Donnelly: Sporting Splintered by Houston 2-0, Season Hangs in Balance

Top seeded Sporting Kansas City looked out of sorts in the away leg of their home-and-home series with the Houston Dynamo.

Although they’re normally the aggressor, the tables were turned on KC and it seemed to confuse and frustrate Peter Vermes‘ boys.  The Dynamo, not KC, were the squad that pressed and harried relentlessly, giving Sporting no time on the ball in the back and midfield.

“The game started out OK,” Vermes said afterwards.  “I think the heat got to us a little bit.”

The Dynamo looked more physical and confident.  They all seemed to be on the same page, fully prepared with a game plan to stifle Sporting’s strengths.

Whereas after about 35-40 minutes, Sporting looked like they were resigned to their fate.

Multiple players turned into ghosts, especially the midfield.

“If you look at the number of fouls in the middle of the field, when you look at where they took place ’cause every time we won the ball, even when our central defenders had the ball, there was a foul from behind and it broke the rhythm,” Vermes explained after the game.  “It’s tactical play. They did a great job of it.”

Houston was able to play its tactical game thanks in part to a 30 yard half-volley scorcher in the 18th minute from Adam Moffat.

Several minutes later Houston striker Will Bruin whiffed on a point blank shot from 8 yards out that could’ve really decimated Kansas City.

Instead, the breathing room came for Houston in the second half from Bruin, as he one-timed a nice strike across his body to finish off a Houston counter attack.

Sporting really never looked very dangerous, had only a single shot on target all game long, and were lucky to escape just two goals down in the aggregate series.

“I don’t believe we showed who we were today,” said White Puma Jimmy Nielsen.

Vermes knows his squad laid a big ass egg.

And it seems the expectations and pressure that now comes with the SKC territory is showing up a little bit.

“We didn’t play well enough, it was simple,” said Vermes.  “We don’t have just one guy that runs our team. We have 11 on the field, all of them play together. It is what it is. We all score, we all defend. It just an all around team. It’s not one guy running the show for us.”

A little defensive from Ol’ Pete, eh?

But honestly, who do you think he’s attempting to defend with that “We’re a team” deal?  It could be almost anyone after that dismal showing – Zusi, Kamara, Collin, Cesar, Sinovic, Myers, Espinoza.

That’s seven out of 11 starters in my book.  When most of your guys have an off day at the same time, things aren’t going to end well.  Especially against an experienced team like Houston, who have made a practice of thrashing Kansas City over the years.

But… it’s not over folks.  No, not even close.

KC just needs three goals on Wednesday.  Tall order?  You bet.  Doable?  Definitely.

“We are down two at halftime,” said KC defender Seth Sinovic of the home-and-home series.  “We are going to come back in the second half and we are going to win it. There is plenty of game left.”

 

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9 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting Splintered by Houston 2-0, Season Hangs in Balance

  1. Max says:

    Can we blame this one on Lin Elliott too? Ugh, the tradition of post-season choking continues in this town…

  2. % says:

    Vermes made some oblique criticisms of the refs again, although that’s such a marginal explanation of the team’s performance compared to the totality of what happened on Sunday I don’t even know why he mentions it.

    It’s hard to pinpoint what Houston does, but for some reason, their midfield and their defense does a great job of giving SKC’s offense fits. SKC depends heavily on stringing together a number of passes and Houston did a wonderful job of breaking up that flow of possession. CJ and Kei aren’t really fast enough to zip down the flanks consistently and create much trouble, so when that possession play gets disrupted, it’s bad for these guys.

    A lot of people are predicting that Houston’s going to bunker down and just sit back all game on Wednesday. I’ll be shocked if that happens. I think Dominic Kinnear is too smart to do that. I think they’re going to pressure the midfield and try and score on the counterattack. If they put one past Nielsen in the first half on Wednesday, it’s over. I don’t know what Vermes needs to do to get this team going. We’re going to find out about his coaching mettle on Wednesday. If he puts out the same lineup with the same formation and just tries to push the offense a little harder, I think a lot of sad fans will be looking for their cars around the 70th minute.

  3. legendaryhog says:

    SKC looked gassed for about the last ten minute of the first half and most of the second. You could tell Vermes was throwing in the towel with those late second half subs to save his starters for next game.

    Essentially, they got worked. Just simply could not deal with the physical play. That was an extremely rough game. I don’t know what the foul count was, but it could have been even higher. It seemed like it was just hack, hack, hack. The MLS is a more physical league than most, but that was getting a bit ridiculous. Guys were getting crushed on both sides left and right.

    You are right, the blame has to be spread around. No one had a particularly good game. There were times when Sporting couldn’t even settle the ball. It was just ping-ponging back and forth in the midfield. Hopefully, SKC will have a bit more control the next game. I just hope its not knock it to the corner and cross the ball all game. That will never get them the three points they need. Unfortunately, most of their goals come on crosses and set pieces.

    On a side note, what the fuck was up with Houston’s pitch? That was a pretty tore up field for a nationally televised playoff game. Seriously, it looked like shit.

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    That second goal yesterday was a back breaker. Had Sporting gotten out of there down just the one goal, I wouldn’t feel too bad about their chances on Wednesday at home. I don’t think Houston will bunker down on defense per se, but whenever Sporting obtains possession and starts to transition into attack mode it’s going to look that way because the Dynamo will get at least nine guys behind the ball in a hurry. Kansas City is lacking the kind of players who can create their own chances near the box and they’re lacking a great playmaker in the midfield. It’s very difficult to string together four or five passes in a row to create a shot from in close because every pass has to be right on the money and the attackers need to be a step ahead of the defenders all the time. Since the San Jose Earthquakes became the Houston Dynamo in 2006, this franchise, as noted in The Star today, has given the Wizards and now Sporting fits, proving to be very opportunistic on offense (e.g., yesterday’s first goal) while generally stifling the Kansas City attack except for the team’s 3-0 victory in 2011 (2010?). Let’s just hope history repeats itself on Wednesday night. In 2004 the Wizards went out to San Jose and got beat 2-0 in the first game of the aggregate series only to return to Arrowhead a few days later and knock off the Quakes 3-0 in the second match. I was there and it was Springfield, Mo., native Jack Jewsbury who scored the clincher in the closing minutes of action. What a night! Anyway, Sporting obviously needs to come out sharp and aggressive on Wednesday, and I think they’re going to have to get a big game from someone who normally wouldn’t be expected to come up with an assist or find the back of the net. Some “X-factor” player is going to have to come through for them. They’ll have to press the attack in the midfield and the offensive third of the pitch, and if they get burned on the counterattack and yield a third goal, yes, it’ll basically be over at that point, but they have no other choice except to go all out on offense. Like I said earlier, that second goal was a back breaker and really puts the lads behind the proverbial eight ball, especially since they already struggle to score goals on a consistent basis. Oh, well, it’s only a game.

  5. Rick Nichols says:

    I listened to the match on the radio and the commentators said a football game was played on that field the day before. They, too, noted that the pitch was in less than perfect condition.

  6. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    Can’t wait until these foot fairies lose.

  7. Rick Nichols says:

    Sporting’s players really need to be warriors tonight if they’re going to pull this thing off. A favorable bounce of the ball here and there wouldn’t hurt either, and how about a PK thrown in somewhere for good measure?

  8. Matthew Donnelly says:

    Stadium’s jacked, this is going to be interesting. Crazy lineup from Vermes out of necessity. Need an early goal NOW. See you in 90.

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