Donnelly: Late Game Heroics (Again) Salvages Tie For SKC Despite MLS Refs

Peter Vermes threw his hands up in disgust.

This would end up being a theme of the night.  

The New England Revolution had just broken through on a longball that found a questionably offside Rajko Lekic who proceeded to bury an outside-of-the-foot shot past a hung out to dry Jimmy Nielsen.

Vermes was irate.  And he had a right to be, Lekic certainly looked to be a good 4 yards off.

These officials were struggling to find any balance…

The KC coach turned to the fourth official and let him have it (again, another theme) but the scoreboard said Sporting Kansas City trailed 1-0 in the 38th minute. 

That’s how it would remain until the closing seconds of Saturday night’s game.  Sound familiar? 

That’s because it is.  Sporting has scored in the final few minutes of three or four games now, JUST TO SALVAGE A TIE… AT HOME. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love pointing out that SKC is unbeaten at LIVESTRONG.  And they’ve just set a new franchise record for the longest unbeaten streak in league games – 13 now and counting. 

Jeferson vs New England RevolutionBut at least four times recently – at home – Sporting has dominated the game yet been staring at defeat with the clock winding down. 

Luckily, SKC continually finds late magic, earning the team bonus points for guts and character.  But this isn’t a good model, right?  I mean, we outshot New England 21-7. 

And a bunch of those chances were point blank opportunities that weren’t even put on goal.  Kei’s headers sailing over the bar.  Jeferson’s 8 yard shot going wide.  Seth Sinovic’s open net chance gone into the stands.  

When you don’t finish your chances you give the zebras an opportunity to screw you with a bad call. 

Which is kinda what happened. 

Afterwards, Vermes was fairly critical considering the fear that most pro coaches have of saying anything bad about the officials. 

You know, fines and everything.

Here’s what he said when asked about the non-call on New England’s goal:

"I really need to go and see it."

That part is the instinctual coach-speak.  That was like breathing or blinking to him.  But then:

"In my opinion, there’s a good chance when the ball was initially kicked in that he was offside."

Oh. Really.

"I mean, I was standing right there."

That’s true.

"Maybe I will see something different."

Quick, back in to your coach shorts.

"I can’t remember so I can’t really talk about how spread out we were. I’ll have to see that on the tape."

And voila!    

He says he was standing right there and "there’s a good chance" the guy was offside, but then blankets that with, "I need to look at the tape."

But really, he’s right, the refs were horrible.  It’s the MLS!  So what do you expect at this point? 

Moving on.

True to form, Sporting utterly dominated the second half in nearly every aspect, especially after New England went down to ten men for a last man red card offence.

After assaulting the Rev’s goal repeatedly yet still trailing 1-0 with the final whistle imminent, SKC again flipped the late-game-drama switch.

Teal Bunbury goal celebrationIn the 89th minute Omar Bravo streaked behind the left side of the Rev’s defense, was met with a challenge, and the ball caromed into the path of substitute Teal Bunbury who flicked at the loose ball, sliding it into the net to even the score for good.

A great weight lifted off the youngster as he celebrated the garbage goal – his first in three or four months (really)  – and he later acknowledged that sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

"I was lucky to get a scrappy goal. It feels good. I haven’t scored in a while, so to get the goal to get my team back in was great… Before the game, I was thinking when I get into the game I should try to get a scrappy goal. Omar got the touch to it, it bounced off the defender and I was the first one to react. I just wanted to keep it on frame and keep it low."

So while SKC continue their march up the Eastern Conference standings, the question remains: Will Sporting ever develop a killer instinct?  You know, the kind really good teams use to bury teams like the New England Revolution?

For now, Vermes will just take the point and move on with it.

"We continue to climb the ladder," said Vermes.  "Philadelphia lost last night, and now we get another point.  If you look back where we were and where we are, it’s a big difference. We’re in the hunt right now. We’re going to keep going after it."

So while points are always good, at this point Sporting needs to figure out why they always save their energy and intensity in the attack for the waning moments.

Because losing this game at home to the New England Revolution would have been, honestly, a tragedy for Sporting right now.

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