Sporting KC came out flat for the second straight game, but this time were unable to overcome the deficit, falling 2-1 at Toronto FC.
And once again, MLS best defense in 2012 looked shaky at best; slow and confused to be more accurate. In the 3rd minute Matt Besler played a horrific ball across the top of his own penalty area intended for Aurelien Collin, but Collin was slow to react. Toronto striker Robert Earnshaw snagged the careless ball and finished the gift easily. Jimmy Nielsen looked at his central defenders with his palms up.
“We were not ready to battle; we were not ready to fight,” said Nielsen. “That surprised me a lot because that is what we talked about just before we went on the field.”
Indeed, the first half saw KC play about as bad as they can. Fifteen minutes later, Earnshaw put number two on the board after a questionable penalty kick call.
At halftime I expected KC boss Peter Vermes to put some boots to asses, because the first half effort was extremely disappointing, especially considering that Toronto is expected to finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
He subbed out Bobby Convey in favor of CJ Sapong, which could have occurred before half time actually, given how nonexistent Convey’s impact on the game was.
“We definitely needed to change something,” Vermes explained. “I don’t know if whether it was a change for a different mentality or it was the difference in the way everyone was playing, but it wasn’t just one guy.”
No, it wasn’t just one guy. I mean, Convey wasn’t the one who gave the ball away in the back allowing TFC’s first goal. But Convey has been an absolute ghost on the field in the first two games. I wish I could say I’d be surprised if he gets another start, but for some reason Vermes trots him out there when he has an absolute beast on the bench in Sapong.
In the second half Sapong was easily the best player on the pitch, drawing lots of attention from Toronto defenders and drawing a few free kicks in dangerous positions.
And Sporting certainly possessed much more in the second frame, but a lot of that was due to Toronto bunkering in with their two goal lead. If TFC had continued pressing like they did in the first half, I doubt KC would have seen as much of the ball in the second half.
Plus, even though they won possession in the second half and seemed to dictate the flow of the game, Sporting still only got a single shot on target all night.
And that was the goal by KC’s new DP Claudio Bieler in the 77th minute. But that turned out to be too little too late. It was set up by Sapong, when he won a header in midfield and flicked it on to the streaking Bieler who finished a nice half volley.
Unfortunately, no one watching the KC broadcast saw the goal until several minutes later, because they were replaying a play from a few minutes earlier at the time. For some reason that seems to happen more frequently than you’d hope.
KC now has a week to stew on things before their home opener this Saturday against Chicago. No doubt the boys won’t show up flat for this one, but hopefully we’ll see some lineup changes as well. My votes are for Sapong in place of Convey and Peterson Jospeh for Paulo Nagamura.
“I hope that will be a lesson for us, everybody would have that in their minds, what to do and what not to do,” said Nielsen. “We gave it away in the first half with a very, very unacceptable and sloppy 45 minutes…”