It feels a little cliché, but once again Sporting Kansas City managed to do everything right except for finish chances. I guess there's an easy way to look at this.
The Good : Sporting's defense is starting to look real good. On Saturday they held Real Salt Lake to zero shots on goal, with only four shots total. This was their third shutout in their last four games.
The Bad : Sporting's offense continues to sputter, and, as it has been in seasons past, inaccurate shooting looks to be a problem. Sporting took 12 shots at Nick Rimando, who only needed to stop one shot on goal. Overall, Sporting averages 13.3 shots per game, which is good for fourth highest in the league. On the other side, they average only 3.2 shots on goal per game, which ties them with Orlando City and Real Salt Lake for second worst in the league, ahead of only lowly Dallas. Sporting's shots per game to shots on goal per game ratio is 24%, again, second worst in the league except for Houston.
While there may be an argument for "spray and pray" type shooting that favors players taking chances over waiting for the perfect opening to try and place a precision strike if it's working, offensive struggles have been a theme. That said, scoring is down overall in the league, and SKC's average of 1.0 goals per game puts them right in the middle of MLS at 11th. But that brings us to the third point...
The Ugly : Ike Opara's injury towards the end of the match is worrisome, not only because he's put in a stellar year after coming back from injury, and not only because Matt Besler has been called up to the USMNT to face Mexico, but because Ike Opara has been our leading scorer and a constant threat on both sides of set pieces. Remove Opara's two goals and Sporting have the second worst offense in the league, ahead of only the lowly Montreal Impact.
The draw drops them to 6 points from 4 home matches, or 1.5 points per game. I'm a firm believer that you need to average two points per home game and one point away to put yourself in a good position going into the playoffs. With three points from two home games you could maybe argue that a loss next week to LA (especially without Besler and maybe not Opara) wouldn't be the worst thing, but home form definitely needs to improve in my book before I'll feel really good about this team.
All that said, I think the performance last night was a good one and Sporting seems to have all the pieces in place to cause some trouble this year.
And now, some player ratings.
|Real Salt Lake|
|Elias Vasquez Prera||6.5|
|Sporting Kansas City|
|Marcel de Jong||6.5|
A much improved match from De Jong. Marin maybe rated a little high for what little he had to do, but the defensive team as a whole performed real well with what was admittedly not a lot to deal with from Real Salt Lake. Man of the match probably goes to Matt Besler, who had a really good outing. Jamison Olave for Real Salt Lake had a good match as well.
I will say, I love playing Real Salt Lake, I think our two sides match up well against each other, and as frustrating as a nil-nil draw can be, the matches are usually entertaining. Here's to looking forward to the next one.