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Eight Thoughts from Sporting KC versus the San Jose Earthquakes

Once we got our hearts to stop beating so fast, it’s time to take a look back at what stood out from the game.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What a game! Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes put on quite the display yesterday afternoon and into the evening. Lots of good and of course lots of bad when six goals find the back of the net. Let’s get to some thoughts.

Tim Melia is a God

I hit this pretty hard last night with all the amazing stats coming out about Melia’s performance. Shortest shootout in MLS history. Second time an MLS team has failed to score during a shootout (that stat about who did it the first time blew my mind). The hits just keep coming. If you stayed up and watched the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas PK shootout then it only further cemented how amazing Melia is. 16 penalties taken? Ridiculous. Just imagine if Melia hadn’t been hurt and knocked out of the Double Post game in 2015. Third star?

I said to my family, who have been through enough shootouts to know, that most of the shots will still go in but you just have to save one or two. Not with Tim Melia apparently. The rules simply don’t apply.

The conversation this morning has turned to why has Tim Melia not had a United States National Team call up? I get that he’s 34 and there is somewhat of a youth movement going on but the man deserves to play for his country, even if it’s just a January camp and a single cap. Make it happen US Soccer!

Busio’s Playoff Breakout

During the game I was definitely talking to the television about how Peter Vermes needs to use his damn subs. The game was screaming for an injection of energy. The first subs didn’t come until the 93rd minute. Then Wondo scores in the 97th. I don’t think the two are related as it was no one that had just come on that made any mistakes on the play.

However, I think the case could have been made that Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez were the best midfielders and if Gadi Kinda had come on, it could have been for Busio. The other sub that really could have been made was bringing off Khiry Shelton. How wrong would both of those been when it came to the late Busio goal?

Obviously it really worked that they stayed on as Khiry assisted Busio on what looked like the game winning goal. The final stat line for Busio was impressive with a somewhat lucky assist on a corner kick and a quality goal. He really should have scored twice, but it all worked in the end. On he ended with the second highest rating behind Roger Espinoza. I’d love to see what that was without the late goal. Lots of uncharacteristic errant touches and passes from Busio, but he made up for it in the end.

Someone’s transfer fee just went up.

What was Wrong with Hurtado?

I really felt the game was crying out for an Erik Hurtado substitution, as outlined above. But when he got on, he appeared to be gassed within about 10 minutes or so. Usually he’s a bull in a china shop (though that expression may be a bit of a myth) running all over the place causing havoc and destruction.

Go back and watch the tape and you’ll see he only runs a few times. It’s weird. He did have a child since the final game of the season and I’m sure that’s messing with his sleep schedule. It’s something to watch as the playoffs continue, though you’d hope Alan Pulido will be healthy and able to play the majority of the minutes at center forward from here out.

The League’s Best Set Piece Team

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks back when it was said on the broadcast that Sporting KC were the best team in the league at set pieces, I about did a spit take. The same SKC team that never seems to score from set pieces? How can that be true? But then, I did notice lots of goals coming from set pieces when I looked back at the season. A stunning amount frankly. These series of beautiful charts show Sporting aren’t only the best but they are one of the best defensively too. Crazy year. PV probably deserves some credit for figuring that out. Two more set piece goals against San Jose drove the point home.

Cristian Espinoza is a Marvel

The left side of the defense were given fits on Sunday. I think Amadou Dia and Winston Reid have generally been fantastic, but they really struggled to deal with Cristian Espinoza moving up and down the flank. I remember when Espinoza was made a Designated Player there was a lot of talk that “he doesn’t score goals.” And he doesn’t. He has five goals in two seasons and over 50 appearances. But he is a creator! Him serving balls into the box just needs players, like Wondo, to get on the end of them. He was second in the league in assists this year and it shows. He’s a difference maker.

I don’t fault Dia and hopefully he’ll learn from it. I thought Reid was actually quite good except that embarrassing run where Espinoza just made him look silly on the second goal. He tried really hard, but his lack of straight line speed showed.

Let’s Talk Refereeing

I could have made an entire post about the awful officiating from Sunday afternoon, so count yourself lucky that I’ve limited myself to three points.

All that Stoppage Time

There was a minimum of four minutes of stoppage time added to the end of regulation by referee Nima Saghafi. Former TBT staffer Aly Trost went back and double checked the timing for us all.

So that’s Busio scoring at 90:35, a massive celebration and a couple of subs later and play resumes at 92:45. 2:10 had elapsed. Chris Wondolowski then scored at 96:50, 2:50 seconds behind the initial “end” of stoppage time.

Many online have said Tim Melia took 40 seconds to kick in a goal kick at one point and even if there were true, I’m calling shenanigans. NEVER do they add that time back. How many times does the whistle go too early with multiple slow goal kicks, free kicks and throw ins? If they added all the time back in, FC Dallas games would have 40 minutes of stoppage time per game and the rest of the league would easily have 15-20 minutes.

Speaking of Dallas, a mere two games later in the evening, they scored a goal in stoppage time and celebrated feverishly and zero time was added back on. I’ve long said, I just need consistency from refs and we didn’t get that.

Regardless, SKC can’t give up that goal, but it still chaps me a bit. Luckily it didn’t matter too much because #TimMelia.

No Yellow for Judson?

As much as the stoppage time ate at me, Saghafi’s bigger issue throughout the game was having zero control. San Jose’s Judson committed a game high four fouls, of which at least two were worth of direct yellow cards, and he walked away with zero cards. He’s committed more fouls than nearly the entire league. If nothing he should have gotten a yellow for persistent infringement.

This goes back to inconsistency. I agreed with all the KC yellows except the one given to Winston Reid. He gave yellows to SKC when they earned them but he was inconsistent in giving them to SJ. Speaking of missed yellows...

The Missed Lopez & Lima Red Cards

Let’s start with Lima, as it’s more easily missed. Nick Lima picked up the game’s first card. Then later in the first half Gerso is trying to break away for a run without the ball and Lima falls to the ground and grabs Gerso to stop the run. It’s easier to miss as it was on the opposite side of the field as the AR and Saghafi is rightly focused on the area around the ball. It wasn’t too far from the fourth official, but I digress.

The missed card for the Marcos Lopez in the first period of extra time is inexcusable. Felipe Hernandez has the ball and is heading down the right side of the field. Lopez is beat and leaves his feet completely going underneath Hernandez. If Felipe doesn’t leap, he’d absolutely clean him out. Instead, the contact is minimal, but there doesn’t need to be contact as it broke up the play and Lopez was nowhere near the ball. Saghafi was right there too!

You don’t go an entire season without giving a red card because no red cards were earned. You go an entire season because of your unwillingness to make a call that could impact the game. He allowed the inmates to run the asylum and because of that a fairly violent game broke out for a good chunk of time before teams were simply too tired to keep up that pace.

What did I miss? What did you notice that deserves some discussion. Let us know in the comments.