of the lineup earlier in the season, is expected to sideline Arnaud for as many as six weeks. Arnaud is the longest tenured player on the team and ranks second all-time on the clubs games played list.
The injury blow comes at a time when the team has finally figured out how to play together with the personnel available. The loss of midfielder Arnaud deprives the team of poise and experience at a crucial position. The captain kept a positive attitude when asked about the procedure and time away from the game.
"I'm a quick healer and will work hard to get back on the field," he said. "I will do whatever it takes to return and contribute on the field."
Though it's never easy to shuffle starting players, Kansas City has had to do it rather frequently this season. The team's recent form should make transitioning a new player into the mix a little easier.
That's good news for Sporting KC, who travel to face the expansion Portland Timbers this Saturday. Portland is coming off a 4-0 loss to FC Dallas last week and will be looking to rebound from the poor performance in front of what has been a stellar crowd this season. Kansas City will have to continue creating chances and finishing in front of the net if they want to take anything more than a point away from the west coast.
Women's World Cup
There's been plenty of soccer to speak of the last few weeks. Perhaps most notably this week was the beginning of the FIFA Women's World Cup. The U.S., though shaky in the first half of a 2-0 victory, is one of the favorites to advance deep into the tournament. The team's game against North Korea Tuesday showcased the superior size and speed of the U.S., which looked in control for the majority of the contest despite some expected first-game lapses. The next game for the women comes on July 2 at 11 a.m.
The Men's national team didn't have the best Gold Cup final showing against Mexico.
A clear underdog, the United States took a surprising 2-0 lead early in the first half. If I know anything about the Mexican style of play, I know that they never quit. Even with a 2-0 lead, I never felt that the U.S. was safe.
That proved to be true as Mexico, with its faster, more skilled forwards tore the US defense apart for the next 60 minutes. The 4-2 final scoreline doesn't do the Mexican team's effort justice, as they completely dominated the game after the second U.S. goal. The 2/3 Mexican crowd at the packed Rose Bowl didn't help matters, either. Mexico will have a good team for years to come if it can avoid further doping charges and players like Chicharito and Dos Santos stay healthy. The one bright spot for the U.S. team was the play of Freddy Adu, who was the best American on the field by far.
The U.S. still has a long way to go. The team needs to find faster, stronger defenders as well as forwards who can consistently score against top competition (penalty kicks don't count Landon Donovan). Until that happens the team will struggle in international tournaments. People often overlook the fact that the U.S. led for only a few seconds in its 2010 World Cup outing. How coach Bob Bradley still has a job is beyond me.
The Under-17 U.S. team had a disappointing final two games in the group stage of the youth World Cup. Losing to Uzbekistan and playing to a scoreless draw against New Zealand was probably not the way the team wanted to advance to the next stage. Limping in rarely results in deep runs at the national level. The U.S. takes on red-hot German team Thursday that has scored 11 and conceded one goal in three group stage games. I'm looking for the U.S. to get rocked by a big, physical side at 3:45 p.m. on ESPN3.com.
Things are slowly starting to look up for Sporting Kansas City. The team has managed to earn a point in each of its last two road games.
Those two points give Sporting KC a total of six after 10 games. It's the lowest in the league, but as I've stated time and time again here, you have to take into account the number of road games. In the Eastern Conference, no team has more than two victories on the road. In fact, only four of the eight teams in the conference have won on the road at all. Sporting fans should not panic just yet. The team has the pieces it needs to compete with most teams in the league. Some much needed normalcy should help when they're able to play at home and get in a routine.
While a draw and a point may be a step in the right direction for Sporting KC, the team clearly can play better. In Saturday's game against Toronto, Sporting was caught offside on five different occasions in the first half alone. Those squandered potential scoring chances were the most recorded so far this season and show that the forwards and midfielders weren't quite on the same page Saturday.
Sporting Kansas City also posted its first shutout of the season, not allowing a goal on seven shots. Eric Kronberg was forced into action a few times during the match and answered the call each time. It was the keeper's first career shutout and the team's first of the season.
