Indeed, it was Sporting Kansas City on the back foot, needing to hold the Houston Dynamo scoreless, and score at least 2 goals themselves just to send the game into overtime. That with several relative nubes getting the start due to the injuries of Julio Cesar and Paulo Nagamura. As the squads lined up, a low roar built up slowly and continued for a good while until the initial whistle blew.
Man, Houston knows how to bunker. Once the Dynamo went up 2-0 in the previous game at their place, it was a surefire bet that they’d be content to sit back and wait out the clock, which they did to perfection.
Houston forward Cam Weaver actually came out and admitted as much, which is a bit rare – and something that most other Dynamo coaches and players denied.
The first decent chance for KC came around the 20th minute when a little slip ended up on Peterson Joseph‘s boot, but he sent it straight at Houston keeper Tally Hall.
Moments later Uri Rosell made a nice play, threading a ball through to Kei Kamara who found Graham Zusi in the box. But Zusi’s effort was poor, and he sent it sailing into The Cauldron.
Then a couple minutes later, Kei’s shot was deflected point blank by a Houston defender after a couple nice linkups from Zusi and Chance Myers.
But time was wasting. I looked up and 32 minutes had passed and still no score.
And Sporting was bogging down, spending most of its time and effort complaining to the referee, who wasn’t doing that bad of a job actually. The ref was on top of things, refusing to blow the whistle on plays that looked like a player was just looking for a call, even a little bit.
But this team spends far much too much time campaigning for calls. Play the damn game, stop squawking at the refs and – get this – you’ll actually get more of the foul calls you deserve. Trust me.
At the half, KC had 73% of the possession, but just one more shot on goal than Houston. How many had Houston tallied, you ask? Just one.
That’s the definition of false hustle – ineffective possession that is predictable and not dangerous in any way. But KC boss Peter Vermes had an entirely different- and surprising – take.
“What can I say, I think it was, in the three years that I’ve been coaching the team,the best performance we had in 90 minutes,” Vermes said. “We absolutely dominated the game. Guys played with incredible, incredible concentration and organization. I thought Uri (Rosell) and (Peterson) Joseph were outstanding. The way they moved the ball from side to side, I though they were just tremendous, I thought it was just a complete game, other than getting a second goal…”
First off, that was not the best performance in the last three years.
Not even close. It just wasn’t. But let’s play along, assuming it was. What message does that send to the rest of the team, when two guys that have barely played (Uri and PJ) come in for the biggest game of the season, and that ends up being the best game in 3 years?
What does that say about Vermes’ coaching decisions all season long?
Second, Rosell and Joseph were able to knock the ball back and forth so easily because Houston sat all their guys in deep. The Dynamo WANTED Sporting to knock the ball back and forth in the back and midfield, so long as that meant there were no penetrating passes or runs. The visitors dictated the flow of the game and relegated possession on purpose.
And it worked.
As the second half minutes piled up, the tension grew. Just one goal from Sporting is all that was needed to turn this nightmare into a lucid dream, the kind where you can see energy bouncing off of walls and if you run fast enough your feet lift off the ground.
Just one goal to give hope to the singers and chanters and drum beaters.
One goal and we’ll tear this place down.
And then… Kei holding up the middle, Zusi with a cross, Sinovic?.. yes, Seth Sinovic with the diving header far bar and into the back of the net, breathing life into these boys in blue.
The Cauldron erupted in confetti and drums.
With renewed adrenaline, KC almost notched the equalizer a few moments later when Sapong beat Tally Hall to a low cross but put the one timer over the bar.
The last 20 minutes was a frenetic flurry for Sporting. They sent in cross after cross, cracked a few longer shots, and possessed the ball in the final third relentlessly.
But the equalizing goal never came. And Sporting Kansas City’s season ended at the hands of Houston again.
“I think we showed we’re the better team,” commented Sapong afterwards. “But things happen that you can’t explain.”
No, not really.
All photos by Alex Jinks: http://creativephotoskc.com/