I left Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday after Sporting KC’s game against New York City FC feeling nothing less than frustrated. My feelings of frustration were only reinforced when I read Chad Smith’s Nine Overreactions from Sporting KC v NYCFC. After taking a second look at the game from Saturday it’s very apparent to me that the success of 2018 rides heavily on the shoulders of a #10, Yohan Croizet, that is playing out of position.
I strongly believe Croizet is a #10 and that he would feel more comfortable in the middle of the park, but the hard truth is that there’s simply no space. You can’t have Roger Espinoza or Felipe Gutierrez on the bench. They’re simply too good of players for either of them to be coming off the bench, so this leaves Croizet being forced out onto the wing. That being said I don’t believe that Gutierrez is an outright chance creator, I think while he can do some of it the player that really has to pull the strings in the attack is Croizet.
Croizet’s Play Sunday Night
I can’t sugar coat it in any way, Croizet’s play was awful on Sunday. He was the least dangerous player on the field, and Sporting KC needs him to be the most dangerous. I get the nerves and everything, but we even saw this in preseason. Croizet was on the wing with poor touches all over the place and he looked very uninterested to show any ability to change the game.
If you’ve ever watched Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool what made him so dangerous was his ability to come in from the wing with the ball and create, and that is exactly what SKC needs Croizet to do. Need an example? How about in the 29th minute when Croizet plays a simple one-two with with Felipe and creates havoc in the NYCFC backline with a simple diagonal run. Croizet even created his own solid chance with a curling effort in the 41st (although he had a perfect opportunity to curl the ball in behind to Rubio, but that’s not the point here). These are the types of plays that Croizet needs to be making every time he’s on the ball. I have no problem with him getting down the line every once in awhile to keep the outside back honest, but I’d like to see the majority of his efforts being directed into the center of the park.
If Croizet is going to cut in then Graham Zusi has to be busting his tale up the line to provide SKC some width, but that is Zusi’s modus operandi. Croizet has to be dangerous but also he needs runners to connect with when he does cut in to create.
This leads me into another glaring point from Sunday, Diego Rubio isn’t the #9 we need. Daniel Salloi was more dangerous in just 29 minutes than Rubio was in his 61. I’m not sold as Salloi being the #9, but I did like what I saw out of Khiry Shelton during preseason. I think Shelton or Salloi make so much more sense because both have the ability to play on the wing. Shelton and Salloi create opportunities for the front three to really interchange and create communication problems for opposing defenses.
As said previously, Croizet had a rough game, but the one thing I appreciated from him all night was his willingness to get stuck in while defending except in one huge moment. When the ball falls to Croizet on Sporting KC’s free kick just before half time, he loses the ball and provides arguably the best player in the league a 60 yard free lane to goal. My first problem is that he was in the box and being marked by a defender, so why he doesn’t at least check his shoulder as he checks out for the ball. Not checking his shoulder tells me that he believed that the defender wouldn’t step out and continue to mark him. Secondly and most importantly, after he loses the ball he stands there and watch as Villa sprints away.
For me that is what has always set Sporting KC apart. It’s not the flash or flare of a very skilled team. It’s simply the grit and willingness to just outwork opponents for ninety minutes. I’m always willing to allow new players a certain grace period to find their groove in a new league as long as the effort is there, and that play certainly made me wonder if it is there for Croizet.
Overall frustrated by our new #10’s play? Yes, but I’m willing to give it another few games to sort itself out. If it doesn’t, this could be another DP flop that is even worse than Rubio and Gerso.