Sporting finally seem to be figuring things out in the back, although it took a fine sliding tackle from Matt Besler to keep things on level terms Saturday.
With the road trip finally over and a much-anticipated home opener in a new stadium just around the corner, you can bet Sporting players will come ready to play Thursday night. Manager Peter Vermes summed up the difficulties of a long road trip and the feeling of finally coming home.
"I think it's easy to understand the travel and all of that stuff, but one thing that most people don't take into consideration about those 10 games is that when you're always the enemy, week in and week out, and you are never home, you lose the connection back to your fans, back to your organization. And you almost, as a player, think 'what are we playing for?' Because when you come home and you do a good play, everybody cheers and they are on your side, that's the twelfth man. We haven't had that."
No, Sporting hasn't had any home comforts or home fans applauding their efforts. But that's about to change. Hopefully the change of venue and atmosphere will lead to a change in results.
It's finally coming to an end. After 10 games, tons of miles and nearly two and a half months, Sporting Kansas City will end its grueling season-opening road trip.
Sporting will travel to Toronto to take on struggling Toronto FC. Kansas City, fresh off a much deserved draw at Colorado last week, looks to ride its confidence down the home stretch. The players should all be pumped up for this match considering they can see the light at the end of what has been a dark, dark tunnel.
Toronto has recorded two victories from 13 games so far this season. They sit in seventh place in their division. In the team's most recent outing, it conceded six goals to Philadelphia at home. Kansas City is in a similarly terrible position in the conference table, although Sporting's played four fewer games. Kansas City is currently playing the role of bottom dweller in the entire league with only five points in nine games. They've suffered several backbreaking losses in their opening road trip.
Both teams Saturday will be missing a number of players because of national team call-ups. Sporting should have the edge with roster depth and experience, seeing as how many of their games thus far have been played with different starting lineups.
The most notable loss for Toronto is also the most advantageous for Sporting. Adrian Cann, Toronto's starting central defender, suffered a season-ending injury during training this week. Losing the core of your defense is never easy and I fully expect Sporting to take advantage of Toronto's adjustments by finding gaps and creating good chances. Ryan Smith should be starting and his speed and creativity should help Sporting break down the defense in Kei Kamara's absence.
Prediction: Sporting KC takes this one 2-1 with some timely goals.
Less than a week before LIVESTRONG Sporting Park opens.
Before I get into the Kaw Valley Soccer Association goodness, I'll quickly recap Sporting KC's Saturday game against the Colorado Rapids.
Kansas City played well throughout on both sides of the ball. They were up against the defending MLS champions, again on the road and following a disappointing loss a week before. Sporting had to come from behind but did so in dominating fashion. They moved the ball well and created chance after chance. Finally the team's work was rewarded with a blast from Ryan Smith in the 75th minute.
The point is more than just a point for a team that had been struggling so mightily as of late. It's perfect timing leading into the team's final road game of its 10 game season-opening road trip. Only one more game stands between the team and its home opener on June 9.
The point was well deserved and the confidence that should come with it may just make for an interesting home portion to Sporting's season.
A few Sporting Kansas City players and staff were in south Lawrence Thursday evening for a training session with some of the area's active soccer youths.
The kids, all involved with the Kaw Valley Soccer Association, had an opportunity to pass, dribble shoot and play small-sided scrimmages with some of the Sporting KC players, including Overland Park product Matt Besler and Luke Sassano.
The event happened in large part because of a recent announcement made by Sporting Kansas City and its parent company, Sporting Club. The partnership named KVSA as an exclusive affiliate of the team's Sporting Juniors Program.
The whole idea of the program is pretty neat and it's a great opportunity for Lawrence and other area soccer players to get exposure with the professional team. The goal of the program is to find and develop local talent for the professional ranks of Major League Soccer. The partnership also enhances the coaching and training made available to members of KVSA. The idea is to have consistent coaching and training through all developmental levels in the league, perhaps to ensure smooth transitions for those players possessing the skills required to play professionally in the U.S.
The kids who attended the event Thursday seemed to be excited by the opportunity. They hung around to get player autographs and stayed afterward to continue to play.
