It’s no secret that a couple games in Sporting Kansas City’s young season have been less than entertaining affairs – especially several 0-0 draws.
Wednesday night’s match up against the New York Red Bulls, however, was packed with entertainment value. Aurelien Collin was crushing dudes, Thierry Henry was causing problems over the top of KC’s defense, Jimmy Nielsen showed why he’s the best keeper in MLS, Graham Zusi was skipping through defenders and swerving crosses into the box, and New York unluckily came just inches shy of equalizing several times.
This was a fun game to watch.
Collin opened things up in the 13th minute when he muscled his way through a defender to the near post, heading in a Zusi corner. His goal would end up standing as the winner, though both squads had multiple other good chances. Including a Henry breakaway in the second half that he scuffed and hit wide of the post – a shot that the Frenchman has finished hundreds of times in his illustrious career.
“Sometimes he’s a very unexpected player so it’s very hard to defend against him,” said Collin of facing fellow countryman Henry. “We have to stay very focused, he had a couple of opportunities he could have scored so we are kind of blessed or lucky but we are very happy with the result… It’s always a big challenge to play against him, he has become a friend too so it’s very hard to put everything apart, like the respect and the friendship and go one on one but at the end it’s a striker against a defender.”
Though KC’s back line needed a bit of luck to hold on to the clean sheet, you know things are clicking when KC boss Peter Vermes has a response like this; asked if he remembers the last time his team conceded a goal, he answered:
“I don’t but it only means one thing. It means that if we score and we don’t give anything up we got three points and at the end of the day that’s the most important aspect of it.”
For the record, it was March 9th against Toronto FC – five straight shutouts ago.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a lot easier to be a goalkeeper when you’re facing shots all the time and there’s a lot of action because you’re in the game but you got to find another way to keep yourself in the game,” explained Nielsen afterwards. “I think we have to pay attention to having a solid defense, you know just not so much about the shutout but it gives us the opportunity to win games with only scoring one goal or at least get a point…In my opinion I don’t care if we win 1-0 or 2-1.”
Towards the end of the game things really got chippy, with KC delaying and wasting time, faking injuries, and in general just trying to get to the final whistle. At one point, when Nielsen was slow to pick up the ball for a goal kick, a frustrated Juninho took matters into his own hands and fired the ball at Nielsen. The ball hit the KC keeper in the chest and hand, and Nielsen went down in a pile of agony. The ref didn’t hesitate to show the red card to the Brazilian, which was proper, but certainly Jimmy was no worse for the wear.
Vermes shrugged off the criticism that his squad was embellishing.
“Look we were trying to get the ball on the corner and we’re trying to slow the game down obviously at the very end.”
Personally, I think the extent of the “gamesmanship” Sporting displayed at the end was classless. I hope Vermes sets his team straight in that regard.
The win puts Sporting atop the Eastern Conference with 14 points, one up on Montreal and two ahead of Houston. The boys in blue have a quick turnaround, heading to LA this Saturday for a match against the Galaxy.