The stars shone brightly on Monday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park...
Sporting KC and the LA Galaxy scrapped their way to a 2-2 draw, with late drama coming again in the form of a stoppage time penalty kick by Omar Bravo to even the score. LA’s David Beckham showed why he is still among the best passers in the game. And Landon Donovan came on as a substitute in the second half, looking speedy and somewhat agitated as he proceeded to get in the face of several KC players.
But despite another gritty performance by the boys in blue, after the game everyone wanted to talk about a couple of things that ideally should have been non-issues: the refereeing (surprise!) and the condition of the field. Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about the exciting game that was played in front of the biggest crowd yet at our new stadium…
LA got on the board first, with a goal that had the Cauldron raining obscenities down on the referees due to an apparently offside Sean Franklin, who finished with a low shot from close range.
Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I said that I was sure the refs didn’t affect the outcome of the game. Which sucks. At halftime, after seeing the replays, even the TV broadcasters remained skeptical that the zebras got that one right.
Nevertheless, KC evened it up in the second half off a long corner that was played in, deflected off several players, and volleyed into the net from an extreme angle by Julio Cesar.
But LA scored again two minutes later on another effort from Franklin to go up 2-1. A poor KC clearance led to the defense being caught out of position on this one.. Beckham gathered the ball about 30 yards out straight in front of the goal, hesitated a moment, then played a nicely weighted diagonal ball into the area that perfectly met the path of a streaking Franklin, who slotted his shot under Jimmy Nielsen who was coming off his line.
The two teams battled back and forth in what became an increasingly physical game for the next 20 minutes.
In the waning moments, KC appeared to even the score again with a beautiful header by Aurelien Collin, but the goal was disallowed due to a player who was allegedly offside. The refs heard it from the crowd big time on this one, and the confetti had already been launched into the air.
No worries, though.
In stoppage time as Sporting was sending ball after ball into the LA box, defender Frankie Hejduk was whistled for a handball resulting in a penalty. Omar Bravo stepped up and buried it, drawing KC even at 2-2, which is how the game would end moments later.
Afterwards, KC coach Peter Vermes was obviously pissed off when asked about the Collin goal that was disallowed:
“You mean the world class finish that he had? We know one thing. It’s us against everybody because nothing’s going to go our way and we realize that and that’s why everybody keeps fighting back. They’ve got unbelievable determination to get back in the game and they’re not going to die and that is a quality that needs to be commended because game after game we fight for everything. To have a goal like that taken away from you; that is unacceptable.”
Strong words there.
Beckham, who has been one of the most vocal critics of MLS refs, kept it simple:
“Tonight I don’t think the refereeing was that bad,” said Becks. “When the officiating is done right, there’s no problem, but I don’t think the referee had a bad game today.”
Perhaps an even bigger gripe (especially from the visitors) was the condition of the field.
Remember, LIVESTRONG has recently hosted two concerts on its turf, and the wear and tear has turned the once pristine grass into a total nightmare.
Throughout the game, players and coaches were seen tamping down large chunks of turf that made the potholes in Lawrence seem small.
“The field was embarrassing to be honest and it was dangerous,” Los Angeles forward Landon Donovan told the KC Star’s Tod Palmer. “It made for a lot of sloppy play …I hope for their sake and the rest of the league’s sake that they get that sorted out.”
Beckham was equally unimpressed, telling Palmer that “every time you went to kick the ball, it gave way. Obviously, it wasn’t just for us, but it was like playing in sand.”
Even LA coach Bruce Arena chimed in, saying, “Hopefully they can get the field right. It’s a shame that the field is in the shape it’s in. Obviously it’s challenging with the climate here. You have extreme heat at times and some cold. It is hard to manage the turf the right way and obviously when you do other events on the field, the field takes a beating and hopefully they’ll get that right.”
To be fair, most everyone praised the facility itself and the atmosphere, but just took issue with the condition of the playing surface, which is horrible right now.
Next up is Houston, in what is (really) the biggest game of the season thus far.
The Dynamo are right behind KC in the Eastern Conference standings, and with only a handful of games left both squads will be bringing everything they have.
Hopefully by then the field at LIVESTRONG will not resemble a battlefield.
Photographs by KC Confidential photographer Katie Grogan