They also had a short question and answer session with 24-year-old Besler and 25-year-old Sassano, taking advantage by asking anything they could think of. Some of their questions were not unlike some on this blog, including wondering the reason for the team's name change. Here are a few of the kids' questions and players' responses:
Q: What do you guys eat?
Sassano: Mostly chicken and pasta. It's boring stuff but it's good for you.
Besler: And fruit, we like to eat fruit before games.
Q: What are your favorite teams besides Sporting Kansas City?
Besler: I am a fan of Manchester United.
Sassano: I'm going to go with Barcelona. (Cheers from kids) No I'm a Man U fan, too. Sorry guys.
Q: Who are your favorite players?
Besler: I like to watch Messi (Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona) play because he's scores a lot of goals and also Christiano (Christiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid) but I also like to watch a few defenders since that's the position I play. So I like Rio Ferdinand (of Manchester United) and Xavi, if anyone knows Barcelona players.
Q: What's your least favorite team to play in MLS? Who's your rival?
Besler: Personally I really don't like the New York Red Bull.
Sassano: I don't like Chicago.
Q: What colleges did you guys go to?
Sassano: I went to a school in California called UC-Berkeley.
Besler: I went to the University of Notre Dame.
Next Wednesday I'll be interviewing Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS. If you have anything you'd like me to ask, feel free to let me know in the comments.
The last time I took a tour of Sporting Kansas City's new stadium-in-the-making, it was March and the final strip of grass had just been placed. There were a few seats installed and there was concrete and wire everywhere. It was still an impressive sight, but it was hard to imagine what it might look like on opening day.
Fast forward to Friday. I took my second tour of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The stadium is set to open in just 12 short days on June 9. This time around, it was much easier to imagine a crowd in the stands and players on the field. In just under two months, the crews working to get the stadium ready have been putting in some intense hours and it shows. All the seats are in place. The video boards are functioning. There is carpet in both locker rooms. The taps are even installed in the bars.
Now it's just a sprint to the June 9 finish line, when Sporting KC will finally end its 10-game road trip and debut against Chicago in its brand new home. There's still a lot of work to finish, but crews are working double-time to make sure everything gets taken care of. The experience on that first game night should be memorable.
I put together a video walk-through of the stadium for those who haven't had a chance to see it yet. This tour takes you around the field on all sides, through the home and away team locker rooms and up to the VIP seats. There were plenty of highlights this time through, too. There is no bad seat in the stadium. They all have a gorgeous view of the field and the incline of the seats is such that you feel close to the field no matter where you sit. The seats are comfortable, too. That is always a good thing.
The open roof covers all the seats. It should be interesting to see how well the stadium retains crowd noise. My guess is it will probably get pretty loud.
Check it out:
Less than two weeks now...
There is some other business pending for Sporting KC. The team travels to take on Colorado at 8 p.m. Saturday night. Colorado currently sits in fourth position in the Western Conference. Sporting, after dropping the game against Seattle last week, is currently last...in all of MLS.
There was some good news for Sporting KC this week though. The team played its final qualifying game against New England on Wednesday. For the first time this season, Sporting played as the home team, holding the match in Overland Park. The team responded with a 5-0 dismantling, crushing their conference opponent with relative ease and posting a shutout. The team played well on both sides of the ball for the entire 90 minutes.
My hope is that the midweek contest gave the team some much-needed confidence. I also hope that the offensive explosion is a sign of things to come for Sporting in the next few weeks. It's unfortunate that when Sporting finally put everything together for a game it didn't earn any points toward the league. It did earn a spot in the U.S. Open Cup though, which isn't a bad consolation prize. It means more exposure and competitive play for a team that is behind most in the league for games played so far this season.
