The first 30 minutes of Sporting Kansas City‘s season opener at the Philadelphia Union saw the boys in blue looking disjointed and ineffective.
They struggled to possess, and the back line that was best in MLS last season was repeatedly broken by Philly’s attack. In the 17th minute Sebastian LeToux received a long ball over the top, brought it down in traffic, and pounded a point blank shot off of Jimmy Nielsen and into the net putting the Union ahead, 1-0.
“It’s their home opener, you can expect they are going to come out and try to drive the game and put us under a lot of pressure,” said KC boss Peter Vermes after the match. “And to be fair they did a good job of that, especially early on in the game.”
After a half hour of disappointing play, it seemed like something finally clicked for KC.
“The part that I liked is the fact we never panicked, we stuck to our game plan,” Vermes explained. “I talked to the guys and said the game can throw a lot of different things at us but we have to stay consistent to how we want to play and our game-plan. Credit to the guys, they did that.”
In the 41st minute, 2012 MVP runner-up Graham Zusi found a loose ball in the box and blasted a goal in to send Sporting to the locker room with some good momentum.
“I wish I had the whole net to shoot at I made myself nervous for a second there and I had to put it out over his head, but rebounds I’ll take them all day,” Zusi said.
The second half saw Sporting more on the front foot, and Zusi continued to gain confidence. In the 66th minute, Zusi swung in a nice free kick that Barcelona product Oriol Rosell flicked just enough to give the Philly keeper no chance.
“I just hit the ball and I just took the advantage of the opportunity,” Rosell explained. “Every soccer player knows that every chance they get they have to take the advantage…”
Fifteen minutes later, new Designated Player Claudio Bieler got on the board with a nice half volley finish to seal the deal. Again, Zusi was the man with the assist.
“It was really tough at the beginning but we knew that we could come around and win this game,” Bieler said. “It was hard to control the ball when I was between the both defenders but with the pressure they gave us they opened spaces and we created good chances.”
It’s obviously a great first game for Sporting, winning away from home and scoring three goals. And it was huge that both Rosell and Bieler got on the board, since they’re still adapting to MLS and will both have to come up big this season if KC is going to be a contender.
Nothing builds confidence like putting a goal in the net.
And what can you say about Zusi? All you really need to know is that he scored a goal and dished two assists.
Too early for a 2013 MVP prediction?