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Six Takeaways from Sporting KC’s win over San Jose

What we learned from SKC’s gritty comeback win over the Earthquakes.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City Peter G. Aiken

It’s been a difficult season for fans in KC but Saturday night’s win over San Jose Earthquakes had Children’s Mercy Park roaring once again. It was the first game this year that Sporting KC gave up an opening goal and came back for the win. They’re still down in 10th place but they showed some signs of life as they look to climb the ranks and avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Here are six takeaways from the big win:

Graham Smith is officially CB #3

He found himself in doghouse last season but has slowly worked his way back into Vermes’ plans. Smith is building some rapport with Matt Besler and he turned in a solid performance vs San Jose. With Andreu Fontas out of favor at the moment, he needed to seize this opportunity for himself and for the team. He’s definitely done enough to establish himself as the best option when Barath or Besler need a break. This was indeed a good game for him and scoring the winner was awesome to see, but there’s still room to improve and the defense as a whole is still a question mark right now.

JFR gives this team life

Russell does every part of his job well. He’s a great finisher and a clever passer. He draws in defenders and he’s lethal in 1v1 situations (or 1v3). He can put the ball where he needs to on corner kicks and bulge the net on free kicks. The man plays with the fiery passion of a thousand suns! Johnny F. Russell just simply knows how to make things happen and that’s why he was involved in both goals for Sporting Kansas City in this comeback win.

(By the way his actual full name is Johnathon Simpson Snedden Russell)

Luis Martins is serviceable

To be honest, I forgot he was even out there for a while. But he was rushed into playing 90 minutes with a new team having not played a real match in months. If you didn’t really notice him that much, he was doing alright. The 27-year-old will provide good depth for now and should improve as he gets more time with the team. But I think my favorite part is that Martins playing left back frees up Jimmy Medranda to play winger and wreak havoc further up the pitch.

Zusi is quite the roller coaster

There have been many ups and downs with Graham Zusi as of late. He creates so much going forward and does a great job of choosing his moments to attack. In the second half when things started clicking for SKC, Zusi was part of the build up nearly every time. He covers so much ground every match and makes those gritty, hard-working plays that get you fired up. But he’s also had some real head-scratchers on the defensive end. The last two goals Sporting has conceded were scored by the man Zusi was marking.

The Chris Wondolowski goal is absolutely painful to watch. He didn’t make a tricky move to get open, Graham just didn’t follow him. He’s barely in the picture in the highlights.

On the other hand, Zusi was tasked with defending Vako for much of the night and did a decent job of keeping him in check. It wasn’t always pretty and he did beat up on Zusi a bit. But this is one of the leagues’s hottest players right now and he was held to four blocked shots and zero crosses playing on Zusi’s side of the field.

A lot of credit goes to Peter Vermes

San Jose plays differently than a lot of teams and Vermes had a game plan that he was proud of after the match. In the post game press conference he was asked how they handled this and he bluntly refused to give up his secret. But it wasn’t just in preparing for their style of play.

SKC got punched in the mouth in the first half but PV brought his team out of the locker room ready to win the match. He also used his substitutes very well, particularly when he brought on Ilie Sanchez. That move really brought life into the team and the difference was immediately felt.

They’ve still got some fight in them

The first half was really rough. The whole season has been rough. But these guys showed a lot of guts and determination in the comeback. “We had something different today, Vermes said. “We played with a lot of pride and I hope that the fans understand that we played for them today.” You could see how much they put into this game after the whistle blew as several players collapsed to the ground exhausted, emotionally and physically.

They started looking like themselves again. They got some of their swag back in the second half and reminded SKC Nation what they can do. It won’t be an easy climb but we know this team will fight for every point.