Donnelly: Sporting Come Back to Beat Philly in Season Opener

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?

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4 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting Come Back to Beat Philly in Season Opener

  1. legendaryhog says:

    Good comeback. Sporting looked pretty shite for the first 35 minutes or so. Also, what is up with the best defense in the league last year? Jimmie Nielson saved the game for Sporting. He had foot saves, point blank saves, Philly could have made it ugly for Sporting. There were at least two shots and one point blank header that I thought for sure were going into the net if not for the Puma. Seriously, Besler…where was the Matt Besler that was 2012 Sporting Kansas City’s Defensive Player of the Year, MLS Defender of the Year, Breakout Player of the Year, and MLS Best XI??? He was not looking like his fitness was up, Collin was similar. Those guys were getting burned down the middle all first half.

    Lets talk Convey….what. the. fuck? I mean I know Vermes is all about the hustle, and Convey supposedly came into camp the fittest player on the team and dropped 10 pounds this off-season, but really? Gonna start Convey over Sapong? Really? Vermes, are we enthralled by the majesty of a 150 pound super slow dude who can’t beat a defender off the dribble? Or was it his one goal per season for each of the last 4 seasons? His 12 goals in his career 181 games? I. don’t. get. it. How about you start the young, super athletic, goal-scoring beast Sapong instead? He has more goals in his first two years than Convey has in his whole career. He’s running at over 185lbs and can jump out of the gym. Now that Kie is gone, there are no Sporting goal-scorers who can get up and head the ball on goal with a defender on their ass. Obviously, Vermes realized that Convey was being ineffective, and put in Sapong, but why not start that way? Am I missing something?

    Rosell looked great, played some really awesome diagonal through balls that I have never seen Sporting attempt. Sweet long diagonals from the side of the field on the ground to the foot of a running striker. That kind of vision is usually seen in better leagues. Feilhaber looked solid. Time will tell on Bieler, but I’m glad he got a goal to kick off the season. Always good for strikers to have confidence, and nothing builds it like scoring a goal. He seems to have a pretty good motor, though he’s not a speedster. He had a great finish on that half-volley. That was a pretty difficulty ball that Myers gave him, and kudos to Myers for finding Bieler on the twelve. That was a heads-up play.

    Can’t wait for the first home game. Really liking the new additions to the team. Hope Kei comes back after the EPL is done in May (but not holding breath). What a welcome he would get.

  2. Matthew Donnelly says:

    No, you’re right that Myers actually played the ball to Bieler. I should’ve made that clear. But Zusi played the ball to Myers, and he was also awarded an assist. Apparently, sometimes MLS awards two assists on a single goal. Weird.

    I’m going to get to the bottom of this.

    • legendaryhog says:

      Weird, kinda like hockey does. After I read your article that stated it was Zusi, I was like…well I was drinking during the game, so…

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