Sporting Kansas City fell to Independiente de la Chorrera, 2-1, in Panama on Wednesday night. CAI took the lead in the first half before Ilie Sanchez tied the game from the penalty spot. Alexis Corpas got the winner in the 59th minute on a gorgeous long-range blast.
Matt Doyle and Bobby Warshaw discuss the match befow.
BW: My analysis is simple.
Independiente are a good team. The field was bad. SKC did well to survive. Returning to Kansas City within a goal (plus an away goal) is a job well done. I think part of MLS taking a step in Concacaf Champions League is collectively understanding the challenge at hand, and how to manage that challenge.
MD: I love Independiente. They are under no illusions as to what their strengths are, and do not try to play jogo bonito. They just try to murder you with speed – and a bit of skill from Juan Gonzalez, Omar Browne and Romeesh Ivey – and they are very good at it.
The weird thing, though, is that they’re not just a sit-and-counter team. They actually draw a fairly high line of confrontation at times, and gave SKC plenty of room to pass around and through them. Sporting couldn’t do it, and I’m not sure if that was fatigue (Ilie and Roger Espinoza looked dead), the field, or fear of that speed. Or some combination of all of them.
BW: Spot on about CAI. I don’t think we can ignore the hard, bouncy playing surface, though. Sporting have shown they want to pass through teams. In possession, every centimeter that the ball moves matters -- the distance of the preparation touch, the bounce of the ball on a delivery, the surface of the foot the ball meets. Every touch leads to the next touch, so any single mis-control messes up the chain. The ability to perfect those centimeters separates players; Xavi was Xavi because he could control the minutiae better than anyone else. When you step onto an unfamiliar artificial surface, it’s more difficult to maintain control.
I was surprised to see Sporting try to pass as much as they did. They approached the game in the same way they did the Toluca games on natural grass. I expected to see SKC circa 2013, getting the ball into the attacking third and then pressing. I respect Peter Vermes’ desire to stick to his present style, but it was a tough day to do it. I spent the entire game asking myself, “How would I play if I were to manage an MLS team playing on the road in CCL?”
MD: In general I think I’d try to play like Independiente did – ruthlessly pragmatic. I don’t really blame Vermes for being dogmatic in his tactics, though, because in the end I don’t think that’s what killed his team. What killed his team were their dead legs because of last week’s lack of rotation.
It is readily apparent on both goals, but especially the first, that neither Ilie nor Roger were able to, you know, move:
¡GOOOL! Romeesh logra la anotación esta vez y pone el marcador a favor del local en la ida de cuartos de final de #SCCL2019. Estamos @CAIPanama 1 - 0 @SportingKC al medio tiempo #CAIvSKC pic.twitter.com/rUITtF1ftE— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) March 7, 2019
That clip picks up just after Ilie has been left for dead in midfield, and you can see the two of them sort of hobbling behind the play. Going 90 in Toluca, and then 90 in LA, and then 90 in Panama…
Honestly, now that I think about it like that, 2-1’s not a bad result. But Vermes has to rest those two guys and Matt Besler this weekend.
BW: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If they had sat starters against LAFC last weekend and lost, and SKC were to lose out on the Supporters’ Shield by two points, then they would have nightmares about that, too. That brings us back to the original point; being an elite team that plays for multiple trophies is extremely difficult. You can’t try to win every battle. You need to learn how to manage certain situations, and when to stay up to give yourself a chance to fight back.
Sporting weren’t great tonight. But they were good enough to be able to win the tie in Kansas City. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
MD: (I don’t actually think they were good enough but that’s fine, I’ll let you have the last word, Bobby.)