I watched and rewatched and rewatched the FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City game and my reaction has been the same after the game was over. I was very confused as to what exactly happened. Questionable calls by referee Mark Geiger were buried with confusion and, for better or worse, created the exciting/heartbreaking finish. Penalties, own goals, red cards and questionable subs all played a role in the 2-2 draw.
In the 42nd minute, Geiger called for a penalty kick for something he apparently saw in the box. To know how bad the call was, a lot of people didn’t know what the call was for. Some said it was for a handball and others for Aurelien Collin getting fouled. The Collin foul is more plausible but that is a weak call for a penalty. I have seen far worse happen in the box that doesn’t get called and wouldn’t even be considered to be called. Nevertheless, Kei Kamara converted the penalty and Sporting was up 1-0. Add in an own goal off a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 57th minute and Sporting is up 2-0 in a game that, quite honestly, Dallas deserved to be leading.
Then came the turning point of the game and which leads to questionable call #2. Andrew Jacobsen was down on the ground with what seemed like a legitimate knock. If you’re down two goals, you’re not going to be time wasting faking an injury. The ball was rolling rather fast towards Jacobsen from an unknown source. It actually looked like the ball was coming from a Dallas player. Anyway, CJ Sapong saw that the ball is going toward Jacobsen and speeds up to try and stop the ball from hitting him. He caused the ball to change direction but the ball still hit Jacobsen. Geiger, who has his back turned on the entire thing, gives Sapong a red card. I have so many issues with this call. One, I found it hard to believe that Sapong is going to be dirty and kick the ball towards an injured player to get him to speed up when Sporting is up 2-0. Take all the time you want being on the ground in that situation. And it wasn’t like Sapong had a history of this; this was his first red card of his MLS career. Two, the entire play happened behind Geiger’s back, so unless he has eyes behind his back (trust me, he doesn’t), he couldn’t 100% prove it was Sapong who touched the ball. All he’s doing is assuming and we all know about that saying. So even if a red card was the right call, Geiger made an educated guess on the call, which kind of explains his refereeing style in all his other games. Three, I didn’t see intent with CJ to warrant a red card. I did see intent with David Beckham last year when he passed the ball directly at a San Jose player last year. Did Beckham get a red card? Yeah, right, like David Beckham is getting a red card. No, Beckham just got a yellow card. All in all, that sequence showed me that sportsmanship in pro sports is out the window. I’m all for sportsmanship and all but I’m sure that if this situation happens again, Sapong will get as far away as possible from the ball and just let the ball hit the player on the ground.
The Sapong red led to some questionable moves by Sporting KC this time. About five minutes after the red card, Teal Bunbury entered the game for Claudio Bieler. A team has to protect a two goal lead and down to ten men and you sub one striker for another. I know Peter Vermes loves attacking and not parking the bus and I love attacking and not parking the bus but those final 20 minutes where you have to play a man down is probably one of those moments that you want to go defensive. As if the Bunbury/Bieler substitution wasn’t surprising enough, the next sub was completely baffling. Jacob Peterson, a forward, entered the game for Oriol Rosell, a defensive midfielder. Again, have to protect a two goal lead here and Vermes was playing it like Sporting was down by two goals rather than ahead by two goals. About 45 seconds after the final sub, Dallas scored to make it 2-1 and two minutes after that, scored again to tie it up 2-2 and that ended the game. This sort of thing happens a lot where Sporting blows multiple goal leads around stoppage time that I’ve lost count at this point. In the end, Sporting is probably lucky to walk away with a draw because Dallas really was the better team, but the journey of how they got there was very disheartening to the Sporting KC fans.
There is no doubt that this hasn’t been a great stretch of games for Sporting Kansas City. They haven’t won an MLS game since May 12 and seem to be stagnating in the standings. They’re 4th in the Eastern Conference and have had a steady downfall in the past month and a half. While it isn’t exactly sunny in Kansas City and some fans are growing restless, it’s still good to know that the ownership group will not stand for the recent struggles. Robb Heineman and the other owners love winning and hate losing as much as the fans so rest assured that changes will be made as necessary. As much as fans don’t necessarily like the recent results, there aren’t too many who have lost faith in the team. It’s times like these where the Sporting KC fans have to prove they’re the best in the league. It’s easy to cheer for the team when they’re winning but it’s when the team is losing that will test someone’s fandom. As long as the fans are still there and still have the faith, Sporting will get through this and pump out some wins in the near future.
(image courtesy of USA Today Images)