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Six thoughts from Sporting KC’s 4-4 draw with New England Revolution

Now that we have all calmed down, here are some thoughts about the wild match on Saturday night.

MLS: New England Revolution at Sporting Kansas City William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Sporting KC drew with the New England Revolution 4-4 in an absolute thriller. The good guys battled back more than once but were unable to secure all three points. That makes four straight MLS games without a win and many fans are growing worried. We let the emotions settle down a bit and came up with six thoughts to consider about the game.

Abdul Rwatubyaye is still very green

Making his second MLS appearance, Abdul got the start over Botond Barath. Abdul performed pretty well in his first appearance against the San Jose Earthquakes a week prior, a game in which Barath struggled. Perhaps this is why Vermes went with Abdul against the Revolution. However, I hope he doesn’t make this decision again anytime soon.

The potential is obviously there. Just look at the guy. In his 164 minutes we were able to see his athleticism and even a few confidence-inspiring tackles. On the other hand we have seen him use those tools quite poorly at times.

On the first goal he went to ground to block a cross that was being made 10 yards away from him. It appears if had he continued his run, he might have had an easy clearance with his foot. Their third goal was a similar situation. A simple cross from the right wing was right at the perfect height to head the ball clear, but he chose to go for an acrobatic, overhead kick. He missed badly and SKC went down two goals again. I very much like this signing and I’m eager to see him progress, but he still has a ways to go.

Gerso’s PK was really soft

I will talk a little later about how lucky the Revolution were in this match, but the second goal for Sporting was indeed a very soft call for a penalty kick. I’m not saying it was a dive because the defender pulled his arm at a critical time. But had I seen a New England player go down and earn a PK like that, I would have been screaming obscenities.

Croizet’s defense is improving

I’ll pause here and wait for everyone to stop yelling and throwing things at me.

Think about it. Was Yohan Croizet the source of your frustration on defense? Absolutely not. You could even argue he was SKC’s best defender. I know that isn’t saying much, but Yohan is getting better back there. There were at least two moments he made very good defensive plays, getting the better of a much larger Teal Bunbury on one occasion. Going forward he is definitely an asset. If he can keep improving on defense then he will be very useful to Vermes throughout the rest of this season.

Another injury

Have mercy on us, soccer gods! I beg you! The injury list was long enough already. Matt Besler was out, Roger Espinoza was out, even Ilie Sanchez was on the bench for crying out loud. Now we have lost Gerso and practice was cancelled on Tuesday because they only had six players ready to train.

Gerso’s speed was perhaps the biggest reason Sporting Kansas City were able to pull out a result. He used it down the wing, he used it on defense, and it also earned the Revolution their first red card. I have been vocal about my Gerso frustrations and have advocated for Salloi to start as of late, but this injury is really going to hurt the team.

Only 50% of New England’s goals were legit

It was not a handball. And I’ll say it again for the people in the back - NOT A HANDBALL! Yes it hit his hand, but that isn’t the rule. All of this ambiguity around the definition of a handball is one of my biggest issues with the sport. I actually believe we should just cut all of the confusion and say if the ball touches the arm below the shoulder - it is a handball.

But we don’t live in that world right now. The laws of the game have several items that must be considered before it can be deemed a handball. The penalty kick called against Johnny Russell is the absolute epitome of why the rule was made! It was ball-to-hand, the player was kicking the ball away from goal, and there is nothing within reason that Russell could have/should have done differently.

On top of that, how could one possibly claim there was clear and obvious evidence the no-call was incorrect? Did he think he saw Johnny’s arm move towards the ball intentionally? No way. New England just simply did not deserve a penalty kick there. The way I see it, the only way a person could believe it was deserved is if that person is Baldomero Toledo (the referee) as he is trying to make-up for a soft PK at the other end.

By the way, Melia saved it. Beyond that it was just a couple perfect bounces for the visitors. I’ve watched the play several times and I really can’t fault anyone on defense for not clearing it away. Unlucky rolls of the ball happen all the time, especially while in a slump.

Going back to the 35th minute, The Revs scored their second goal in frustrating fashion as well. Andreu Fontas got a boot on a through-ball but it fell directly in the path of Tajon Buchanan for their first bit of luck on the play. Buchanan then mishits the ball with his ankle for an inch-perfect pass. It was far enough away from Melia and just millimeters out of reach for a sliding Zusi.

Yes, I understand this is what happens in soccer - a lot. The touch from Fontas wasn’t clean, but it was quite fortunate for New England. My only point with this section is that these goals do not add to my worries about the SKC defense (the injuries do).

They didn’t score the winner & I don’t care

Okay, well I do care a little bit. I felt Sporting KC deserved to win the match and I wanted all three points. But what I mean is that my outlook on this team hasn’t changed just because the ball didn’t cross the line for a fifth goal. They put themselves in positions to win it several times and that is key. I’d be worried about the team if they weren’t able to create chances. Let’s look at a few big moments in this match.

Nemeth did actually put another ball in the net at one point, but it was a close offside call. It would have been wonderful if one of those defenders happened to be a few inches back and the goal was allowed. But I wouldn’t believe that Sporting KC are a better team because of it.

In the closing moments an Ilie strike was deflected, forcing a diving save. That deflection could have gone absolutely anywhere! Then of course there was Gerso Fernandes colliding with Cropper as the ball trickled across the face of goal. The difference between ‘goal’ and no-goal’ on these plays is negligible. And there were several others I could have listed as well! It’s easy to forget just how many times they were right there. Had any of these actually gone in the net, would you really believe that this is a better team than you do right now?

I’m not trying to make excuses for them. This is not me declaring the match and the league unjust. I’m not here to cry that SKC were screwed by the refs. They only got one point and I accept that. Sporting is in a slump right now and when you are slumping, things like this happen. They got unlucky but I believe this is a team that can do a lot of damage in Major League Soccer. Sporting KC limped into this game and still gave themselves a chance to win it.