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.
Kansas City's professional soccer team finally has a place to call home this season after playing 10 games on the road during the past two and a half months. The team's homecoming is much anticipated, as it also marks the grand opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, a state-of-the-art new stadium near the Legends shopping center.
Thursday night's home opener against the Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. will be well attended. Fewer than 200 tickets remained Wednesday evening and the team is making 1,500 standing-room-only tickets available for those who want to get a glimpse of the new digs. A number of VIPs are expected in the crowd Thursday including NFL player and Sporting Kansas City reserve team member Chad Ochocinco and the boss, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.
Garber, who took over MLS late in 1999, took a few minutes to discuss the league and where he wants it to go.
JP: With the expansion teams this year and the ones planned for the future, and with soccer-specific stadiums being built, is this the direction you envisioned for the league at this point?
Don Garber: Well, certainly we're on the right path to make the sport more and more popular in our country and drive greater levels of financial success. But this wasn't necessarily the plan that the original founders had years ago. I think in any business as you go through, understanding what the challenges are and how the opportunity changes, you need to evolve your plan. For example, the idea of a soccer-specific stadium was not an original part of the MLS business model. It was in essence to be tenants in buildings and be counter-seasonal programming. We learned very quickly — and Lamar Hunt was the one who wrote the book — that any sports team and its fans and players need to have a home that they can call their own and the evolution of that plan led to where we are today where we have 10 soccer-specific stadiums and the majority of our clubs playing in buildings that are built specifically for the sport.
JP: Why do you think it's been so difficult for MLS to be mainstream in the U.S.? Is it the advertising? Is it the national perception that soccer is not as popular as it is in the rest of the world?
Don Garber: I think what's mainstream today was different from what it was yesterday and certainly very different from what it will be tomorrow. Soccer clearly is the sport for a changing America and one that has more people like you — young folks who've grown up with the game and love it and want to participate when they stop playing, more people who are coming from other parts of the world where soccer is the most popular sport and landing here in cities throughout America — wanting to continue their support of a local club. And the third aspect of it is that the world is just getting smaller, and the shrinking global community is, I think, allowing soccer to more easily connect with people who in the past would not have had the opportunity to be touched by the game. All of those things are working in our favor, and I think soccer is certainly a growth business in this county and our league is the driver of the soccer business in America and I think our future is bright.
JP: Sporting Club has done some pretty progressive things as far as the direction that they're taking and the ideas that they're bringing for the stadium and the area soccer community. How does the management with Sporting Club compare with the big market teams in New York or L.A.?
Don Garber: We are very excited about the ownership here in Kansas City. I think if you're a soccer fan you should feel proud to have Cliff, Curran and Patterson as owners of your team because they believe in the sport. They're deeply committed and passionate about the city and the region here. They have a long-term vision for what their club can be both with people here in this community but also as a leader in many ways for the sport in our country. The technology focus with Sporting KC will establish them as leaders in that area, not just in soccer but in many ways within the sports industry. The stadium is a technological marvel and one that I think many teams will look to replicate throughout our league and also throughout the sport. These are all things that I as commissioner am very pleased about. Every market has their own unique and interesting dynamic whether its market size or market demographics or whether it's soccer commitment or history. I think folks have tapped into what they think will work in making this team more and more popular in years to come.
JP: How have you gone about getting people who are fans of the sport to become fans of MLS?
Don Garber: There's no shortage of soccer fans in our country and our goal is to convert all those soccer fans into supporters of their local club. As we expand into more and more markets and build more terrific facilities like LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and as we get more effective marketing programs I think we'll get closer to achieving that goal. At the end of the day, what we're saying to the soccer fan is hey, if you love this game, there's no better way to be a soccer fan than to support a local club. Paint your face, wear a flag, put on your team jersey and go out and support your team because that team will really provide you with a very real, passionate opportunity to show your love for the game. It's one thing to watch a game on television on Saturday morning, or watch the World Cup every four years, it's another thing to really believe in your club and be a supporter like many people are throughout the world. Hopefully what makes the sport so valuable around the world is the commitment of the fans. Rather than being a fan of somebody else's team, how about coming home and being a fan of your team. Now you have a beautiful building to be able to celebrate with your team.
JP: Sporting KC and other teams have set up youth and development academies where they have a system for grooming local players for the MLS. How long do you think that process will take to really be fruitful?
Don Garber: Well I think it's already delivering value to our club. There's been 35 players who've been developed in MLS club academies that are now playing for and signed to MLS rosters. This whole MLS academy concept is very new, the MLS reserve league is only one year old so I think we'll continue to see benefits from the investment in the soccer pyramid.
JP: When you're watching the U.S. Men's National Team, it's largely a collection of players who play overseas. Do you think eventually that needs to change?
Don Garber: I don't necessarily think that needs to happen but I do believe, in my opinion — and I'm not the coach of the team — there's no reason why every player on the U.S. national team, with the exception of maybe two or three, couldn't come from MLS rosters. But the coaches make the decision that they think is the right decision to make and one that he thinks will give him the best team. There are so many factors that go into it as far as the way the players are playing, our season is playing through the Gold Cup... frankly it doesn't bother me at all that the majority of the players on the U.S. national team this summer are not coming from MLS rosters because frankly I'd like local fans be able to see those players performing for their teams.
JP: What are the next steps for the league? Where does it go from here?
