Before the game Friday at LIVESTRONG against the Houston Dynamo, about 100 new U.S. citizens were sworn in by a judge on the pitch.
I don’t know if they dialed it up a little for the occasion, but the pregame video and fireworks have gotten a little ridiculous. I mean, they are entertaining as hell, but how many bombs need to go off, how many rockets need to get launched into the sky, how much smoke needs to fill the confines of LIVESTRONG, how many video montages do we need?
I mean, that was cool.
As is almost always the case at home, Sporting KC came out at a blistering pace, creating a few decent chances right off the bat.
Things settled a bit around the 10 minute mark. About 20 minutes in, Houston earned their first clear chance of the night as a result of a mistake by Julio Cesar in the back, which wouldn’t be his last mental lapse. As a result, Aurelien Collin was forced to take down a streaking Houston forward about 25 yards out, and I’m really surprised the ref didn’t at least award a yellow card. It almost could have been red since Collin was the last man back. But luckily, Houston marksman Brad Davis was just wide with his shot.
Then I realized something was a bit off – that was the first foul of the game. Wow. How very un-MLS. But I liked it. I really liked it. It was kind of refreshing to see two MLS teams just going at it without the ref getting in the way. Not that the ref was letting things go to the point they got ridiculously physical or anything.
In the 42nd minute Jimmy Nielsen was called on after another mistake in the back. He came up with an absolutely crazy save. Houston had a one on one and not only did Jimmy block the shot, he held onto it like a sponge, no rebound, no nothing. You don’t see that every day.
Jimmy pretty much has to be the team’s MVP of the season thus far, it’s not even close. Graham Zusi or Kei Kamara would be second in that race.
Sporting started the second half looking flat and tired, though they regained their composure and wind after about 10 minutes. After that the second half looked a lot like the first with KC dominating possession in the neighborhood of 60%-40% and creating a few decent chances, though no sure things.
Then in the 59th minute, after a series of (wait for it…) KC mistakes in the back, Houston’s best player Davis uncorked an opportunistic low drive from around 25 that dipped and beat the White Puma to the far bar to put the visitors up by one.
As is usually the case, the goal was against the run of play. But what’s new?
As the game drew to an end with Houston still leading by a single goal, KC went into long ball mode. CJ Sapong and Chance Myers both put decent headers towards the goal to no avail.
In fact, Sporting started getting their most dangerous chances when they got desperate at the end and started pumping the ball into the box in the air. Kei would win a header and flick it down to the onrushing attack.
And that’s just what happened in the 93rd minute. Kei won the initial ball, Zusi got the trash and faked a right footer, back over to his left and curled a nice cross to the far bar where CJ was waiting for the easy flick header finish.
The game ended a few moments later, with the score tied at one apiece, and Kansas City still hanging on in the race with San Jose for the Supporter’s Shield.
After the game, KC boss Peter Vermes was more pointed than usual in voicing his displeasure with opponents’ willingness to come to KC and bunker in.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining but every time a team comes in here they are just settled with dropping off and sitting in, trying to slow the game down,” said Vermes. “I understand that’s a tactic – I get it – but where the referees could come in, they could help push the game along, there’s too many things that are getting overlooked and players are getting away with too much on the field.”
To me, this is kind of like saying the computer cheated when you’re losing at FIFA 2012. I mean, Houston wasn’t doing anything illegal were they? I know Vermes thinks his team simply deserves the three points, but Jesus man, figure it out.
Jimmy Nielsen had the better take:
“If [Houston] had left here with all three points, they should have been arrested for robbery. We were lucky to score at the time we did—I will admit that. But this does not feel like a victory for us. I feel like it’s the same story every time we play at home. You have to respect the opponent’s playing style, and we’ve got to do a better job finding ways to create open chances. We have to be able to find solutions.”
That’s spot on. No excuses.
Sporting needs to find solutions. We don’t care that they set a season record for shots in this game, with 28. The fact is, KC was lucky to escape with a single point.