On Sunday, Sporting Kansas City played the New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw at Sporting Park. After an off season that saw some big names come and go (Claudio Bieler gone, Roger Espinoza back, many new bit players on board) and some CBA drama that threatened to delay the start of the season, Sporting gave the home fans exactly what they wanted and went ahead on a goal by Ike Opara, making his debut after sitting out most of 2014 injured, assisted superbly by Benny Feilhaber. And then, frustratingly, gave the lead away just four minutes later, to a Lloyd Sam goal, which, to his credit, was really well taken.
The first half was a little frantic, to be expected for the first minutes of a new season, and there was a lot of feeling out. Even though Sporting and New York have seen each other regulariy over the years, both teams came in with somewhat new looks. Both sides played aggressively, and the field seemed to be more slick than usual, with a lot of guys stumbling and falling during the run of play.
The second half seemed slightly better until the 70th minute, when Matt Besler was shown a second yellow card for foul he just didn't need to commit. Maybe the first was wrong as Vermes claims that Besler never touched him, maybe the second is harsh because the ref should have played advantage as NY was on the break, but already on a yellow, that tackle just wasn't the right play and I think Besler knew it right away.
At that point, New York held on to much of the ball. Sporting still had a few real good chances going forward and at times didn't at all look like they were playing down a man, but the advantage gave New York enough to work with to hold on to the draw and frustrate the home fans.
Frustration at a home draw over a team (I feel) we should probably beat aside, overall, I thought Sporting looked to be the slightly better side in this one, and what's become a common refrain of not finishing chances was what kept the win out of reach. Sporting took 18 shots with only 4 on target, with one or two big chances just begging to be put away.
Also, I thought that Luis Marin looked quite good in goal with three saves and some good aggressive clearances.
As I'm wont to do, I put together player ratings based on the Opta stats from the match. This season I've tried to make them a little more traditional, so no more tenths of a point, all ratings are reported as rounded half points, and I've weighted things to make them a little more "normal" in the sense that playing time is less of a factor and there's a little more range to the numbers. I'm still hoping to stay away from arbitrary adjustments and let the stats speak for themselves, and for a first crack I feel like they look pretty good, but feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts below.
|New York Red Bulls|
|Anatole Bertrand Abang||5|
|Sporting Kansas City|
So who's my man of the match? I think it's got to be either Benny or Ike. Benny Feilhaber had an excellent match with the assist on the Opara goal, drawing five fouls, and generally making the right plays and passes at the right time, while Opara had a the goal on a great header along with a good defensive shift with seven interceptions and eight clearances. Maybe give it to Opara for coming back so strongly after his season ending injury.