A rowdy Buck Shaw Stadium, mixed with a spirited San Jose Earthquakes squad eyeing the playoffs proved to be too much for Sporting Kansas City Sunday night, as they away side dropped the inter-league match-up 1-0 behind the head of Chris Wondolowski and his goal in the 55 minute. The loss keeps Sporting KC deadlocked atop the Eastern Conference standings alongside New York, and two points behind Real Salt Lake in the tight Supporters' Shield race. However, Sunday's outcome also raises three points worth talking about as Peter Vermes and company look towards next week's match against conference rival Chicago Fire.
1) Sporting KC had a poor amount of quality possession, and an even poorer amount of high-chance service in the box
Statistically, Sporting KC wasn't all that bad Sunday night in San Jose. Sporting had a slight edge in possession at 50.8% and in passing accuracy at 71.8%, but the quality on the field was significantly different from last week's dominance over New England. The hidden statistic here is the amount of quality possession for the away side that led to high-chance service in the box. The former was a struggle throughout the night, as San Jose did a solid job at pressuring Sporting's midfield. The latter, however, was nearly nonexistent, as Sporting KC only managed to put three shots on target, and only one instance - a cross from Soony Saad that put Teal Bunbury in front of goal in 59 minute - that really threatend the 'Quakes' backline and goalie Jon Busch. If Sporting KC aims to be a menace in the coming weeks and into the MLS playoffs, they'll need to string together better passes that lead to chances that aren't from 5-10 yards outside the box.
2) Claudio Bieler's goal-scoring dry-spell warrants a Dom Dwyer start
In no one's right mind is it time to give up on forward Claudio Bieler (plus he's not going anywhere anytime soon). The Argentinean was brought in to score goals, and his nine shows that he can justify his designated player tag. However, Sunday's loss to San Jose doesn't just chalk up another "L" in the loss column, it marks five games since Bieler's last goal, and another match where the striker seemed be all but involved. Sporting KC needs production from this position, and Dom Dwyer's play may be the boost that this team needs - even if it's only temporary. Giving Claudio a break - perhaps a bench role for a match or two - may jumpstart his play and return him to the player this club has already seen him be.
3) The match wasn't as ugly as it appeared to be, and doesn't affect Sporting considerably
For some fans, it may be easy to take a look at the standings, see this San Jose squad in eighth place and question how we could drop a game to them, but rather than jump to conclusions, lets take a look at some factors coming in to the match that perhaps a played a part in the result: San Jose was coming into the contest on an 11-game home win streak; San Jose had a full-squad (something they haven't had throughout the MLS season in part to the Gold Cup and other national team duties); Sporting KC was missing All-Star Graham Zusi and aerial threat Kei Kamara; and San Jose are in the thick of a wild Western Conference playoff picture and desperately needed three points. Now, none of these points should be used as excuses, but when you take them and put them in the back of your mind, it may change how you see Sunday's outcome. San Jose themselves had few chances at goal, and fewer chances at counterattack opportunities thanks to excellent overall play from Sporting KC's backline. Factor in that Sporting is still tied for first in the Eastern Conference and just a mere two points from Real Salt Lake in the Supporters' Shield race, and you may come away from Sunday night's disappointing loss with a new perspective.
Lets hear your points
Have something worth noting from Sunday night's 1-0 loss in San Jose to the Earthquakes? Let your voice be heard by commenting below with your talking points.