Looking at the numbers, it's safe to say Saturday's game against Colorado is one which Sporting should walk away from with at least a point. Colorado has scored 14 goals and conceded 12 on the season, which points to some defensive issues that haven't yet been addressed. Sporting, with its speed in the midfield, should be able to find gaps and create decent scoring chances. You could compare Colorado's stats with Kansas City's, but that's a little hasty, considering Colorado has played five games at home, where it's supposed to score and win. Kansas City, obviously, has played zero home games. Sporting's play during the past few weeks may have been shaky and at times awful, but no team in the entire league has won more than three away games. KC's is pretty comparable to many in MLS, especially in the Eastern Conference where no team has more than one road victory.
Who wins this game will come down to which Sporting KC team decides to show up in Colorado. If it's the team that played New York to a 1-0 loss or the team that won 5-0 on Wednesday, Kansas City walks away with its first regular season victory since March 19. If it's the Sporting team that makes critical mistake after critical mistake, it could be a long night. My prediction is that it'll be somewhere in between the good and the bad. If the defense can just play together for the full 90 minutes, Sporting will walk away with at least a point, even with four players missing from the lineup with national team duties.
I'm picking Sporting to piece together a victory somewhat shorthanded with solid defense. They win, 2-1.
Game: Sporting KC at Colorado Rapids
Time: 8 p.m.
TV: KSMO on channel 3 (standard def) or 203 (HD)
It's a simple fact that you can't do well in any sport, in any league, without winning some games.
In Sporting Kansas City's case, even a few ties here and there would help.
The bottom line is that it's not happening for the club. The defense, which looked solid two games ago against New York Red Bulls, has seemingly taken a step in the wrong direction. It's happened with a finally consistent lineup and an extra week of down time to get everything right. Even with the rest and preparation and familiar roster, Kansas City was blown out in Los Angeles. If fans haven't started wondering if there will be anything other than a stadium opening to look forward to this season, they haven't been watching very closely.
I will grant that opening any season with 10 games on the road is going to be tough for any team. Not having a set routine and having to travel and adjust to different time zones and cities constantly isn't easy for any athlete. That's why they call it home-field advantage. That being said, it's not the fact that Sporting Kansas City is dropping points that should worry fans and probably even the players. It's the way in which they are losing those points.
I'll refer to them as fatal mistakes. In essence that's exactly what they are. They are gaffes at the wrong times and in the wrong parts of the field that have soul-crushing consequences.
Let's look back on the season so far and recount where those mistakes have happened. Vancouver is probably the best example. Sporting held a 3-1 lead going into the FINAL MINUTES of that game. Instead of coming out with three points on the road and some much-needed confidence, Sporting fell asleep and allowed two late goals. That was crushing.
The same thing happened against New England a few games later. Sporting was ahead 2-1 and somehow lost 3-2 in the end. Another late goal sealed the fate of that game and Sporting KC was on the losing end of a winning performance. Even with the five extra points from those two games, Kansas City wouldn't be sitting at the bottom of the league table. The next three games would still be important, just not as important as they are now.
Sporting's most recent contest against L.A. went the same way. The team was gifted the lead off an own goal and then commits a needless foul inside the box to give it right back. Then some ball watching and extremely lazy defending saw Landon Donovan break the tie just seconds into the second half. After that nothing got better. Sporting players may have still been on the field but they sure didn't look like they had any will to win.
Up through this point of the season, Sporting has played fewer games than every other team in its conference. This still does not excuse their poor play and critical mistakes. The team's defensive lapses have resulted in goals for the opponents more often than not recently. It's not to say that Kansas City has a bad team. That's just not true. They have talent in certain positions and experience in others. They just haven't found a way to string together a full 90 minutes without giving something away. That may come in time and it may not. It's hard to say when an extra week of rest and training leads to 4-1 losses.
Sporting's road trip won't get any easier this week as the team heads up to soccer-loving Seattle to take on the Sounders. If there are any tough places to play, it's in the stadiums of the leagues newer teams. Seattle isn't the newest, but the northwest coast is proving there is an American interest - and even desire for - the sport. Seattle currently sits in the middle of the Western Conference table, capturing 14 points through 11 contests. The team itself is balanced, with scoring coming from a variety of positions and players. I don't expect Kansas City to win this game but I will predict a tie. Sporting has to get a point. The players may not admit it, but their current form has to be taking a mental toll. They need a result this week not just for the team's playoff hopes, but for the players' own sanity and togetherness.
