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Six Thoughts from Sporting KC versus Montreal Impact

We talk Gerso, Fontas, even a little Zelalem and more.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Whoa, what a game on Saturday! Sporting Kansas City absolutely handed a beating to the Ignacio Piatti-less Montreal Impact. Let’s get right to the takeaways from the game.

SKC Can Beat Anyone on Full Rest

In the opening moments Montreal almost stole a goal against Sporting KC. It reminded me instantly of years past when Sporting would somehow get two weeks off for the international break and would look worse than when they were playing consistently. However, that was not to be the case. Maybe it had something to do with the extra-intense practice Vermes put the team through in-lieu-of a game. SKC nearly scored just after that opening blunder when Gerso Fernandes was called offside, but soon after the floodgates opened.

Was this a limited Montreal team? Yes. Not having Piatti is a big deal, but even Piatti couldn’t have stopped the “avalanche of goals” that Sporting were putting in. It also helps that Montreal tried to press Sporting and this team is built to deal with a press. The passing was crisp and most importantly the passes cut through or over lines with precision. On full rest, the team looks like a world beater. Especially when they play at home.

On the road with short rest against Monterrey on Thursday? The jury is very much out.

Forward Depth is Very Questionable

I’ve been beating this drum for the last 10 days with the injuries to Erik Hurtado and to Daniel Salloi. It was never more clear than looking at the lineup on Saturday. Reports came out this week that Gerso picked up a calf injury in practice but he still started. Of course Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell started too. But look at the bench. The field players on the bench were Yohan Croizet, Gianluca Busio, Kelyn Rowe, Rodney Wallace, Botond Barath and Gedion Zelalem.

Not a single forward listed. Wallace can and has played forward a lot in his career, but for Sporting KC they have him as a left back (and he’s played there exclusively). Rowe started a game at right wing but he made it abundantly clear he is a midfielder. The only person you could argue is a forward is Croizet, and I would argue with you that he’s a midfielder. That said, he’ll be forced to play forward, both in the middle and on the wing, for the foreseeable future.

Gerso = Man of the Match

I saw this take everywhere. Bukaty said it on the broadcast. Twitter said it. Our comments said it. I’m inclined to agree. Sure, his only goal was called back (correctly) for offside. But he had assists on the second and third goals, which put the game away. On top of that, his speed and on the ball skills continued to cause defenders problem.

Perhaps the most important point is one Peter Vermes made in his post-game interview. Gerso’s off the ball movement is among the best in the league (Vermes said it was the best, but that feels a bit too far for me). He’s consistently pulling defenders out of position to create space or create one-on-one situations. He’s also been fantastic at taking on defenders one-on-one and creating chances. His fatal flaw has been not finishing those chances but Saturday he didn’t have to because he setup others to finish them instead.

Fontas > Barath

Saturday also marked the return of Andreu Fontas from injury. He got the start over Botond Barath and he immediately reminded us what he brings to the game. He oozes confidence on the ball. In tight places he not only made the smart pass, but often that pass pushed the team up the field. Below are the pass charts for Fontas versus Montreal and then Barath against CAI and the Colorado Rapids. Notice how much more the ball goes forward with Fontas (it’s a bit cluttered, but it’s there).

It’s not that Barath is bad or that his charts are that much worse, but Fontas just has many more balls going forward and many more going forward into dangerous positions to spring attacks.

Barath is a fantastic backup (in the limited minutes he’s gotten). So far, he looks like the reason Ike Opara was expendable. What will be interesting in the coming games (especially against Monterrey) is if Fontas can handle the speed of some of these other teams since Barath seems to have a leg up on athleticism.

The other point of interest is how much Barath is making compared to Fontas, who we know is making a cool million. I suspect Barath lands in the $200,000 to 300,000 range.

A Rested Roger

Roger Espinoza on full rest might be the player who sees the greatest bump. I have to give TBT’s Robert Rusert credit for this catch.

Three goals had Espinoza making the pass before the assist. The official MLS box score actually did give Espinoza a second assist on the Felipe Gutierrez goal and a direct assist on the second Johnny Russell goal. Regardless, full-rest-Roger is a difference maker on the field. All the more reason I was happy to see him be subbed off first for Sporting KC in the 62nd minute. I would have loved to see him come after Russell’s 50th minute goal (the games fourth), but I’ll take 28 minutes of rest over no rest. I can’t help but notice Gianluca Busio was first off the bench over Kelyn Rowe too.

Gedion Zelalem’s Gameday 18 Debut

He didn’t get on the field, but new signing Gedion Zelalem made it into the 18 for the first time. It’s an interesting decision considering Croizet, Rowe and Busio can all play in the midfield and there were no forwards on the bench and two defenders (Wallace and Barath).

Does this mean Vermes would put on Zelalem at Ilie Sanchez’s defensive midfield spot if the need arose? I still prefer Gutierrez or even Kuzain there. I’m probably reading too much into this and the likelihood is whoever has that last spot isn’t playing, but it’s something to keep watching out for. Maybe Vermes just wanted to let him see that environment at Children’s Mercy Park with a proper home game (though it was slightly spoiled by the weather).

In Conclusion

Somehow, with six separate points, there was no time for Busio’s first MLS goal at home. Nemeth scoring a hat trick. Russell with a brace. This story could have been 100 thoughts on this game but I’ll leave the rest for you all in the comments.