Well, the streak is over. Multiple streaks actually. Sporting Kansas City entered Wednesday’s exhibition in Casa Grande, Arizona undefeated in the preseason before falling 2-0 to the Columbus Crew. They also entered having not allowed a goal and having scored four times in each of their prior two games.
But don’t let that get you down. While PR for the Columbus Crew asked that we not disclose their lineups, we’ll just say they were a little unbalanced. Sporting KC trotted out a team of mostly backups, Homegrowns, Academy kids and SKC II players for the first 60 minutes before putting on more “starters” for the final 30 minutes.
Sporting KC Lineups
Here are the two lineups, with the same format as last time: GK, RB, RCB, LCB, LB, D-Mid, RCM, LCM, RW, CF, LW
First 60 Minutes: John Pulskamp (SKC II), Jaylin Lindsey, Graham Smith, Botond Barath, Amadou Dia, Camden Riley (SKC II), Cameron Duke, Gianluca Busio, Johnny Russell, Wilson Harris (SKC II), Tucker Lepley (SKC Academy)
Final 30 Minutes: Richard Sanchez, Graham Zusi, Roberto Puncec, Matt Besler, Luis Martins, Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Gadi Kinda, Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi
The game got off to a very tough start for Sporting KC as the team made a series of back passes that ended up directly at the feet of Pulskamp just as Gyasi Zardes arrived (the team tweeted out the goal scorers if you thought I was immediately violating their lineup rules). The ball was fumbled, Zardes took a touch towards the end line and blasted it into the net. It was probably 15 seconds into the game and it was 1-0.
From there SKC settled down and played much better against MLS caliber opposition. The first moment of offense for SKC came from Tucker Lepley who plays in the Academy and featured for the Swope Park Rangers in 2019. He made a run down the left wing, weaving through several defenders before ultimately having his low cross blocked out for a corner.
For a majority of the first 45 minutes Columbus controlled the ball, though Sporting kept it competitive. On several occasions The Crew had a break away or were on the attack only to have Botond Barath snuff out the play.
There was only one booking in the first half when Dia’s legs were tangled with his winger and they tumbled to the ground. It felt like a harsh card, but nothing came of the free kick.
One of the highlights of the lineup from the first 60 minutes was the work between Jaylin Lindsey, Johnny Russell and Gianluca Busio up the right side. They interchanged well and Cameron Duke even got in on the action as the other forward midfielder.
Duke showed a level of explosiveness we don’t often see out of the midfield. He was very fast and that disrupted play in a couple situations. Late in the first half he broke in on goal only to have the keeper push the ball just wide.
Just before the half disaster struck as Jaylin Lindsey was called for a PK on the edge of the box. From my angle, it didn’t look like a foul but referee Alan Chapman was much closer. Pedro Santos stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way making it 2-0 at the half.
After the game I spoke with Lindsey about the call. When I asked if he thought it was a foul he said, “No. In all honesty, I’m usually an honest person, I don’t think so. I saw him come to my left side. I put my hands up. I’m not trying to touch him or anything and he just kind of ran into me and went to the ground.”
The Crew made wholesale changes at the half and immediately you could see things were more balanced. In fact, SKC started to take over the game with the Crew struggling to get the ball out of their own end. The Russell/Busio connection continued when Russell found Busio who had his shot pushed wide of goal by the keeper.
The second yellow of the game came for Sporting when Graham Smith was called for a light, but correct foul. The yellow was flashed after Smith continued to play and kicked the ball away.
Cam Duke had another burst towards goal when he and Busio forced a turnover and headed into the 18-yard-box. The Columbus CB forced Duke’s run away from goal and he tried a cheeky back heel but no one was home.
The best chance of the first 60 minutes came when Russell, Busio and Harris were breaking in on goal. Russell, after drawing the keeper out, made a perfect centering pass to Busio who appeared to have a sure goal only to have a defender sneak in at the last moment for the block. The ball then bounced up and Harris got a head to it but it went just wide.
The second lineup from the Crew had a solid chance just before the 60th minute mark. Russell was taken down hard on the sideline but Chapman ruled the defender got the ball which led to an odd man break. The wide attacker cut back inside but a diving John Pulskamp was able to save the goal.
With 30 minutes to go SKC made a full lineup change and officially took over the game. Immediately after they came on a strong attack came up the right size. It was Zusi to Espinoza to Shelton and back to Espinoza who interchanged with Shelton again. Shelton appeared to pass to Pulido who dummied the ball and Espinoza hit a curler that went wide.
The first yellow for Columbus came via a hard challenge into Roger Espinoza. The free kick didn’t lead to anything though. A few minutes later Roger would pick up a yellow of his own with a knee to knee clash that looked bad but both players were able to continue with no apparent effects of the collision.
One player who looked very exciting was Gadi Kinda. He made several quick and tricky touches and he was running very hard for most of the 30 minutes. He had a couple of half-chances but his best attempt was a looping header than bounced off the top of the goal.
Sporting stayed on the attack for most of the final 30 minutes. They earned numerous corners and while nothing came directly off them, the ball often cycled back around and led to more near misses or additional corners.
Late in the game Columbus finally got a chance on the break but a sliding Richard Sanchez took the ball off the attackers feet. Another Crew player gathered and Sanchez chased him way out before the ball got passed and shot on goal where Zusi blocked a sure goal. Still though the ball stayed in before Roberto Puncec put out the final clearance to end the threat.
The last chance of the game belonged to Sporting. Alan Pulido had shifted out to right wing and Khiry Shelton was at CF. The ball got up the field and they worked it back and forth as they rushed towards goal. The ball was then played back to Espinoza who sent a through pass to Pulido who slid on the shot and just BARELY missed the net.
Shortly thereafter the game came to an end 2-0. Sporting KC are back in action this Saturday against Real Salt Lake in their first match-up of the Visit Tuscon Sun Cup. Tickets can be purchased at FCTucson.com and the game will be streamed on SportingKC.com and possibly on YouTube as in years past.