1: The match was not pretty but was far better than the last four MLS Playoffs matches for Sporting Kansas City. Coming away from Real Salt Lake with a 1-1 draw is important. And a good start.
“The tie is one thing but to be able to get the away goal is huge. It’s huge, and to respond the way that we did because it definitely wasn’t an easy game for us to play but we stayed pretty disciplined throughout the match,” SKC Manager Peter Vermes told The Blue Testament after the match.
“Either both teams were feeling each other out or more along the lines that they had just come off a really big emotional win and we were just playing our first playoff game and both teams dealing with that environment a little bit. In the first half nobody really took hold of the game,” Vermes explained. “In the second half they had some moments and we had some moments, but it was a little bit back and forth. The game was really sporadic in the flow.”
2: Sporting KC have had some mediocre, unexciting play away from home this year but they have also went into some tough environments and came away with important results. Atlanta, LAFC, Dallas and the Galaxy were all big wins on the road.
Not sure if this game was one of those where they struggled to possess, or if they straight up game planned to be different versus a team that has had SKC’s number in the regular season.
Was it actually a struggle to control the game or was Vermes messing with Petke’s plans? For a team that likes to muck it up and then create counters, did it confuse them by letting them have the ball?
SKC’s 33.41% possession is their lowest in a match since 8/22/15. #RSLvSKC #MLSCupPlayoffs— Ben Baer (@BenBaer89) November 5, 2018
Plan or not, that was the least possession for a Kansas City team in a long time. Like 23 years for Blue the mascot.
3: Big question #1: With Seth Sinovic suspended for the red card vs LAFC, there were as many speculations about what Vermes would do as there were fans in Salt Lake.
But it was not Roger Espinoza.
Nor was it Brad Evans (he is still here?).
Not a 3-5-2.
Nope not Besler sliding left either.
Not even Lindsey who had played a few games at left back earlier in the year.
How would Vermes approach the match?
Big Answer #1: The answer was of course SKC’s #10 would drop into the left back spot. They did recall Jaylin Lindsey from the U-20’s to at least have a natural outside (right side) back on the bench. It should have been obvious Vermes would go with a non-defender to start the biggest match of the year so far.
4: Big question #2: So how did Yohan Croizet, Sporting KC’s International Man of Mystery, actually do in the game?
Big Answer #2: Well not bad, not bad at all.
The “beloved” Audi Index scores gave him a 311, solidly in the middle of the Sporting KC players scores and above most of the RSL scores. WhoScored.Com gave him a 7.41, third highest SKC and fourth overall for the match.
“I told him I thought he played really well, he did a great job,” Vermes stated. “He was very disciplined, he was tough. Savarino is a really good player, he’s got some pace, he’s crafty. I thought Yohan did an excellent job against him.”
Overall he was not perfect, made a couple mistakes but in the end, the one goal that was surrendered did not come from his mistake.
5: Big Question #3: This seems like a question that has been debated for decades in search of an ancient truth. In reality it has been since last season but even more heavily debated this year.
Did we get an answer as to who should start at center forward?
Big Answer #3: Of course (not). Khiry Shelton started, ran around a lot, pressured but not much happened. Could say the same for most of the team in the game at times. But when Diego Rubio stepped on the field he scored on his first touch. Of course it was Felipe Gutierrez that forced Nick Rimando into an error and his kick bounced off of Felipe to Diego. A touch and a shot and Rimando is picking the ball out of the net.
Why did Vermes make the change? “I felt that we needed a change in the game,” Vermes stated shortly after the game. “I just don’t think we were getting enough up front today for whatever reason and my expectation was for Diego to go in and really provide us with some real movement like he does. He gets a chance in and around the box a lot faster than I thought he would, so it was huge.”
Stats and eye tests are regularly debated about who is the best option for Sporting KC to start at center forward. Maybe the real answer is whichever guy is hotter in the last game and practice. Or maybe it is science. Rubio or Shelton? Shelton or Rubio? The only answer nobody seems to argue for anymore is Nemeth.
6: Big Question #4: Why didn’t I start the Big Questions on point one so they would be in sync?
Big answer #4: I did not think of it. And too lazy to fix. And my mouse is wonky so copy and past is sometimes problematic. But mostly I just keep going forward without looking back.
I guess I do have something in common with Dom Dwyer.
7: From the team quotes: “Diego’s a perfect example of what a teammate should be. Whether he starts or doesn’t start, whether he comes in or doesn’t even make the eighteen. He is always a team first guy, always focused, so that when he does get his opportunities, he makes the most of them. Tonight, was another example. It came quicker than I thought it was going to come; it was probably his first touch of the game, it felt like. It was a really great goal and an excellent finish.”
It is impressive when you can score on your first touches on the ball and the same minute you entered the game and are averaging a goal every 33.4 minutes as a sub.
33.4 - @DiegoRubio_ is averaging a goal every 33.4 minutes as a substitute for @SportingKC this season, the second-best rate for a #MLS player with 5+ goals off the bench since 2010 (inc. playoffs). Spark.— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) November 5, 2018
8: I might get some hate on this, but Daniel Salloi has not played great lately. Yes, I know, three straight game winning goals to close out the season is really good. Damn good in fact. But it kind of masked the fact he has not been at his best. It did seem like the rest of his game was rounding back into form but overall his touch in Salt Lake was poor. He was not alone in that but it did seem worse than most Sunday night.
9: While I doubt many people will change their mind on who should start at what position, the beauty of it all is how many quality subs/potential starters are on the bench.
Peter Vermes’ bench. https://t.co/g1ev9FszQf— Mike McGrew (@Zavagtastic) November 5, 2018
10: On the road at Salt Lake started at 9:00 pm central time and the home leg in Kansas City will be at 2:00 pm. While Sporting KC have went up against the Chiefs playing before, this is one of the few times that the Chiefs are actually good.
First a late game on a Sunday night and then directly against the hot team in the NFL. Are the networks working to make the ratings as low as possible?
11: Next weekend. Playoff soccer in Kansas City!