Damn the field looked good, perfect, green and lush – especially when compared to that travesty that they put down in Seattle the night before, for the US-Panama World Cup qualifier.
But there wasn’t much time to think about things like that, or the great Wednesday night crowd. In just the 2nd minute off a Paulo Nagamura giveaway in Sporting KC‘s defensive third, Orlando City broke toward goal and put a ball into the side netting. So, 1-0 Orlando. Just like that.
Then in the 11th minute KC easily could have been down a devastating 2-0 when Orlando was called for a questionable offside that saw them three on one with backup keeper Eric Kronberg.
KC rolled the dice again in the 33rd minute, when Orlando missed a point blank opportunity with Kronberg forced to come out.
Starting to see a pattern here?
Orlando was the better team – especially so in the first half – which actually wasn’t saying all that much on a night that KC looked disinterested and slow. Sure, it’s the first game the boys in blue have played in any kind of heat, so that does take a toll. But the performance they put up was embarrassing. No other word for it.
So I guess it didn’t really matter that Sporting brass forbade Orlando from playing several of the KC players that are on loan with the lower-tier club. If Dom Dwyer had suited up for the Lions, would it have been 3-0? Or worse?
Matching the lackluster play on the pitch was Peter Vermes‘ coaching strategy, if you want to call it that. Why was CJ Sapong on the bench until midway through the second half? Why did he replace a struggling Benny Feilhaber with a more defensive player in Lawrence Olum when his team was chasing the game?
But the biggest difference between Orlando and KC, other than effort, was unpredictability – Orlando had it and KC did not. As usual, Sporting only played one way, with little creativity. It’s all crosses from the corner with no imagination.
Granted, this wasn’t KC’s best lineup with Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Kei Kamara, Peterson Joseph, and Mechak Jerome all away with their national teams. But they still had Claudio Bieler, Aurelien Collin, Uri Rosell, Jacob Peterson, Paulo Nagamura, Seth Sinovic, and Benny Feilhaber in the starting lineup. And Teal Bunbury came off the bench, playing in his first game since last summer after suffering a blown knee. That’s gotta count for something, right? Right?
No, not really. Not on this night.
“I’m not making excuses by any means,” said Vermes afterwards, signalling to everyone in the room that a big fat excuse was right around the corner. “I know that we haven’t really played in this type of heat that much because it hasn’t been hot around here. And then all of a sudden tonight it hits hard and we’re not necessarily accustomed to it.”
There it is!
“And giving that goal away breaks you, because it’s not an earned goal,” he continued. “It’s a goal that we’re sleeping on.”
How very, very Vermes.
The thing is, on this night the better team won, and that’s what’s so scary about this loss.
**All photos by Alex Jinks**