Sporting Kansas City played their second scrimmage of the 2017 MLS preseason as a part of the Desert Friendlies. Today’s match-up was against the New England Revolution. The Revs have been on quite a tear in preseason so far having gone undefeated in three games (2-0-1). Sporting KC is off to an 0-1 start after a late loss to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Sporting and the Revs went for entirely different approaches as far as lineups. Sporting were heavy on backups while the Revs went with nearly all of their likely opening day starters.
#SportingKC's starters for today's scrimmage: Melia; Juliao, Ellis, Besler, Sinovic; Sanchez, Medranda, Espinoza; Blessing, Volesky, Salloi.— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) February 7, 2017
#NERevs lineup vs. Sporting KC: Cropper; Tierney, J. Smith, Delamea, Farrell; Fagundez, Caldwell, Rowe, Kobayashi; Nguyen, Kamara— NewEnglandRevolution (@NERevolution) February 7, 2017
This was the first time new signing, Ilie Sanchez appeared for Sporting KC and the return of Matt Besler after foot surgery. Interestingly for the second straight game, Jimmy Medranda was tucked in at attacking midfielder instead of at left back or out on the wing. SKC wouldn’t see Dom Dwyer (recovering from injury, but practicing) or their returning National Team heroes, Benny Feilhaber or Graham Zusi (expect these guys at the Desert Diamond Cup in a week).
Despite the lopsided lineups, Sporting actually enjoyed a lot of early possession. Possession didn’t translate into goals and the Revolution got on the board first off a free kick when Chris Tierney sent a ball over the box to a waiting Josh Smith who headed it over Tim Melia.
Tierney nearly struck again when he sent a ball into the box that Kei Kamara rang a ball off the crossbar with a header in the 28th minute. Around the 30th minute mark (there was no clock in the stadium) Besler was subbed off for Oumar Ballo, from the Swope Park Rangers and Sanchez came off for Benji Joya.
Sporting would build up and actually get a shot on goal from Seth Sinovic, but it was saved easily. Just before the half the Revs snuck down the field and caught a disorganized backline. Kei Kamara collected a pass and snapped a shot towards Melia who got a hand on it, but it went in anyways. Melia was screaming for offside but it appeared that Oumar Ballo had gotten himself out of position and, despite being a bit away from the play, kept Kei on. 2-0 at the half for New England.
Of note was how fired up Roger Espinoza was at halftime at Daniel Salloi. He was yelling at him that he hadn’t been listening to his direction and he was repeating himself. Salloi was trying to explain his side of it but Espinoza wasn’t having it. Also, something I see every preseason is how much of a leader Seth Sinovic is. He is constantly keeping everyone organized. Maybe this is why the defense seems better with him out there over Medranda.
To start the second half the Revs made minimal changes bringing on Watson, Bunbury and Sabaly (they had subbed goalkeepers before the half at some point). Sporting on the other hand changed every position except Joya, who slid into the #8 role with the arrival of Soni Mustivar to play defensive midfield.
Second half XI for #SportingKC: Zendejas; Storm, Didic, Opara, Pasher; Mustivar, Joya, Duke; Fernandes, Porter, Saad.— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) February 7, 2017
Sporting really started to turn things around in the second half. In the 50th minute Gerso Fernandes sent a free kick into the box and unsigned rookie, Colton Storm, got a head on the ball and hit the crossbar. The ball shot straight down but somehow didn’t cross the line and the Revolution were able to clear the box.
Soon after that, during the run of play, Gerso sent another ball into the box and returning winger Soony Saad headed the ball on goal only for a diving save from the keeper. Saad collected his own rebound but was so close to the keeper it made for an easy save. The ball bounced out to Christian Duke but he couldn’t put the ball on frame and sent it out for a goal kick.
After that Gerso shot from WAY outside the box and from my angle it looked like it barely missed. Gerso looks to be the real deal and it wasn’t until after the game that Peter Vermes revealed he had been badly stepped on in the game against the San Jose Earthquakes last Tuesday breaking his toenail and causing extensive bleeding. Gerso missed practice for the next several days but still put in 30 minutes in this scrimmage.
At the 60th minute mark the Revs finally removed a majority of (if not all) their starters.
Mass subs for #NERevs. New lineup: Shuttleworth; Earle, Watson, Sabaly, T. Turner, Bowen, Herivaux, Appiah, Fagundez, Bunbury, Wright— NewEnglandRevolution (@NERevolution) February 7, 2017
In the 75th minute SKC made their final sub pulling Gerso and putting on former SKC Academy product and current member of the Swope Park Rangers, Nansel Selbol. Selbol made an immediate impact getting a cross from Christian Duke in the 80th minute, settling it, and driving it home across the goal. 2-1 New England.
Sporting would have two good chances to equalize. A few minutes after the goal Joya made a good steal and dribbled into the box but got tied up with Saad as though they didn’t know who should handle the ball and it was turned over. Just after that a throw in came quickly to Cameron Porter in the box but his shot sailed over the bar.
That would be the last of the chances as Sporting would fall to 0-2 after losing to the Revolution by a goal. Despite the loss, the team looked pretty good for the second preseason game. Imagine if all the starters played together (or at all) like the Revs did for 60 minutes. Gerso, it seems, made the second unit look quite good. Imagine those crosses and great runs with Dwyer, Feilhaber, Zusi and company supporting him. And that’s why we was injured.
Below we have video for most of the game. I’d like to apologize for it’s poor quality. I, being the old man that I am, have never used Periscope and didn’t know what I was doing. We lost a little on the front and back of the 1st half as well as the beginning of the 2nd half. Thanks to my little brother for holding up a phone for the entire game to try to tape things (and apparently for burning through his data — his isn’t unlimited I guess).
It’s worth noting Sporting KC are in the red kits because their “Sporting Blue” was too similar to New England’s gray training kits. Also, we missed the Kamara goal, so let’s pretend it was just 1-1 since there was no scoreboard or anything. Also, while the video quality isn’t great (and is shaky at times) if you click on the “Watch on Periscope” button you get the full width of the shot versus watching it inside Twitter.
After the game I had the chance to speak with Peter Vermes. We’ll have more on that later but he didn’t mention a couple things worth noting. Kevin Oliveira, of the Swope Park Rangers, returned to Kansas City both to work on his recovery from knee surgery and to join his teammates with SPR as their preseason is set to open soon.
Vermes confirm that Diego Rubio will likely be out until the end of July. When I asked about how the team will possibly use 11 forwards and only five midfielders he replied that Latif Blessing, Jimmy Medranda (who I actually counted as a defender), Graham Zusi and Gerso Fernandes can “play all over.” So maybe one of those guys will be Benny’s backup when he is on National Team duty.