Despite beating FC Dallas by but a single one goal, Sporting Kansas City was dominant on Sunday…
“They are much further ahead than any other team in the league and they have a lot of weapons,” said losing coach Schellas Hyndman after the match. “They play a style of soccer that is very disruptive, both going forward and defending. I don’t think there is another team in the league playing at the level they’re playing at.”
That’s high praise considering the game was knotted at 1-1 going into the 88th minute. If not for several top notch saves by former KC keeper Kevin Hartman, Sporting could have easily scored 4 or 5 goals.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that KC’s boys in blue have pretty much dominated their opposition this season in terms of possession, shots on goal, and passing percentages. And they certainly did so against Dallas, who were missing their best player Brek Shea to the US Olympic squad.
But despite outshooting the visitors 18-8, and allowing Dallas only one shot on goal for the entire game, KC found themselves trailing 1-0 at the 25 minute mark. The Dallas goal came after a long ball was played toward the edge of KC’s penalty area. Several Sporting defenders challenged for the ball, and the Dallas forward seemed to go down like he was shot. The ref, who was shaky at best throughout the match, awarded a free kick that Dallas forward Ricardo Villar coolly curled over the wall and into the back of the net, leaving no chance for Jimmy Nielsen.
This weak call and subsequent against-the-run-of-play goal seemed to piss Sporting off a bit.
In the next 10 minutes a pair of KC fullbacks unleashed brutal hits on their opposition. The first of which was notorious French mauler Aurelien Collin, who launched himself into the back of a Dallas player at midfield while challenging for a head ball. Collin earned a yellow for his body blow and stopped the game for a few moments while the Dallas player shook it off.
Not to be outdone, though, was laid back surfer dude and fellow defenseman Chance Myers. Myers absolutely destroyed Villar, going straight through his chest as the two were jostling for the ball on the flank. The Dallas player crumpled to the ground and immediately raised his hand indicating that he was injured and needed to come off. He stayed down for quite awhile and was taken off the field on a stretcher, though he did eventually return.
I’m guessing SKC coach Peter Vermes was smiling inside. The blunt Jersey boy is known to love “hard” players, and Chance’s persona is nothing if not West Coast style.
Sporting finally got on the board in the final few seconds of the first half after Roger Espinoza won a loose ball in the attacking third and was fouled. Graham Zusi played the ball straight into the box toward the penalty spot finding Collin, who skipped the ball off his shaved head and into the net. From that point on, it was all Sporting, though they should have iced the game by scoring a couple goals instead of just the one in last few minutes of the game.
Sporting’s best chance to bring the wood was in the 51st minute, but Hartman came up big again, deflecting Kei Kamara’s penalty shot out for a corner.
Despite KC’s overall dominance they remained deadlocked until the 88th minute when a nice combination play down the right flank found Myers, who played in a ground cross that Kei slipped past the near post to redeem himself and make it 2-1, which was the score when the ref signaled full time.
After the game, Wildman Collin told MLSSoccer.com’s Steve Brisendine, “This is the proof of where we are right now. Confident. Fighting, but not crazy. The cold blood. I’m proud of the team tonight.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but I do know that Collin and his back line have meshed nicely after playing nearly a full season together in 2011. Of particular note was left back Seth Sinovic, who had one of his best games in a Sporting jersey.
Three points is three points, I know. But KC simply need more goals out of the run of play, especially given how well they are holding the ball and controlling tempo generally. They are heavily reliant on set pieces and crosses for their scoring, with few legit chances being created at the top of the box.
Part of that falls on second year man CJ Sapong, who was a ghost for most of the night after scoring goals in KC’s previous two games. He needs to bounce back, not necessarily by scoring, but he has to be more involved for this team to be at its most effective.
And of course goals wouldn’t hurt either.
But perhaps this type of game will prove useful for Sporting as a learning experience. Just like many point to KU’s come from behind victory over Mizzou at Allen Fieldhouse as an important building block going forward.
**Photo credit to Gary Rohman Photography**