Sporting Kansas City are currently tied for 2nd in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the first place New York Red Bulls. KC boasts one of the best defenses in the league, with the lowest goals against average in all of MLS.
OK, that’s that.
Now let’s talk about a disturbing trend, one that’s confounded Sporting players and staff alike. A trend that’s brought back the one word that KC boss Peter Vermes hates more than anything else — soft.
“I thought we started well, but then we gave up a soft goal,” said Graham Zusi after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew at LIVESTRONG.
Sporting dominated the visitors in every single statistical category – except the one that matters most, goals. KC absolutely crushed in possession 69%-31%. They outshot Columbus 25-12. They attempted 10 corners to the Crew’s 4.
But they also gave up a couple soft goals, and once Columbus took the lead, the visitors were more than happy to bunker in. Basically, in the second half they were saying to KC, “Go ahead and possess the ball, go ahead and serve impotent cross after cross into our box. We don’t think you can score on us.”
After the game, Zusi – who had a horrible giveaway in the back that led to Columbus’ second goal – hit the nail on the head in his assessment of what went wrong.
“Barring those two goals we allowed, I thought we were solid tonight,” he said.
Right. Other than the scoreboard, KC did just about everything just perfect. Maybe Zusi needs to sit down with Herm Edwards for a chat.
If MLS games were won by racking up stats, winning the possession battle, and in general being the aggressor, KC would certainly be charging toward the Cup.
Problem is, this is now the 5th or 6th such game this season. And this problem is becoming an identity rather than an anomaly. We can no longer chalk it up to bad luck, the referee, a momentary lapse, or injury problems.
No, this is fast becoming KC’s M.O.
The team that at one time was considered a front-runner for the championship is now rightfully being questioned. Are they still a championship caliber team? Do they have the guts it takes to make a playoff run? Does the fact that they’ve dropped games at home to some of the league’s cellar dwellers show a fatal flaw?
However the question is posed, the answer is pretty simple – championship teams find a way to win. Especially at home. And especially against teams that they appear to dominate.
Notice I said “appear.”