To get back on track, Sporting needs to find a way to have everyone focus for an entire game. Simple mistakes on defense need to be avoided. Midfielders need to be more active on both the offensive and defensive end. They aren't doing a good job of filling in gaps in the middle and that's allowed teams to treat the back line like a sieve. Trying out a formation that clutters the middle third of the field may help Sporting weather its current poor form. The return of Omar Bravo should give the scoring a spark which at this point in the season is crucial. Kansas City has some talent between the posts, but it needs to pick a keeper and stay with him. The best teams in the league - and the world - usually play one good keeper. Sporting needs to get on that.
Sporting Kansas City's parent organization, Sporting Club, announced this week that it is launching a network to connect with and benefit area soccer programs and other organizations. Among the founding members of the network are area organizations such as Kaw Valley Soccer Association and Leavenworth Soccer Association. The network will help create a Sporting KC following through taking advantage of area soccer interests.
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park is scheduled to open June 9th with a Sporting game against Chicago Fire. I will be taking another tour of the facility to see what progress has been made as the grand opening draws near. If there's anything you'd like to see or any questions you'd like to have answered regarding the new stadium, let me know and I'll be sure to fulfill those requests during the tour.
Around the league
Rumors have begun circulating that U.S. National team star Landon Donovan is being pursued by Italian club AS Roma. Donovan, who's had stints in the German Bundesliga and the English Premiere League, has refused to entertain any questions regarding his future in MLS or a potential move overseas.
Major League Soccer's Players' Union released salary information for all the league's players. ESPN compiled a list of the most overpaid and underpaid players in MLS. Kansas City had one of each.
Full time update
I know the game hasn't officially ended, but technically it's over. And just as I type that David Beckham launches in a free kick. The score is now 4-1 in favor of the Galaxy. The truth is that all five goals in this game were score by Los Angeles. That leaves you to wonder what, if anything, Sporting has done in this game. They've been caught napping twice on defense and they've squandered chances in front of goal that no one should squander.
This result will leave a bad taste in KC players' mouths. Luckily they won't have to play the best teams in the league next week. Kansas City is looking like it will limp into its home opener June 9th with no more points than it has now. With a bye week to prepare, Sporting needs to do much better than a 4-1 loss.
What looked to be an own goal is really the only offense Sporting has shown in the first 45 minutes of this game. The midfield possession was good for Sporting and its defense looked solid until that reckless challenge that resulted in the penalty kick.
The 1-1 scoreline at halftime is about where the game should be considering how slow the pace has been. It looks as though each team has yet to find its rhythm. That will have to change in the second half if someone is going to walk away with three points. The difference will be made by halftime substitutions. I'd expect to see Kansas City make some offensive moves while Los Angeles will probably look to make at least one change near the back. The second half will likely be ugly and defensive with minimal scoring chances produced by either side. I hope I'm wrong, but that's the feeling I'm getting after sitting through that mundane first 45.
It's been quite some time since Sporting Kansas City has walked away from the field with any points during this young season. In fact, the last time Kansas City won in league play was its very first game of the season. That was mid March. That's seven weeks without a league victory. The disappointing way in which several of those games were lost just adds to the difficulty of bouncing back during this brutal road trip.
Tonight Sporting will play its second top team in the last two contests. Kansas City fell 1-0 to Eastern Conference leader New York in its last outing. Tonight the team will go up against Los Angeles Galaxy, the Western Conference leaders. Boasting starters like Landon Donovan and David Beckham is enough to intimidate most teams. Add to that the fact that Kansas City's once dominant offense has struggled to find itself lately. It's not good timing for sporting, even with a week off to prepare.
The talent of L.A.'s midfield should dictate the tempo of this game. The team that controls the midfield generally controls the game. They get the better scoring chances and they stay fresher on the field because they don't have to chase the ball to get possession.
Sporting is still without designated player and striker Omar Bravo. They did return Ryan Smith to the roster against New York, and it'll be interesting to see how quickly he gets into full game shape.
