Sporting Kansas City played a decent first half Saturday at the Chicago Fire.
Bobby Convey notched his first goal of the season with a one-timer that was set up nicely by Roger Espinoza’s cut back cross and KC went to the locker room at the half up on the home side 1-0.
The second half was a completely different story. By the time the final whistle blew, Sporting had conceded a penalty, been shown a red card, and saw one of its alleged leaders attempt a fancy juggle inside his own 6 yard box which resulted in the go ahead Chicago goal.
Yeah, total nightmare.
So after starting the season 7-0, KC now sits at 7-3. Sure, the results have been disappointing, but more troubling has been Sporting’s play of late.
Again the defense got caught napping which allowed a Chicago attacker to get in behind them. Just like last game, Aurelien Collin made a last gasp sliding tackle that may have been unnecessary due to the poor angle. And just like last game, the tackle may actually have been clean. And just like last game, the ref signaled for a penalty.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that when the attacking player feels contact on a breakaway in the box, he’s going to go down. And the ref is almost certainly going to blow the whistle. Collin should know these things, yet he continues to make the same mistakes.
A few minutes after Chicago buried the penalty to tie the game, KC’s Espinoza went airborne and struck Chicago’s Sebastian Grazzini in the face with a fore arm, which resulted in a straight red. The Sporting bench protested vigorously, and continued to show their displeasure with the call after the game.
"I can’t comment on the penalty kick, but the red card is not a red card," complained KC boss Peter Vermes. "Two years now here, in a row, we come here and we have two red cards which aren’t red cards, which completely changes the outcome of the game."
After Roger was sent off things REALLY deteriorated.
KC looked aimless and ineffective as they tried to just hold on for dear life and escape Chicago with at least one point. Then one of the most careless and baffling plays I’ve seen in quite a while occurred to stab KC in the collective heart.
Kei Kamara tracked back into his own goal box – a good thing for sure, especially when you’re playing a man down. A high ball was served into the box and Kei attempted to bring the ball down. But rather than clearing the ball, Kei swiveled, popped the ball up on his knee and attempted a more difficult clearance.
You can guess what happened next.
A Chicago attacker swooped in, stole the ball, and touched it across the goal mouth to an onrushing Dom Oduro. Oduro slid the ball into KC’s net putting Chicago up 2-1 for good, and leaving Jimmy Nielsen and the rest of the Sporting defensive line shaking their heads.
"On the second goal, mistake on Kei," said Vermes. "He should have cleared it and heads up to their player for making a quick play that we could have easily cleared it, and we would have been out of there with no problem.”
I can’t believe Vermes didn’t bench Kei right then and there. That play was simply unacceptable in my book.
Instead, Vermes directed copious amounts of venom at the ref, who was centering his first MLS game.
"The referee is there to ref the game, not to be part of the show," said Vermes. "And today, that’s what he made himself. He made himself part of the show. And that’s disappointing, because players, they work hard, they are the ones who are the entertainers on the field, not him, and unfortunately that’s what the game was like today. He changed the game.”
While the officiating in MLS is nothing if not wildly inconsistent, those are some harsh and pointed words from Vermes. But the bottom line is that KC has dropped 3 in a row now, they aren’t scoring goals lately, and they’ve been breaking down defensively.
KC needs to focus on the things they can control- like defensive shape, like finding some offensive creativity – and get back their winning mentality that was so present early on this season.