When Sporting Kansas City went up north of the border into Canada to face Toronto FC, SKC hadn’t lost an away game since May 31. That was also their last regular season loss. In what’s their “tough stretch” of the season due to missing Graham Zusi and Matt Besler to the World Cup and all the away games, Sporting has earned 16 of 18 points in six games and four of those games were on the road. Two of the four away wins Sporting had on the road during this stretch were a result of comeback wins after being down a man. If the month of May was hell for Sporting KC, the summer has been heaven so far.
In contrast, Toronto FC is sitting contently in 3rd in the Eastern Conference but has been rather inconsistent recently. TFC’s recent form has been littered with draws and alternating wins and losses for the past month. They aren’t even close to being the worst team in MLS but they are making people question themselves when they were all but ready to give Toronto the MLS Cup back in March.
To the game, where do I start? Let’s talk about the referees. I get tired about writing the same old thing about MLS referees. We all know they’re horrible and it’s been like this for a long time. Yeah, Mark Geiger was great at the World Cup (and he deserved praise) but even he has made some insanely bad calls in MLS. The refereeing in this game really illustrates the illusion that anyone can be a referee. I know it’s a tough job and any call a referee makes is going to be scrutinized by all sides but there is a difference between making close, judgement calls and blowing easy calls that aren’t up for debate. I had to watch the game Sunday night so I wasn’t able to watch the game live. When I see in my Twitter timeline that Sporting fans are saying that calls which are benefitting them are bad calls, they’re really bad calls. After seeing the replay, Sporting probably should’ve had a couple people sent off but the refs actually sent off the wrong person. Matt Besler does go in for a hard foul but Dominic Oduro really makes a moment of it and sure enough, theatrics cloud the judgement and Toronto got a man advantage for the last 15 minutes of the game with which they couldn’t take advantage.
Having said that, Toronto FC didn’t deserve to win the game. I’m not saying Sporting KC deserved to win the game either but Toronto had so many chances that either hit the post or went wide or wide open shots going straight to Andy Gruenebaum that it could’ve been 7-2 Toronto. Oduro kept schooling Seth Sinovic on the left side that Toronto was getting many great chances. Except for Jackson Goncalves’ brilliant finish off a terrific Oduro through ball, their finishing was atrocious. Toronto can criticize the referees all they want (and they have a case), but they also need to blame themselves for not getting the win.
Sporting KC, on the other hand, were lucky that they escaped with the three points. Just a few minutes after Besler’s second yellow, Jacob Peterson capitalized on a teed up ball in the box to put the 10 man Sporting KC team up 2-1 and take the three points. With that, Sporting got their 5th straight away win and it was the 3rd time where they had to come back to win while being down a man. Regardless if Sporting KC was helped or hurt by the referees decisions, the only thing that mattered to them was the win.
With the win, Sporting KC leads the Eastern Conference by four points and is tied for the lead in the Supporters Shield. Granted, DC United has two games in hand for the East and Seattle has three games in hand for the Supporters Shield but both teams are going to have to win those games because Sporting is on an amazing run that doesn’t look to stop anytime soon. Philadelphia Union is next on the schedule this Thursday and we know what happened the last time Philly came to KC earlier this year. If the last Philly game and this Toronto game is any indication, my analysis on this Thursday’s game is to expect the unexpected.
(image courtesy of Nathan Denette/AP)