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Tactically Speaking: Why Sporting KC Continue To Struggle To Score

A stoppage time header gave Seattle Sounders the full three points in a relatively uneventful match.


Sporting Kansas City slightly tweaked the usual 4-3-3 into a 4-2-3-1. It looked very similar to what I called for last week. The difference is that the holding midfield slots were held by Craig Rocastle and Davy Arnaud instead of the Stephane Auvray/Rocastle partnership that I had hoped for.  Omar Bravo made his first start since the Chicago game, with Ryan Smith making his first start of the season. Matt Besler was subbed in for Julio Cesar.

The Sounders came out aggressive with what looked to be a 4-1-3-2. Roger Levesque held the front line with Fredy Montero floating off of him looking to get into space. Mauro Rosales controlled the tempo from an attacking midfield position and routinely made runs to the wing. Alvaro Fernandez floated to the center of the pitch while Tyson Wahl gave width down the flank. 

Some thoughts on how things turned out, after the jump. And, we try like crazy to solve Sporting KC's scoring problems, too.

First Half

Throughout the first half, Seattle pressed into Sporting KC territory. They attempted to run through Rosales while in possession and hit balls into space for Montero when on the break. Kansas City lacked the ball winning defensive midfielder to break up Seattle's play, but they did a very nice job of staying compact. Kei Kamara, who is turning into a Dirk Kuyt workhorse of sorts, did a very nice job of tracking back to pick up Fernandez.

The Sounders were most dangerous when Rosales linked up with Servando Carrasco on the right flank. One of these led to the best open play scoring chances when Alvaro Fernandez got onto a Rosales cross but was unable to hit the target.

Second Half

While starved of service in the first half, Ryan Smith started to get involved into the game. Sporting Kansas City looked most threatening while he was on the ball.

Kansas City started to press higher up the pitch. The pressure that the SKC front line put on Seattle allowed for some cheap turnovers which led to Kansas City gaining possession for a decent chunk of the half. However, the team attempted too many lobbed balls and failed crosses that were easily dealt with.  There seemed to be a brick wall at Sounders 18 yard box.

The majority of the game took place in the middle of the park with both Jimmy Nielsen and Kasey Keller having little to do. As we know, Jeff Parke headed in the go ahead goal off of a Tyson Wahl corner in stoppage time. The result was very harsh for Sporting KC as neither team looked deserving of three points. 

Kansas City Offensive Concerns

Sporting Kansas City lack the type of player that can unlock a team once they have gained possession. Their passing is subpar, aren't great technically (sans Bravo and Smith) and their decision making is foggy. While successful teams play quick precise passes, Kansas City have gotten into the poor habit of taking too long on the ball, then settling for square or long balls.

In a two man holding midfield situation, one needs to be a quality passer. He has to be the link, or pivot between the defense and attack. Arnaud is not that guy as he is not creative enough. Craig Rocastle could be an answer, but when he is supposed to be the ball winner like he was Saturday night, his passing ability is hampered a bit.   

Kei Kamara is not a midfielder. He is effective when he is in the box to finish chances with quality service but he struggles when he has to be part of the buildup. There were several instances against Seattle where he killed off a counter because he lacked confidence in his passing ability and chose to slow down play.

This leads Teal Bunbury's struggles. He has been absolutely starved of service. He has not shown to be the type of forward who can hold up long balls. He wants the ball put into space or to his feet.  Bunbury has shown that he can finish when he gets the ball around the box, which did not happen Saturday night. He took zero shots. To fail to give your lone striker the ball in a position to take a single shot is not acceptable.

I see this being a problem at least for the near future. We will see what kinds of changes are made during the summer, but as it stands, the team has too many similar players. They are being thrown onto the field and told to play, even if their skill sets do not necessarily match the position. It might be time for some to move on or get replaced by new faces. I’d like to see Vermes continue to use this 4-2-3-1, as I believe it is the team’s best., but I believe the Rocastle/Auvray combo will be needed to have any consistent success. My hope is that once Ryan Smith and Omar Bravo regain their form, the creative burden will be lifted a bit. 

Even though there is negativity about the offense, there are positives to take out of the game. The defense looked as good as it has all year. Seattle did not have a legitimate scoring chance for over 90 minutes. They had some half chances, but they were taken care of. The work rate from Kamara, Rocastle and Arnaud was outstanding and the backline did not get caught out of position. This game should give Peter Vermes confidence in the Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin pairing. They were outstanding all game.

You can reach me on Twitter @Justin_TDW