If you read my bit on the MLS Regular Season last week you might appreciate that I have been searching for something to get behind while Sporting meander through the final weeks of the season. The light finally went on when I started to think about Sporting’s apparent turn around in form.
Sporting Kansas City will resume MLS play tonight after two good wins in the CONCACAF Champions League and a walk in the park against Chivas USA. Three wins in a row, and ten goals scored certainly looks good on paper and the performances have been better but have Sporting turned the corner after a rough couple of months?
The one question mark that looms large over the recent success revolves around the quality of our recent opponents. Real Esteli are a poor team, there is little doubt about that and while Saprissa looked to be technically quite talented it was hard to assess our performance in the context of a team we basically never see. Chivas USA on the other hand are more hopeless than any team I can remember in recent history.
I don’t know about you but I am just not entirely sold. Fortunately MLS will provide us some real answers over the next few weeks.
Tonight Sporting start with the reinvigorated New England Revolution. New England exposed Sporting in their recent 3-1 win at Gillette, their interesting blend of veteran and young talent, and a much under rated playing staff seems to have been given the jolt in needed by the arrival of US International Jermaine Jones and a run of games including softer opponents that they performed quite well in. Just three points behind Sporting Kansas City at this time, they will draw level on points with a win. This will be a short rest game for Sporting.
High flying DC United come next. United are probably this year’s biggest surprise package. After overhauling their roster heavily in the off season it was hard to anticipate how well DC would perform however they are currently on top of the Eastern Conference and look set to make their second postseason appearance in three seasons. The strong veteran core includes Fabien Espindola, Eddie Johnson, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe, Bobby Boswell and should help DC grind out the results they need during the remainder of the season. The 3-0 clubbing they inflicted on Sporting on August 23rd and the proximity of Sporting to them at the top of the Eastern Conference should give them a bit of a boost. There is no doubt they will be a challenge at RFK.
Games against the ‘softer’ Chicago Fire and recent US Open Cup finalists Philadelphia Union still have to be navigated before the season winds down finally against potent if schizophrenic New York featuring Thierry Henry in what appears to be his final MLS Game.
The bottom line is that all of these teams have given Kansas City problems of one form or another this season so much so that cumulatively Sporting have yet to notch a win against any of these outfits. Not one. That to me sounds like a challenge, a yard stick. Over the next month we’ll found out if Sporting really can rise above recent mediocre form against opposition that has given us a whopping three points across ten games.
With the bulk of the injuries and the World Cup in the mirror it is time for Sporting to step up and find the form they will need if they are to produce anything in the post season at all.