With only 10 minutes left in the game, the sold out crowd at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park decided enough was enough.
Despite dominating possession for the first 80 minutes, Sporting KC had eeked its way through the match against Chivas USA, looking uninterested and un-energetic. Not to mention a lack of offensive creativity, which was blatantly obvious after Chivas scored a goal and decided to pack men in front of its goal.
"I thought that we were pretty unorganized in the first half," said SKC coach Peter Vermes after the game. "During halftime, I said to the guys that in the last 11 games that we’ve played, it is probably the worst half of soccer that I’ve seen us play."
Staring down a 1-0 deficit with the clock ticking away, the energy in the building shifted. All 18,000 fans urged the home squad on and there was a feeling something special was about to happen. It may seem hyperbolic, but seriously, you could just FEEL it.
The incredible acoustics at LIVESTRONG made the Supporters’ Section’s chants seem bigger and louder, echoing through every corner of the stadium.
Suddenly, Sporting was attacking with a purpose, creating dangerous chances and opening up the Chivas defense. With just seconds remaining in the game, Matt Besler sent a long ball up into the box in hopes of a kind deflection or lucky bounce. CJ Sapong was first to it, and just nudged it with his head toward a rushing Kei Kamara, who tangled with a defender to pop the ball up in front of the net.
Then Omar Bravo streaked into the area, leaped in the air and got to the ball first, blasting a header into the back of the net to draw the score even. Moments later the final whistle sounded, and thankful fans applauded the gumption of their team.
Sporting sent the love right back at ’em.
"I’ve said this all along, during the 10-game road stretch, you’re the enemy so you never get any applause or ‘good jobs,’" said Vermes. "So, it’s fantastic, it’s a huge help to the players. I just hope that we can continue to be able to reciprocate with the fans for their support."
A good start in the reciprocating category would be to eliminate the slow starts that have plagued Sporting for the last few games.
"Since it’s the second time its happened, it’s kind of bothersome," commented defender Matt Besler. "For some reason, we’ve come out a little bit flat the last two games at home, so there’s no excuse for that really."
There really isn’t.
The last two games have both seen Sporting dominate possession but fall behind early on soft goals. Part of the frustration is that Sporting has been able to hold the ball, knock it around the back, and build an attack. But when they get in the final third things seem to break down a bit.
And usually the ball is fed through to the corner where a player making a flanking run serves a cross in the air. Rarely does Sporting generate any shots that aren’t either breakaways or off crosses, so its attack is somewhat predictable, or, some might say, stagnant.
Just having that one player who is tricky and unpredictable enough to spring teammates open is what’s missing. A player like, say, Ryan Smith.
Unfortunately, Smith is long gone and doesn’t seem likely to return. So who can play that role NOW?
Graham Zusi could be that guy, but he was subbed out in the first half with a recurring ankle injury.
But even with the offensive struggles, Sporting continues to make strides, and has yet to suffer a defeat in its new home.
"We have a lot of games left, and we have a lot of games left at home," said Vermes. "I feel that we’re starting to come into our own as a team, and we’re going to continue to hopefully get results."
The next home game for SKC is Tuesday against the Richmond Kickers as part of the US Open Cup. Game starts at 7:30.