Donnelly: Sporting Dominates But Needs Late Magic to Salvage Draw Against Houston

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.






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4 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting Dominates But Needs Late Magic to Salvage Draw Against Houston

  1. says:

    Holy Cow. That SKC and Vermes don’t realize that they were outplayed for most of that game is SKC’s biggest weakness. SKC never got in behind the HOU defense like HOU got in behind SKC’s. HOU scored a nice goal the likes of which SKC didn’t come close to scoring until the last minute of the game. Possession does not equal domination.

    That Vermes would whine about officials is just mind boggling. He easily could have been two men down. The calls went SKC’s way all night.

  2. Rick Nichols says:

    Like I’ve said previously, the really good teams find a way to score at least two goals a game regardless of the defensive mindset of their opponent. Sporting needs to get the first goal at home, forcing the other team to come out of its shell, which will make for a much more open game, of course. Winning the East would be nice, but the road to the MLS Cup, at least in Sporting’s case, will probably go through Houston at some point. Sporting does not match up well with the Dynamo in terms of “big game” players and will need to make the necessary strategic adjustments in advance of the playoffs. KC’s best hope is that another team will knock Houston out of the playoffs, but don’t count on that happening. No, I’d like to see Sporting beat the best for them to be considered the best.

  3. the dude says:

    Until they can get a legitimate open field threat on goal and defense that makes little to no breakdown mistakes Houston will continue to be a roadblock to our progress in the playoffs. Julio’s mistake early on was unforgivable, he makes too many of those mistakes lately.

  4. legendaryhog says:

    Whomever was tallying the shot total at 28 last game was being generous. I’m not sure those were all attempts, but whatever. Same problem that we talk about all the time, SKC simply cannot create goals from the middle of the field. It must be a set piece or cross for SKC to score. That is simply not going to work out in the long run. Teams have figured it out, and they are content to bunker in, pack the middle of the defense, and try for a counter. It doesn’t matter that SKC is getting 75% of the possession if that possession doesn’t lead to any goals. SKC needs to find a way to score in the run of possession play off of strikes on goal. If not, the opposing defenders have no incentive to step up to cut down shooting angles and block longer range shots. Thus, the balls coming in over the top are funneled into an area packed with defenders.

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