Donnelly: Sporting’s Shield Dreams Broken with Espinoza’s Ankle, Zusi Called Up

With a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw at Columbus over the weekend, Sporting KC’s dream of winning the Supporter’s Shield is all but over…

San Jose looks like they have it locked up, sitting at 64 points in the Western Conference with 2 games to play and KC at 59 in the East with 2 games remaining.

“There has to be a major slip-up on San Jose’s part,” said KC boss Peter Vermes, of his team’s chances at the Shield.  “Right now, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be, especially with the way their schedule looks coming up.”

San Jose’s remaining foes are LA Galaxy at home, and the Portland Timbers on the road.

Sporting would have to win their last two games – at New York Red Bulls and home versus Philly – and San Jose would have to lose their remaining two for KC to creep in and steal away the Shield.

Possible yes, probable no.

If only KC had been able to hold on at Columbus things could’ve been different.

KC took the early lead off a CJ Sapong header served in from Graham Zusi, who now leads all of MLS in assists.  Sapong found himself surprisingly unmarked in front of the goal, but his first effort went off the upright.  Luckily, the ball careened right back to his noggin and he directed it into the side netting while the Columbus keeper and KC native Andy Gruenebaum, stood helpless.

The 1-0 score line held past the 90th minute only to see Columbus notch a header goal of their own, with Eddie Gaven slipping a ball near-post.  The final whistle blew just a few moments later, ripping those two extra points away.  But all in all, it wasn’t a horrible result I suppose.

“We should’ve been able to close the game out,” said Vermes.  “I think we made it a little too easy for them at the end, just pumping balls all over the place. But at the end for us to come here and get a point, it’s good.”

More disappointing than letting in the late goal, though, is the fact that KC midfield bulldog Roger Espinoza had to be carted off the field in second half stoppage time after a rough challenge.  An MRI and x-rays revealed that Roger had a right anterior ankle sprain and will miss 2 to 4 weeks.  That’s a big blow to one of the mainstays in Sporting’s solid defensive mid.

On a positive note, right after game Graham Zusi learned that he was being selected to again represent the US in their upcoming World Cup qualifiers, one of which will be held at LIVESTRONG on October 16th.

That game against Guatemala has been sold out for quite some time now and it will be interesting to see the type of ovation hometown hero Zusi gets in front of his club side fans.  I’m guessing it will be loud.

Last but not least, Aurelien Collin saw the field for a few minutes after playing sparingly for the last few weeks.  Initially the team said he was just being rested, but I’ve heard rumors that he may have gotten cross-wise with Vermes, perhaps by violating some team rules. Obviously no one is saying anything too definitive.

And trust me, getting cross-wise of Vermes is not something that anyone wants to do.

You’ve seen the flat-top right?

That said, Lawrence Olum has been doing an OK job back there.  I mean, it’s tough to argue with results, but he still slips up every now and again by keeping an attacker onside, or getting pulled too far out of the center.  However I’ll give him some credit, too, for being able to step in and replace KC’s most popular player without any disasters.  Low bar maybe, but so far so good.

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4 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting’s Shield Dreams Broken with Espinoza’s Ankle, Zusi Called Up

  1. Rick Nichols says:

    The lads had a chance to clinch second place in the East, leaving only Chicago with a chance to pass them in the standings, before a late defensive lapse enabled Columbus to salvage the 1-1 draw. I’ve seen this happen far too many times since 1996, so the lads really need to put an end to these untimely slip-ups in the defensive third if they ever hope to claim the Supporter’s Shield a second time. You can kiss the Shield good-bye this year, I’m afraid, so unless San Jose is upset in the playoffs, the Quakes will be hosting the title match. That said, Sporting has more than held their own on the road this year and is perfectly capable of defeating San Jose out there … but it won’t be easy. And once again, we saw on Sunday what happens when the good guys are unable to score that all-important second goal.

  2. Mysterious J says:

    Dropping those two points could well prove huge. Espinoza news is not great, but we don’t play at all for 2 weeks (and he doesn’t have to fly around and play for Honduras) and will have at least one full week off between the regular season and our first playoff game…so he should be ok when it REALLY counts.

  3. % says:

    I think SKC has the East in the bag, the same way San Jose has the Shield locked away. SKC is finally playing some fairly consistent football late in the year. Their defense is playing like they were early in the season when they were allowing very little past the back line for Nielsen to deal with. SKC is in great position in the playoffs. I thought Houston would really be a threat, but they’ve been on a slide late in the season and now have to fight for a playoff spot. New York has been spotty and inconsistent, and what looked like a surging Chicago side was quickly neutralized when they showed their faces around these parts not long ago.

    Whatever Collin did to piss off Flat Top, be happy about it. Collin’s got a lot of raw talent, but he’s just not a very smart player and could be a liability in the playoffs. Seems to me that the goofy reputation as a hard-nosed player sunk a bit too far into this head. Far too many instances of foolish tackles in the penalty box and being caught out of position on the back line or not hustling back on an opposing team’s counterattack has left me pretty skeptical about his role in this team’s defense. Lawrence Olum is in no way a long term solution for this team’s defense, but the back line has played better when they’re not having to cover for Collin’s mistakes all the time.

  4. legendaryhog says:

    I’m not as concerned about Olum v. Collin really. I think if there is one defensive player to replace it is, unfortunately, Ceasar. He is really good as a holding player (and I know often times holding midfielder and defensive midfielder are used synonymously), but is getting worked defensively, basically because of speed issues. As a distributor of balls coming out of the backfield, you can rely on him to make good decisions and steer the ship in the right direction, but he’s toast defensively one-on-one or tracking an attacking midfielder making a secondary run down the middle. He probably won’t lose his starting spot this season though.

    I am assuming going forward for the next few weeks Jacob Peterson will get the start at Zusi’s spot and Zusi will move into Espinoza’s position. That may not be so bad really. Sporting will be slightly more attack oriented that way.

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