Donnelly: Sporting Wins Everything but Game in 2-1 Loss to Columbus

Before I get too far in, let me just say this – no, the sky is not falling…

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.”

They were right.

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.”

“I don’t know how many times we’ve talked about us dominating the game and not getting the win,” said a frustrated Kei Kamara after the loss.  “Dominating is not good enough.”

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8 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting Wins Everything but Game in 2-1 Loss to Columbus

  1. George Wilson says:

    Other than Kamara, Sporting doesn’t have any decent finishers up front. Other than Zusi they don’t have any creative midfielders who can make a killer pass. When Convey and Espinoza start, they only have three legitimate scoring threats on the pitch. (Kamara, Zusi, and Bunbury/Sapong). Maybe four if you count Collin on set pieces. They badly miss Bravo’s abilities to finish, move off the ball, and take on defenders one on one. This has all been apparent for most of the season, and yet the international transfer window has closed with no improvements to the offense.

    The ownership group gets a lot of kudos for being aggressive and wanting to win. Yet while we have one of the lower payrolls in the league and sell outs almost every weekend we watched a number of our competitors for league honors build up their teams as we sat by bemoaning the games we “dominated” but didn’t win.

    Matt, I thought you might make a comment or two about the substitutions Saturday. You’re down a goal chasing the game and two of your allowable three substitutions are a holding midfielder and a center half?

  2. smartman says:

    C’mon Matt how about a shout out for local boy made good Andy Gruenebaum, The Hebrew Hammer! Pretty impressive night for him wouldn’t you agree?

    • Matt says:

      He did indeed, earned his money in the second half. Always good to have the posts working for you too!

  3. the dude says:

    They need to be able to put a legitimate shot on goal or setup without relying on the cross, nobody seems to be able to do that on offense consistenly so far. Someone needs to step up and provide this type of offense. Quality teams like Houston will eat our lunch all day without that type of weapon in the bag.

  4. Matt says:

    George, the subs were a bit curious. I’m good with Julio Cesar coming in because I think he adds a dimension that no other player on Sporting does, his ability to really link the back line and the mids. Plus I’m always a fan of getting Convey out of there.

    The other two? Well, Neven Markovic so far looks like a decent defender with the qualities that Vermes likes, i.e. he will crush you. But at that point I agree it didn’t make much sense.

    I actually didn’t mind the insertion of Little K. While I think he does deserve a chance and is better than most people might think though, i would’ve rather seen Peterson Joseph come in to free up Zusi so he could roam and try to unleash a long shot or two.

  5. legendaryhog says:

    Same old story. Nothing creative up the middle. No one can beat a man except for Kei. Cross after cross after cross. That is your lowest percentage chance for goal scoring, yet it’s the primary tactic SKC uses. This strategy is not working. Change it dummies. Especially when you are missing Collin and Sapong, whose goals are entirely out of the air on crosses. Seriously, unless Zusi is serving the ball and Kei is in a vastly superior position to the multiple defenders in the box, this was never going work. No through balls? No work around the box, just crossing? What the fuck? This is getting old and SKC is getting boring to watch.

    Also Convey. You are invisible out there. Why are you starting let alone playing. You do nothing.

  6. Rick Nichols says:

    Since that impressive 7-0-0 start, Sporting has logged a dismal 4-7-4 mark that has included home losses to Montreal, Chicago and Columbus. I’m in agreement with an earlier commenter. As a rule, the team does not finish well when the good scoring opportunities do arise. I also think the offense is too predictable. Sporting would really benefit from someone capable of creating his own shots anywhere from 10 to 30 yards out at a decent angle, and, of course, from a playmaker in the style of Preki. But all will be “forgiven” (at least for the time being) if the mates can bounce back and put the hammer to Seattle in the U.S. Open title game.

    • Matthew Donnelly says:

      I agree, can’t wait for the Open Cup final. A win there would do wonders for the boys’ confidence, which is predictably flagging a bit of late.