After playing twice on the road already, Sporting Kansas City hosted its home opener on Saturday at Sporting Park.
It still feels weird to say it without “LIVESTRONG,” and players and coaches still frequently slip when referring to their home field. But make no mistake, the organization wants to put as much distance between themselves and Lance Armstrong as possible – and yes, they did take the yellow chair out of the Victory Suite.
Unfortunately, though, no victory was to be had on a chilly afternoon in KCK, as the Chicago Fire came in and were content to pack it in and hope for a draw. Which I suppose isn’t all that surprising given that Chicago has yet to score a goal this season.
It’s the same tactic that teams have been using against Peter Vermes‘ squads for almost two seasons now, and it works in part because KC has trouble scoring goals. For some reason, rather than reacting and adjusting, Vermes seems to get more and more frustrated when teams do this.
“There’s nothing you can do when a team drops nine guys within a 24-yard space,” Vermes said after the game.
That’s just not true.
There’s a lot you can do. Teams wouldn’t be able to do this if KC had any consistent goal-scoring threat from the top of the 18.
The bottom line is a good team cannot be stopped with gimmicky formations. It’s bad teams that struggle with those tricks.
For what it’s worth, Sporting absolutely dominated possession all game long, roughly 75-25. But they only had 2 more shots on target (3) than the visitors (1).
KC still doesn’t have a guy- or combination of guys- that can receive the ball in the center of the pitch and be dangerous going toward the opponents’ goal. Almost invariably when Graham Zusi or Benny Feilhaber are in that sort of position, they are forced to play the ball wide or back, and the defense picks up on this and begins to overplay it even more. The one guy that does seem to have a knack for holding it in the middle and doing so unpredictably is Uri Rosell, but at his defensive midfield position, he’s not necessarily looking to score goals.
As the clock turned toward 90 minutes a goal seemed like a logical conclusion. In the 86th minute KC got its best chance of the day when Zusi broke free on a counter. Sapong played him back a nice 1-2 into the box but Zusi went near post and booted it into the 15th row.
A couple minutes later later the ref signaled full time, with the scoreboard left unused at 0-0.
“I mean, the other two weeks we only played well for 45 minutes each game,” explained Vermes. “So in those two weeks we had 90 minutes of good play and 90 minutes of sub par. This to me was a very good performance other than the fact that we didn’t get the goal but this is the way that we want to play.”
We heard that same sort of excuse from Vermes often last year after similar struggles to find the back of the net.
Jimmy Nielsen said what everyone knows:
“We’ve got to create a little bit more with our possession… We had 73 percent of the possession—that’s pretty good. But not scoring is not good.”