Sporting Kansas City defend tough tactics vs. Rapids
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Gary Smith wasn’t pleased Sunday night following his team’s 2-0 defeat, and he didn’t hide his frustration with Sporting Kansas City’s physical play.
The Colorado Rapids head coach labeled the challenge that injured defender Drew Moor “absolutely ridiculous” and another that sidelined fellow defender Kosuke Kimura as “overzealous,” and likened Sporting’s physical approach to something more befitting the college game.
Sporting Kansas City, though, found Smith’s complaints a little out of place, especially when so much was at stake and only three fouls separated the two sides.
“Very rarely do I hear, from any league in the world, where the coaches come off and they talk about the physical play,” SKC head coach Peter Vermes said. “The game is physical. It’s men. I don’t know who else is playing out there other than men. As far as we’re concerned, that game is gone.”
Still, it’s easy to see why Smith was frustrated after adding three more starters to an already swollen injured list.
Along with Moor (separated shoulder) and Kimura (broken foot), Caleb Folan will miss Wednesday night’s deciding second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Livestrong Sporting Park (8 pm ET; Fox Soccer, TSN2, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com) after spraining his left ankle and knee.
Moor was injured when Teal Bunbury attempted to muscle him off the ball with a powerful shoulder-to-shoulder challenge during first-half stoppage time, and Kimura limped off in the 36th minute after Matt Besler caught a piece of his foot when he slid in and knocked the ball out for a corner kick.
Besler said the match didn’t strike him as anything out of the ordinary and emphasized that there was no intent to cause injury on Kansas City’s part.
“We’re not going to get involved in the comments and stuff like that,” Besler said. “For us, it was just a normal, hard-fought game. By no means were any of our tackles dirty. I think that was the competitive nature of a playoff game. It’s always unfortunate when guys get injured.”
And even though Smith wasn’t happy with the course of events, his players don’t all share the same sentiments.
On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens said that he didn’t consider Sunday’s contest over the top and admitted a similar style of play probably benefited the Rapids during their run to MLS Cup last season.
“I think it was about right for an MLS playoff game,” Pickens said. “[Sporting Kansas City] are pretty physical. I think that’s one of the things that helped up win last year. Our team was physical. We stopped the flow of people’s attacks, especially in the final with Dallas.”
Sporting can only hope they replicate the Rapids’ feat from last year. For now at least, they’re focusing on the task at hand with the expectation that the second leg will bring another battle.
“It was a physical game as are most games in this league,” Bunbury said. “We’re kind of over that game. We’re looking forward to Wednesday.”