Don Garber: The overall goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world and I believe that in time we'll be able to achieve that. With all the size of our population and the diversity of our population and our continued development of the soccer player here in this country, I have no doubt that at some point we could be one of the top soccer leagues in the world and we're going to be focused on trying to achieve that.
JP: As the commissioner of MLS I'm sure you've had plenty of opportunities present themselves to you. What's been the best experience in your time as commissioner?
Don Garber: Well you know there are lots of things that continue to get me excited and clearly tomorrow night will be another great moment for me personally. I have a great amount of respect for Cliff Illig and Robb Heineman, and to see their dream come true is going to bring a smile to my face. Seeing the home ownership group of Neal Patterson and Pat Curran and Greg Maday with big smiles on their faces will make me happy, and certainly there's nothing better than seeing a packed stadium in a brand new facility with a team that can come home for the first time in many months and perform in front of their fans. Tomorrow will be a big night for me as well.
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.
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.).
The disappointment of watching Sporting KC lose another game late has worn off.
There is still a lot of season left and plenty of winnable contests. It is comforting to know that Sporting Kansas City has not yet been dominated in a game. It's simply beaten itself a few times by losing focus and playing some lax defense. It doesn't help, of course, when that defense has featured different players four out of five games. That should be an issue that's relatively simple to address and correct in the coming weeks and months. Players just need to be healthy and available and the defense will improve.
The offense wasn't spectacular Saturday when KC took on New England, but it wasn't awful either. Kei Kamara played well and scored one goal and was gifted a second on a questionable penalty kick call. The most important thing is he took advantage of the opportunities he had. That's promising.
It's not time to panic yet. It is concerning however that KC has only claimed one point from its past three league matches. The team needs to collect some road points if a potential home field advantage is even going to matter come June 9th.
It will obviously be easier for them to do that with a full team on the field for the entire game. For some reason Sporting has found that a hard task to accomplish so far. They have played three of their first five games with only 10 men for some period of time. From those contests they earned zero points. From the two games they played with everyone on the field for 90 minutes they earned four.
Seems like a pretty simple equation to solve moving forward. Keep your composure on the field. Stay in the game. Get points.
Kansas City fans did receive some good news Wednesday when the league announced it had rescinded Sporting KC newcomer Aurelien Collin's red card from this past Saturday. The league determined the card was given as a result of mistaken identity. Collin will be allowed to play in the upcoming Saturday match against New York. The defender was pleased about the decision.
“I’m very happy at the end they sorted it out," he said in response to the decision. “It’s very honest, and I’m grateful to them. It’s very rare that something like that happens.”
Casual fans might look at Sporting KC's last-place standing in the Eastern Conference and think the season is over and Kansas City is one of the worst teams in the league. They might not realize that game schedules aren't always even. In the Eastern Conference, Kansas City has played fewer matches than all but one of the other eight teams. With one more victory, KC would be tied for fourth. With two more, the team would potentially be tied for second. In such a young season, point totals and differentials can be misleading.
ESPN.com might want to update its current power rankings. The current standings show Sporting KC just three spots from the bottom in the entire league. Their reasoning hinges on the red card that is no longer a red card.
Smart phone application: If you're looking for an easy way to stay informed on game scores and happenings, you should download the MLS Matchday app. You select your favorite team and it caters the content to you. It will also alert you when games start, end and when anyone playing in that game scores. Pretty handy and a friendly reminder on those Saturday nights.
What lies ahead:
Sporting KC travels to take on the New York Red Bulls (one of the worst team names in the league, even if you like the drink) for its sixth of 10 straight road games. This one won't be easy. New York is currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference and has rolled in its last two games. The Red Bulls have failed to earn a point in only one contest so far this season. Thierry Henry is healthy and playing like it, scoring two goals in the team's 4-0 victory last Thursday. New York is sporting a goal differential of +7, meaning they are scoring way more often than they're being scored on. They are also moving the ball well. The team has nine assists on nine goals. Kansas City only has six on 10.
Sporting is still without Omar Bravo, who is still recovering from sports hernia surgery. Kansas City will have to get Teal Bunbury and Kamara involved once again if they want to have any chance of gaining ground in the league.
I'm currently going to give the edge to the obvious favorite with a scoreline of 2-0. New York has played well on both sides of the ball and I don't see a reason for that trend to change at home. Look for New York to pass around and through Kansas City, finding and exploiting holes and taking advantage of KC's ever-changing defense.
Kansas City is scheduled to play New England in the next step of the U.S. Open Cup. It will be a chance for some sweet redemption after giving up a late lead last week. The game will be played May 25.
Many fans have expressed displeasure at the new name of the team. Those fans enjoyed the Kansas roots of the Wizards, who before that were known as the Wiz. Here's my take: The name Sporting KC is the same as many clubs around the world. The name does not, to me, mean you can't still call them the Wizards if you want. That can serve as the team name while Sporting KC can serve as the name of the organization.
This is mirrored in soccer everywhere. Most fans know Manchester United as Manchester United. The team nickname however, is the Red Devils. Arsenal is know as Arsenal, but the team nickname is the Gunners. Barcelona is known as Barcelona, but the team is also called the Catalans. I don't see a reason why fans can't nickname the team the Wizards or Wiz. You're the fans, so team nicknames should be up to you. The new designation does have a practical purpose in attracting international talent. Foreign players are probably more likely to notice a team named similarly to teams the world over. Time will tell.