It was a hot and humid early evening game at Sporting Park, pitting #1 vs. #2 in the Eastern Conference.
And my god, the record breaking crowd was amped.
The pre-match videos are getting out of control. There was a video touting KC as an All Star host, a 3 minute commercial that felt like a sitcom to sell season tickets, fireworks exploding, bass thumping. I know it’s been said over and over, but to think of the atmosphere just a few short years ago at Community America Park compared with what goes down every week at Sporting Park is absolute night and day.
In fact, this was probably the most pumped crowd I’ve seen to date – more so than the US Open Cup Final last year, more than the playoff game. Everyone seemed buoyed by all the All Star game mojo, and the sold out stadium was going nuts for at least 30 minutes before the game.
Once the whistle blew, KC seemed a bit too hyped up by the crowd, they needed to settle down a bit and be patient. Having Graham Zusi in the lineup probably would have helped with that, but he was out with a quad strain.
KC finally did settle in around the 10 minute mark, and created a couple of decent chances. Especially in the 12th minute when Aurelien Collin played a long diagonal ball to Kei Kamara, who made a nice move to lay it in front of Soony Saad, who one timed the shot right at the New York Red Bulls’ keeper.
A minute later Jimmy Nielsen earned his paycheck with an inspired save off a point blank shot after a Thierry Henry through ball. World class there.
In the 27th minute, against the run of play, the Red Bulls’ Jonny Steele (not a porn name) broke through and scored a breakaway goal, beating the White Puma near post which doesn’t happen all too often to put the visitors up 1-0.
But the boys in blue continued to dominate, and they evened things in the 44th minute after a ton of possession in New York’s third. The crucial ball was spun into the box by Chance Myers and directed on goal by Soony, but the keeper got a hand on it and Kei tapped in the point blank rebound.
Yep, it was typical Peter Vermes soccer when Sporting went to the locker room tied 1-1, while taking 15 shots to New York’s 2.
“We had so many chances in the first half we need to score,” explained Vermes. “The bottom line is we need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
The second half was more of the same, with Claudio Bieler doing all the dirty work, tracking, winning back balls in the attacking third, just playing his nuts off.
Nevertheless, in the 62nd minute New York regained the lead after the linesman missed a rather routine offside call, putting through Red Bulls striker Fabian Espindola 1 on 1 with the Puma. He notched the ball into the far post netting to give the visitors the 2-1 edge.
Then the visitors did it again a few minutes later, with another controversial no-call from the linesman. This time it was end to end in about 5 seconds, started by a long throw from New York keeper Luis Robles. It was a great throw to start the break, but KC’s back line was also caught napping and was in no way ready for the quick counter.
“What I would say is, in a nutshell, my apologies to the fans because we gave up three horrendous goals, two of which were on the counter,” said Vermes. “After looking at the second goal, I have a pretty good idea that it was offside, but we should never be in those positions in the first place.”
At this point, the game was pretty much over. The standing room only crowd that an hour ago was ready to explode fell silent. People started filing out. The shots were at 22 for KC to 6 for the Red Bulls.
And just like that, the pre-game afterglow of the All Star game was gone with an uninspired and unintelligent game from KC.
To their credit, they did claw back to 3-2 as Dom Dwyer scored his first MLS goal in added time. But it was too little too late.
The closing couple minutes after that got nutty with KC pumping the ball into the box, an injury that saw New York’s Kosuke Kimura taken off on a stretcher, and NY’s coach getting ejected.
Exciting to watch from a pure entertainment aspect? You bet. But also very disappointing if you’re a Sporting fan.
“There were too many good chances there for us not to score and our desire in the second half to close that game out was not of Sporting level,” said an obviously frustrated Vermes. “The guys are going to feel this one; they’re going to feel it from me.”