In yet another game most observers dubbed "the biggest of the season," Sporting Kansas City managed to walk away with a point after battling to a 1-1 tie with the Philadelphia Union Saturday at The Legends.
It’s true, every game is "the biggest" when the season’s winding down and the top of the Eastern Conference is jammed with five teams that have between 38 and 42 points.
Houston sits atop for the moment, with 42, then Columbus and KC at 41, Philadelphia at 40, New York at 39, and DC at 38. So as you can see, the last few games of the regular season are absolutely crucial.
With four games left before the playoffs- two of them at LIVESTRONG – Sporting should settle for nothing less than two wins in order to solidify their playoff chances. Obviously that all depends on what the other teams do as well, but SKC plays Columbus on Wednesday, New York on October 15th, and DC on October 22nd, so their destiny is firmly planted in their own hands.
At this point, after fighting back into form after a horrendous losing streak to open the season, missing the playoffs would be a disaster. An absolute disaster.
Especially since Sporting have been playing some of the best soccer in MLS for the past month or so, scoring a boat-load of goals, and playing an attacking brand of soccer that other teams don’t like to deal with.
But Saturday night’s contest saw KC looking the most incoherent they’ve been in awhile.
The game was a back and forth affair, with KC getting beaten in the midfield and failing to create much down the middle of the pitch. Instead they settled far too often for long crosses into the box.
Relative newcomer, Brazilian designated player and #10 Jeferson, seemed absolutely lost. Remember, he’s the guy who joined the team about a month and a half ago and was supposed to be the solution at the attacking midfield position, a guy who could pull apart defenses with his penetration and long range shot.
But that has not really happened. At all.
If I’m Sporting, at this point, I’m just hoping that the guy can be productive and not make any big-time mistakes.
Against Philadelphia he was constantly out of place, stepping on Graham Zusi’s toes, trying to fill the same space, but not contributing a whole lot to the overall effort.
At one point Zusi threw his hands up and yelled at Jeferson, urging him to get his head in the game. At halftime, Peter Vermes made the obvious move and subbed him out for Aurelien Collin, sliding Julio Cesar up a bit into the midfield.
Vermes was blunt when asked about the substitution:
"I just didn’t think it was working so I moved Julio into the middle of the midfield as the one and just inverted the triangle," he said. "I thought tactically it solved all of the issues we needed."
An obviously frustrated Graham Zusi echoed the sentiment saying in no uncertain terms that Jeferson was the problem the first half.
"First half I thought we were a little unorganized, just in our shape, we had allowed them to play to their strengths, play to their ability, and they got a lot of counterattacks against us and we were recovering a lot of the first half," said Zusi. "We made a change going into the second half, and I think it helped us quite a bit. It allowed us to get a bit more possession and create some more chances."
At this point in the season it strikes me as a bit concerning that a player -a starter!- could be so far
away from being on the same page as his team mates.
But Sporting isn’t dwelling on the lackluster performance, they’re looking ahead and moving on in anticipation of the next "biggest match of the season" Wednesday at LIVESTRONG.
"It’s a big one," said Kei Kamara. "Just gotta take care of the body and just be ready for it. This is it right here. A win against Columbus definitely puts us on top."
Yep. And a loss against Columbus turns the pressure up tenfold.