I'm going to go with the logical prediction here and say conference leader L.A. notches a goal in each half to extend Sporting's slide.
Final score prediction: 2-0 in favor of the Galaxy.
Game: Sporting KC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Time: 9:30 p.m.
TV: KSMO-TV (channel 3 or 203)
Sporting found itself in the second half after a sluggish and sloppy first half. This contest saw the team give the ball away more than any team should.
A positive is that the appropriate adjustments were made at half time and the level of play from Sporting KC rose in the final 45 minutes. It has to be disheartening to play so hard and still come out without a single point. Today's loss brings the total to three straight. That's three games in which Sporting has failed to earn a single point. Already sitting at the bottom of the conference, not earning points is obviously not in Kansas City's best interest.
The team now have a good chunk of time off from league play, with its next MLS match set for May 14 against Los Angeles.
The player of the game for KC has to be keeper Jimmy Nielson. Without his crucial saves, the scoreline would have looked much different and a disheartening loss could have easily been a depressing defeat. It feels like Sporting KC has been on the brink of putting everything together, it just hasn't quite happened yet. If the team can fight through its remaining four road matches in this 10-game trip, there's still hope for the season. Kansas City absolutely has to earn a few points in the next contests to compete legitimately the rest of the season.
Full time update
The game ends with KC once again on the losing end, 1-0 against New York. The second half was better than the first in all aspects for Sporting, they just couldn't find the finishing touch.
70th minute update
The second half started much as the first did with Sporting giving the ball away needlessly. In the first two minutes players passed or dribbled the ball out of bounds three times, once for a corner kick.
Then they picked it up and started working for some possession. Kansas City recorded a few shots and had a one-time effort off a cross been a few inches lower, the match would be tied 1-1. Kansas City made an offensive substitution in the second half, showing they want to go for points in this match.
They have twenty more minutes to make that happen.
If you're a fan of scoring chances and goals, you would probably enjoy the first half we just witnessed. If you're a fan of Sporting KC, you probably didn't
That's because for the first 45 minutes Sporting KC looked lost. They misplayed passes, the cleared up the middle, they took shots from 30 yards out. They've been exposed repeatedly by New York's control in the attacking third of the field. New York is playing like a team at the top of the table. If it weren't for Nielson's acrobatic saves in the first half, Sporting could easily be staring at a two or three goal deficit going into the locker room.
I'd expect to see some personnel changes to start the second half as well as a possible formation change. Kansas City needs to find a way to clog the middle of the field if they want to stop the Red Bulls' scoring chances.
26th minute update
An interesting start to the game to say the least. Sporting hasn't enjoyed much of the possession, and it shows in the offensive chances the team has had. They're also getting overrun in the middle of the field and opposing players are being given way too much time on the ball.
Nielson's save on the penalty kick was nice, though he didn't have to work too hard to stop it. I've never liked hesitation moves in the PK approach. I've rarely seen them work out in the taker's favor either.
There will be argument's that New York's first goal should have been called offside. That's still no excuse for how open the Red Bulls' striker was. Defensive lapse there, and probably a little on the midfield, too. That said, you have to appreciate the one-touch pass Thierry Henry played before the ball was crossed in. It was a perfect touch.
The teams have taken the field for tonight's match, so I'll provide a quick update before the opening whistle blows.
These two teams are at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference table, with KC sitting at the low end. Sporting will have to figure out a defensive lineup to keep a potent New York attack off the scoreboard. Kansas City got a little help when Major League Soccer rescinded a red car given to KC defender Aurelien Collin. He will be available for the match, as will defender Julio Cesar, fresh off a red card suspension.
Whitney Mathews is at the game in Harrison, New Jersey so we'll have some photos for this post. Enjoy.
Oh, and my prediction from earlier this week is 2-0 in favor of the Red Bulls. I'm sticking with that. If you're living in Lawrence and want to take in the game, you can watch it on channel 3 in regular definition and 203 in HD. The game is set to start in a few minutes (6:30 p.m.).