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Six and a Half Observations from Sporting KC’s 7-0 Preseason Win

MLS: Sporting KC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our recap of the 7-0 win Sporting Kansas City pulled off on Wednesday against the Phoenix Rising FC trialists. That story goes over the lineups (34 players took the field for SKC over 120 minutes) and gives the details of all seven (!) goals that were scored.

For this story, we’ll try to look at some of the nuances from the scrimmage. But keep in mind, it’s preseason. These games are often behind closed doors and are where the team is just figuring things out. The last few preseason games, where the competition will rise, will be the true test to get Sporting KC ready for the regular season.

The Competition is Getting Tougher

A 7-0 scoreline might make you think otherwise, but the talent level of the players on the field was noticeably higher for the PRFC trialists. That makes sense from the perspective that they are on the cusp of a USL Championship (2nd division) roster where Sporting AZ are in the fourth division.

Where it was obvious was in their ability to pressure the ball. Phoenix forced turnovers, a few bad passes and for Melia to charge forward to get to a few loose balls. The first 11 players on the pitch for Phoenix were clearly their best. While they were down 2-0 at the end of 45 minutes (before most of them — if not all of them) were subbed off, they held SKC mostly in check. Once the PK went in, it opened up a bit and a second goal was found. I imagine Sporting think they should have scored a few more, but credit to the talent of the trialists who made nothing easy.

The scoreline is also misleading because the game was 120 minutes long and one trialist keeper (who’s likely not getting a job) let in three goals in four minutes against mostly the SKC unsigned draft picks, SKC Academy guys and some Swope Park Rangers.

Rodney Wallace is Fast

You may be thinking, and snow is cold, what is your point Chad? We’ve all seen Wallace play for his previous MLS clubs New York City FC and the Portland Timbers, but he was mainly a wide midfielder and winger. So far in preseason, he’s been so far forward you may think he’s still playing that role. But instead he’s at left back and his recovery speed was noticeable. He tracked down a free running Phoenix player who should have gotten a one-on-one shot against Tim Melia, but Wallace went screaming down the field to break it up. That recovery speed may come in handy. I look forward to more tests of his defensive prowess.

Nemeth’s Positioning is Promising

Krisztian Nemeth was only supposed to play 30 minutes on Wednesday according to Peter Vermes but instead he got a full 45. Despite coming back from offseason surgery, he was razor close in his limited time on the field. Twice he found himself in a good spot for chances. He hit a hard shot high early on that the keeper somehow stretched to get to.

Then shortly before the first goal Gerso made, what I described as a Johnny Russel-esk, run into the box where he beat both defenders then found Nemeth who turned quickly and fired yet somehow the keeper got a foot to the shot. Nemeth would get his goal via penalty kick, but he’s in the right spots which will lead to goals. Also, he defensive pressure seemed much improved, even if the competition he was pressing isn’t what he’ll face in the coming weeks.

The Left Back Battle is Hot

In the first preseason game, Wallace got an assist, so Seth Sinovic needed one too. In the second game, Wallace was again picking up an assist so Sinovic did him one better and went ahead and scored on on his own.

Not to be left out, Swope Park Rangers left back Justin Bilyeu (formerly of the New York Red Bulls) is making the case maybe he deserves one of those last four SKC roster spots (and he was sighted in offseason training with the first team). Bilyeu has a goal and maybe an assist (hard to tell on the interchange that led to Tyler Freeman’s goal). He’s shown a good attacking prowess, which is something Sporting want out of their fullbacks.

The Homegrown Talent is Strong

Not physically, as almost all of them are still working on their man muscles, but they’ve all had flashes of promise. From the above mentioned Freeman goal, Salloi’s contributions both last year and already in preseason, to Kuzain’s leaps at the defensive midfielder spot. He struggled at times in the first preseason game but he was leaps and bounds better in the second forcing several turnovers and just generally being exactly where he should be. Plus let’s not leave out Gianluca Busio who’s had some strong passes, Felipe Hernandez who has a goal himself and even SKC Academy keeper Brooks Thompson came up large with several saves late in the Phoenix trialist game. That doesn’t even mention the solid work from Jaylin Lindsey or the two goals from Wilson Harris.

Adrian Zendejas Takes Charge

Of course Tim Melia is good at giving direction to his team, but Wednesday it was noticeable when Eric Dick was replaced by AZ. Zendejas was loud and giving positional directions to everyone, keeping them aware of who is around and just overall communicating very well to his teammates. That’s an important skill for a keeper who is still just 23-years-old.

Backup Referees

After the 90 minutes are over the official referees leave and members of the technical staff for each team take over. The center official is a member of PRFC’s staff it appears and he literally never leaves the center circle. It’s hard to see who the far side AR is but on the nearside it’s an SKC staff member. The first call he makes was the ball going out of bounds and he incorrectly awards it to SKC. Vermes from the stands yells at him to change it and he does. It got a good laugh out of everyone on the bench and in the stands and reminded everyone, this is preseason, don’t overthink it.

The Blue Testament will bring you more from preseason as it rages on. Sporting KC are back in action next Wednesday against the FC Tucson trialists.