Sporting Kansas City opened their season as defending MLS Champions. The team who were perennial losers in almost all facets both on the field and in the front office is now transformed into the winners you see today. The team who was just looking for respect now has that and will have the distinction of having the target on them from the other 18 MLS teams this season. First opponent is a trip to Seattle to face the Sounders. It clearly isn’t an easy start for the Champions and Seattle was focused to get their season off to a great start after underwhelming at the end of last season.
Seeing that Sporting KC will need to play five games in the next two weeks, manager Peter Vermes has to be creative with his lineups because he can’t put the Starting XI out there for all five games. Instead of Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic, who are dealing with minor injuries, Kevin Ellis and Josh Gardner filled in at right and left back respectively. Lawrence Olum started at defensive midfielder instead of Oriol Rosell and Graham Zusi went back to be a midfielder to give Paulo Nagamura the game off as CJ Sapong and Jacob Peterson filled the sides of the forwards. This wasn’t the “A” squad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s still a good squad and can compete but this shows that Sporting is serious about taking on one of the best Mexican teams currently playing in Cruz Azul and focusing on doing damage in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night.
Sporting KC definitely had their opportunities to take the lead. A deflection off of Stefan Frei in the first couple minutes almost resulted in the first goal. Seattle also had some opportunities as well and resulted in a wide-open game. The first yellow card was given to the player who everyone expected to receive a yellow, Aurelien Collin in the 16th minute. MLS was really back after seeing that. Sporting squandered a very important chance to take the lead in the 33rd minute. Dom Dwyer had three Sounders players around him as he decided to take a shot on goal. It wasn’t the best shot in the world and resulted in a Frei punchout. Jacob Peterson was wide open and a simple pass would’ve created a wide open chance at the goal. I love Dwyer because he feels he has the confidence to take a shot like that thinking he can score but you also have to be aware for those kinds of scoring chances.
With all the talk about replacement referees last week and how that would affect play, I thought the refs in this game and as a whole over the weekend were alright. The replacement refs seemed hesitant to call most things in regards of red cards and penalty kicks but the mistakes these refs made would’ve been the same mistakes the actual MLS refs could’ve made so it seems like a non issue for this week at least.
Stoppage time in a Seattle/KC game has been a nightmare for SKC. Five of the eight games resulted in Seattle scoring late in stoppage time at the end of the game to defeat Sporting KC. This would be more of the same and Seattle made it six of nine by scoring with about 15 seconds left in the four minutes of stoppage time. It was definitely a garbage goal but goals like that still count the same. A nice cross got the ball in the box and got Eric Kronberg to make the mistake to leave his position. An attempt at goal hit the crossbar fell to Seattle again to make weak contact but Chad Barrett gave it just enough power for the ball to go into the net. It wasn’t beautiful but Seattle got three points as a result and they earned the win.
If you were to tell me before the game that Sporting Kansas City was going to lose 1-0 on the road to the Seattle Sounders and Sporting had the “B” squad out there, I wouldn’t have been shocked at the result. Sure a draw, or even a win, is nice but you have to be realistic especially with Cruz Azul on Wednesday. I’m upset with how they lost because I have seen them lose like that to Seattle many, many times and it’s never a great feeling. In the end, people need to realize that it’s only March, it’s a long season and Seattle is a great team. There are 33 more games left and there are many more chances to get points. Let’s not jump off the deep end and suggest widespread changes to the squad. I said it last year many times and I will say it many times this year, I would rather see Sporting struggle at any point between now and September rather than see them struggle in November and December when it counts. That’s what happened to Seattle last year and that’s why Sporting has the MLS Cup and Seattle doesn’t.
(image courtesy of Steven Bisig)