0-0 draw on Saturday evening against Toronto FC (2-5-7, 13 points) at BMO Field
Ninth in the Eastern Conference and last overall on six points (1-6-3) with 24 games remaining
Three things to take away…
1) Calling the match tedious may be an understatement, but the result was right for SKC.
At times Saturday’s game was barely watchable, but Sporting Kansas City aren’t at a juncture where they can afford to play the game beautifully at the expense of getting results. In the finale of their 10-game, season-opening road trip, Kansas City took care of business. They got a result — their third in three-consecutive games in all competitions — and a shutout, boosting their confidence on the defensive side of the ball and setting themselves up for a home-heavy final two-thirds of the season.
Sure, it would have been nice to walk away with three points and a much-needed victory against a TFC side prime for the taking, but Sporting are in no condition to complain about a road draw.
2) After some porous defensive play early on, Vermes seems to finally have his back line on the same page.
Kansas City gave up an astounding 17 goals in their first seven league games this season, so it didn’t exactly take Scooby Doo and the gang to figure out why the team got off to a 1-5-1 start. For the most part, it wasn’t that Sporting’s back line was completely inept or that the players who made up the unit lacked the necessary requirements to perform at a high level. They simply made mistake after crippling mistake, torpedoing any chance the team had for sustained road success through self-induced errors.
The past four games have shown that Vermes’ side seems to have left some of that behind them, most recently by shutting out the Reds. Including a US Open Cup victory against New England, Kansas City have allowed just two goals in their last four games to go 1-1-2 during that stretch. Of course, both of those goals were the result of head-scratching mistakes, but baby steps will do at this point.
3) Sporting are coming home with an opportunity to make their poor start close to a moot point.
Well, not entirely moot, but probably not season defining either. There’s no doubt that Kansas City would have preferred to take more than six points from 30 to start the season, but MLS teams already face long odds as it is without having to play 10 away games in a row. Back at home for 17 of their final 24 games, Sporting have the luxury of already being road-tested as well as the obvious benefits of playing on their own turf for the majority of their remaining games.
What they do with that advantage will be the real story of 2011. If Kansas City can turn LIVESTRONG Sporting Park into a fortress, they’ll have a decent chance of climbing out of the basement to make the playoffs. If not, it will be a long season in year one of their new moniker and venue.
Two players who stood out…
Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg
No Jimmy Nielsen? No problem for Sporting KC. After paying his dues and honing his craft in the shadows for the past five seasons, Kronberg has developed into a starting-caliber MLS goalkeeper with the full confidence of his manager. With Nielsen hospitalized with an illness and unable to make the trip to Toronto, Kronberg made his second start of the season and registered the club’s first league shutout of the year. And it should be no surprise that he owns the other two — both in the Open Cup — as well. Should Nielsen find himself out for an extended period of time, there will be no reason panic in Kansas City.
Defender Chance Myers
Myers’ versatility is quickly becoming an invaluable asset for Kansas City. Though he has lit up the reserve league and Open Cup bracket at right forward, scoring five goals combined in those competitions, both of the UCLA product’s starts in league play have come at right back. With Seth Sinovic out nursing a hamstring strain, Myers slotted in at right back against TFC while Michael Harrington assumed duties on the left.
He wasn’t perfect by any means, but Myers showed plenty of glimpses of his potential mixed in with some signs that he isn’t quite there yet. He overlapped effectively with Ryan Smith but often misplaced the final pass, and he defended admirably thanks to his speed and awareness but was undone at times by a tendency to foul. Despite the ups and downs, it was a thoroughly positive showing for a player who appears to be moving in the right direction after a few aimless years.
One play that changed the game…
In a game devoid of compelling play, it’s the plays that weren’t made that truly altered the course of the match. Most glaring were the splitting runs made by Omar Bravo that either weren’t recognized in time or went unnoticed altogether.
Bravo, whose movement off the ball has been fantastic even in limited time, could have found himself alone with Stefan Frei multiple times had his teammates been on the same page. The most notable instance came with Bravo camped on the back shoulder of the TFC defense only for Teal Bunbury to hold onto the ball a second too long, eliciting an offside flag and negating what would have been a magnificent opportunity for Sporting to steal all three points.
Job done. Kansas City simply wanted to finish their road trip with a positive result, whether that was a draw or a victory. And make no mistake, Vermes will surely take this result, as mind-numbing as it was at times, after two months of what seemed like constant heartbreak.
Thursday against the Chicago Fire (1-4-7) at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. As far as opportunities go, it doesn’t get much better for Kansas City. Chicago are one of three teams — Sporting KC included — that have just one victory on the season. On the night that LSP opens its doors for the first time, an occasion that will sum up the organizations efforts over the past five years, a victory is not just expected, it’s almost a requirement.
Luckily, the Fire are going through some turmoil of their own as Frank Klopas takes the reins from Carlos de los Cobos and attempts to right the ship. Sporting will hope they can add to Chicago’s troubles and deliver an inspired performance in front of their home fans in the first home match of the year.