Though still a bit out of sync, Sporting Kansas City vaulted into first place in the Eastern Conference Wednesday…
Sporting scored a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew and is almost guaranteed now to see some playoff soccer in the next few weeks at LIVESTRONG. Prior to the match, KC and Columbus were tied for second in the division, so the three points from the win- combined with Columbus collecting zero from their loss- is huge with only three games left before the playoffs.
Was it pretty? No. Was it kind of lucky? Yes.
Is Sporting’s form over the last few games a bit troubling, even though they continue picking up points? You bet.
The game was scrappy from the get-go, with SKC coming out strong as they usually do at home and getting on the board first after CJ Sapong used his strength to muscle his way into the box. A Columbus defender had no choice but to try a risky tackle that resulted in a penalty kick.
Kei Kamara stepped to the spot and coolly buried the shot, but Columbus responded minutes later with a goal of their own. That after KC gave the ball away deep in its own territory. US National Team member Robbie Rogers collected the mistake and drove forward, drawing several out of place Sporting defenders to him before dishing the ball to a streaking Emilio Renteria who finished professionally in the side netting.
The second half saw more of the same- Sporting with the edge on possession and chances, and Columbus scrapping and counterattacking, creating a few good chances of their own. Including one point blank shot near the end that Jimmy Nielsen turned away admirably to save the victory.
KC sealed the deal in the 74th minute off a long Matt Besler throw in that was deflected off a Columbus player for an own-goal. Besler’s throws are practically the same thing as a corner kick, and KC has now scored five times this season off the long bombs.
KC coach Peter Vermes credited the own-goal to his team’s relentless attacking:
“Obviously the pressure is what caused the goal,” Vermes explained. “It’s too dangerous with the guys that we have on our team. There a lot of guys that can get in the goal and we are going to take those as much as we can.”
It’s tough to be disappointed with a win – especially a big win like this one – but the last several games have seen Sporting’s form drop off a bit.
Almost all of their chances on goal are coming from long crosses or Besler’s throw-ins. Rarely in the last few games has Sporting generated a legitimate scoring opportunity by possessing and building in front of the goal.
What happened to Graham Zusi’s lashing right boot that we saw in the middle of the season?
I’m afraid that Sporting is getting too predictable in its attack, And against the better (and bigger) teams that are solid in the air, vaulting cross after cross into the box is a low percentage play.
Don’t get me wrong, with KC’s ability in the air and size, getting the ball high into the box can be the right play.
But if other teams know there’s no other viable scoring option, KC becomes one dimensional and too easy to defend.
Sporting can be versatile – I know because they have been just that earlier in the season. Hell, about three weeks ago, remember? And no one can question the crazy work ethic that Vermes has instilled in this team. But to win in the playoffs, KC needs to get back its flow, its continuity, its flare,
That’s what got them from the cellar to the penthouse in the first place.