Sporting continued its mini-slide over the weekend, with a 1-0 loss against fabricated rivals, the Chicago Fire at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park...
That despite that KC outshot the visitors 27-10.
Headlines from some of the other publications around town covering Sporting spoke of a "dominant" performance from the boys in blue. Really?
I wonder if they saw the more relevant stat, "shots on goal," which showed KC with only the slightest edge at 5-4. Let’s be honest, KC takes a ton of shots that never test the opposing keeper or even require a save. So it’s no surprise that they routinely, massively outshoot their opponents, even in the games they lose.
Fake hustle, anyone?
But hey, maybe that’s just how the ball bounces – just bad luck. Maybe it’s simply the alignment of the planets.
"This happens sometimes in soccer," said second-half sub Soony Saad. "You can shoot as many shots as you can, but if they have a good goalie and get lucky a couple times, you don’t get the breaks."
"I really feel like we were unlucky," said Teal Bunbury. "It’s pretty disappointing because I feel like we outplayed them the majority of the game, but that’s the way it goes."
However KC boss Peter Vermes was less inclined to blame karmic force.
"I don’t buy into that kind of stuff," he said. "Obviously we’ve been snake bitten every time we go to their place with PK’s and red cards but maybe we just need to be a little smarter, who knows?"
A little smarter? I think Vermes is on to something…
Sure, KC had a ton of shots. Right off the bat in the 5th minute, Graham Zusi won a corner after playing a ball off a Chicago defender. The Chicago keeper came out well though to deal with Zusi’s bending ball, but couldn’t quite clear the box resulting in a scrum in front of the goal.
A scrum that did not result in a KC goal or even a shot on target.
Chicago had the first real decent chance of the game in the 16th minute after a corner was half cleared then played back into the KC box. Chicago striker Dominic Oduro side volleyed a shot but it was basically right at Jimmy Nielsen, who made a reaction save and cleared the effort.
The heat was definitely playing a big factor as both sides were content to knock it around the back and slow the pace of the game down. Neither side looked to stretch too much for fear of wearing down and getting exposed on the counter, and neither team looked particularly sharp.
Around the 25 minute mark KC started settling in and controlling the tempo of the game. They were able to pick and choose moments to probe forward and make Chicago chase the ball.
In the 28th minute Kei beat his defender and found himself alone running along the end line with the ball at his feet. But instead of laying it back to an onrushing teammate with a better angle, he took the selfish option and blasted the ball into the outside of the side netting for a goal kick. Really poor decision making.
Definitely not the SMART play in that situation.
From there on out until halftime neither team looked particularly interested. When the ref mercifully blew his whistle all the crowd could hope for was a better effort for the second 45.
The second half opened up with KC earning a solid chance early and pushing men forward with more urgency than they showed in the first period. But then they regressed into a disjointed mess. The normally tenacious Roger Espinoza seemed unable to track and hassle like he usually does. Zusi struggled to hold the ball in the center of the pitch, or to combine with anyone other than the players along the touchlines, which is exactly where opposing teams want you to play it – force them to the outside, right?
And that- to make things overly simple- is the major problem right now.
Sporting looked like a team that wants everything RIGHT NOW. They expect that if they give maximum effort and pressure relentlessly that they will be able to beat opponents by sheer will. But that’s just not how this game goes once you get to a certain level.
There needs to be a little cunning or guile mixed in with their phenomenal athleticism and pace. Rather than possess, knock it around, pull the defense apart, and then pick-and-choose the moment to exploit a hole, KC plays desperately at points in time that they shouldn’t, throwing men forward recklessly with fake hustle that amounts to little.
In the 58th minute, as KC pushed nearly everyone into attacking positions, horror struck.
Chicago cleared a ball out of its box and started a counter pushing three men forward. Sporting was so stretched out that they could only muster a two man defense. That’s unacceptable. The KC players retreated, trying to delay, but no help was coming.
Chicago looked like they were on the training ground, playing the ball out wide, then cutting back into the middle for a simple point blank finish.
I don’t think I’ve seen KC made to look as inept as they did on that sequence all season, not even in their 4-0 loss to Philly a week ago.
"There was a lack of organization on our part in the back because when we went forward the two central defenders were standing there and they see everything in front of them," explained Vermes. "It wasn’t a planned thing but we were unfortunately being lazy and not getting back…"
After Chicago silenced the Cauldron, Sporting finally woke the hell up and started playing with fire, with purpose and energy. But where was that grit an hour ago? That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?
Of course Chicago dropped into a shell as expected, so KC just kept pumping the ball into the box, winning some headers and forcing a few nice saves from Chicago’s keeper. But it was too little too late.
"We should be playing better," opined Espinoza.