MLSsoccer.com will break down Sporting Kansas City’s season in three-match blocks during the 2011 MLS regular season. This is the latest of 11 quick glimpses into Sporting’s season, each of which will play a critical role in the team’s quest to return to the MLS Cup playoffs.
4-1 defeat on Saturday night against the LA Galaxy (5-2-5, 20 points) at the Home Depot Center
Ninth place in the Eastern Conference and bottom of the overall league table on four points (1-5-1)
Three things to take away…
1) Road games or not, that isn’t going to get it done.
A lot was made of Sporting’s extended road trip, and rightly so, but these sort of performances won’t result in points home or away, no matter how energizing LIVESTRONG Sporting Park proves to be. Sporting were outplayed by the Galaxy, going ahead through a fluky own goal before torpedoing that advantage with a handful of costly and untimely errors while creating just a smattering of half chances themselves the rest of the match. All told, the back line looked unorganized and unfocused, the midfield struggled to hold possession or dictate tempo and the forwards failed to connect or hold the ball. If it wasn’t already clear, manager Peter Vermes has some work to do.
2) Was what appeared to be a defensive step forward against New York just a mirage?
After what looked to be a promising performance two weeks ago in New York, minus one fleeting lapse in concentration, SKC are right back where they started defensively. Despite Sporting having the same group on the field in back-to-back games and two weeks of training to continue ironing out the kinks, LA found plenty of space to exploit.
Even more worrying than the explosion of goals was how they came about. Roger Espinoza’s ill-fated lunge on David Beckham was a lesson in what happens when the ball isn’t cleared properly. Landon Donovan’s gut punch of a go-ahead strike just after halftime was the result of a harmless throw-in combined with lots and lots of ball watching. Then, both Aurélien Collin and Júlio César were caught flat-footed on Juan Pablo Ángel’s third. Mistakes like those simply aren’t going to get it done.
3) Omar Bravo can’t get back quickly enough.
There is no denying Sporting are in a funk offensively, and their best chance to reverse that seems to be the return of Bravo to the lineup in the near future. Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong are certainly solid players with bright futures, but neither appears to be the everyday answer at left forward. Ryan Smith is dynamic, but he still isn’t 90-minute fit and may be better suited to a role as an impact substitute for now anyway. Milos Stojcev has undeniable skill but has yet to truly adapt to the MLS game or put together a full 90 minutes.
Which leaves Bravo, whose veteran leadership, vision and ability to bring a pause and element of composure to Sporting KC’s game has been sorely missed. He may be back this weekend against Seattle, but the smart money is on Vermes bringing back the Mexican slowly to maximize his impact over the entire course of the season.
Two players who stood out…
Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg
Kronberg certainly needs games to progress, but it still seemed a strange time for Sporting's long-term backup to make his second career start. No matter the circumstances, he did a good job in net, making a few impressive saves and avoiding any crippling mistakes. The reality was there just wasn’t much Kronberg could do to keep out LA’s four goals. The only one he may look back on with regret is Beckham’s free kick as he was beaten at his near post. Then again, there aren’t many goalkeepers who could have come anywhere close to that world-class strike.
Midfielder Davy Arnaud
You have to feel for Arnaud, who never stops running and battling for his team but is suffering through a trying time with the weight of the captain’s armband on his back. Arnaud hasn’t been spectacular this season, but that is no fault of his own. At this point, he is simply doing his best to plug the growing number of leaks in the dike as the mounting tide threatens to overrun Sporting’s season just seven games into 2011.
One play that changed the game…
Espinoza’s foul on Beckham leading to Donovan’s equalizer was poorly timed and entirely avoidable. But there was no excuse for conceding the all important second just 30 seconds into the second half. From there, the result was all but assured as SKC struggled to put anything together in the offensive third and LA settled down and got to work. Even more frustrating for Vermes was the fact that he made a point to emphasize the importance of the first 15 minutes of the second half at the break, only for that to go right out the window.
It just isn’t good enough. No elaboration needed. It really is as simple as that.
Saturday May 21 at the Seattle Sounders (3-3-5, 14 points). It just doesn’t get any easier, does it? After a long trip to the West Coast last weekend, Sporting head to the Pacific Northwest and into the gauntlet of Qwest Field for a crucial match against Seattle. SKC have now lost four straight, and at this point any result would be something to cheer about as the club begins the arduous process of climbing the table from the bottom up with three road games left until LIVESTRONG Sporting Park finally opens.