The perfect setup for Cinco de Mayo was at Sporting Park Sunday afternoon, as the boys in blue welcomed Chivas USA for a festive match-up.
Tequila? Check. Sombrero? Check. Street tacos in the parking lot? Check. Massive beat down? Uh, double check.
Remember, Chivas USA is under the same umbrella as Chivas Guadalajara, the Mexican first division team. And the organization has made no bones about their preference for Mexican and Latino players over all others, so this game on May 5th in KCK was nothing short of a fiesta – for Sporting KC, that is.
“Today, we broke that team,” said KC boss Peter Vermes after his squad hammered the visiting Goats, 4-0. And that’s not just bravado.
Chivas head coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola basically agreed, offering buckets of praise for KC along the way: “They don’t score goals because of good luck, they score goals because they are a great institution with great fans, a great stadium and we are very far off from competing with a team like Sporting KC. Maybe we can compete with other teams in the league but not Sporting.”
KC was re-energized and relentless from minute one after looking slow and predictable last week in their loss to Portland. With 3 games in about 8 days, Vermes tweaked the lineup, choosing to rest Matt Besler and Chance Myers in favor of Ike Opara and Mechak Jerome, who both performed well. Peterson Joseph also got the nod in place of Benny Feilhaber in the middle, and Jacob Peterson made his season debut after returning from injury, filling in at CJ Sapong‘s normal wing spot.
Graham Zusi looked fresh, trotting up and down the line and turning defenders inside out with his close control. He was easily the best player on the pitch, and proved it toward the end of the first half when he played a nice weighted ball in behind to Claudio Bieler. Bieler received the ball around 16 yards out as Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy came off his line, perhaps a bit prematurely. El Taca feinted with his right, cut it to his left, then passed an easy side footer into the net.
“I saw the keeper come out fast, and my first thought was to cut it back and try to slip it in,” Bieler explained. “I actually almost missed the ball. You could see how slow the ball went into the goal.”
Then in the early moments of the second half, Kennedy was shown red after coming out on a Nagamura breakaway and clipping the Sporting midfielder. The replays showed that Nags certainly made the most of the minimal contact, but in real time it looked fairly convincing so the decision was an easy one for the ref. Bieler buried the ensuing penalty, and from that point Chivas had no hope left.
“I know it’s a professional sport, but I felt kind of bad for them,” said Jimmy Nielsen, who didn’t have to make a single save in the game. “We were just playing the ball around and they were just running and running and running, but we never took the game for granted. We played a very smart game with a professional attitude.”
Damn Jimmy that’s some cold shit. How does that taste, Chivas?
As the game wound down to the end, KC was simply buzzing around the pitch, while Chivas prayed for the merciful whistle. Zusi added another goal to the tally – a nice volley that roofed the net – as did Sapong, who notched his first of the season (finally!).
“We willed that to happen tonight,” Vermes said. “We imposed our game on them. We went out there and took it. We didn’t wait to see something happen. That was the difference between this game and last game.”
With a brutally quick turnaround, KC next faces the visiting Seattle Sounders on Wednesday at Sporting Park.