I was sitting watching Sporting Game Night this week when the coaches all praised host Benny Feilhaber for his fantastic performance against the Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. It got me to talking to fellow The Blue Testament writer Cody Bradley and we both made ourselves suffer through those highlights. Before even watching them, I was venting to Cody how Sporting Kansas City got screwed that night.
Going back and watching again just reminded me how right I was. Without further ado, here are three games where Sporting KC were ‘screwed’ in the playoffs in recent history.
#1 - SKC v Seattle Sounders - 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs
Even without going back and watching the highlights, I clearly remember Seattle’s goal was offside and Besler’s offside was questionable. Then watching the highlights made it sting even more as Ozzie Alonso was on a yellow card when he wiped out a streaking Benny Feilhaber. He should have been sent off without a doubt.
Let’s break it down. First, the Besler goal that was taken away. He appears to have been off. According to the lovely Twitter account @OffsideModeling, he was about 7” off.
In the 88th minute, on the other end of the field though, the other AR blows the call as Valdez is between one and two feet offside. That would be the lone goal of the match.
Still working on Besler offside, but Valdez off by about 1-2'. pic.twitter.com/wBSc86yTtA— SoccerPhotogrammetry AKA "A Nice Gentleman" (@OffsideModeling) October 28, 2016
Add to that the Alonso sending off and it seems SKC would be in a good position to win. As the highlights show, which are the Sounder highlights, Sporting dominated the game. Feilhaber was hot fire, Zusi hit the post and if not for some strong Stephen Frei saves, Sporting probably still would have won with the other nonsense. All this while Roger Espinoza started at left wing. Left Wing!
With VAR, neither goal would stand and I think it’s fair to say SKC would have won. Seattle went on to win their first MLS Cup that year too. I think it’s safe to infer SKC would have won their third instead. Obviously unknowable, but I’m confident.
Here are the full highlights.
#2 - SKC v Portland Timbers - 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs
This one still stings a bit because it’s relatively recent. Sporting Kansas City were the best team in the Western Conference in 2018 and seemingly had a home field advantage entering the playoffs. Instead, this was the final season of home-away games with aggregate scores that were tie-broken by away goals, where the higher seed team lost most of the time.
This game hurt so much in the immediately aftermath, I wrote 12 excuses that SKC lost. The above mentioned playoff format is accounted for, four SKC players had the flu on a short week, Zarek Valentin should have been sent off, SKC’s xG in the 2nd leg was over three for them and under one for Portland (which is 100% on SKC), Valeri should have been suspended for the second leg and the list goes on.
Portland went on to the finals and botched their chance at a second cup to Atlanta United who got their first. Sporting had beaten Atlanta in Atlanta earlier in the season, so it’s safe to assume they would have won this MLS Cup too. Also unknowable, but safe.
Here are the highlights of both legs.
#3 - SKC v Portland Timbers - 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs
This one is definitely less about being screwed than just being unlucky. But let’s complain a little anyways. This is the infamous double post game where Saad Abdul-Salaam’s potential game winning penalty kick some how hit both posts and bounced out.
Something else that jumped out at me during that game was Fanendo Adi elbowing Matt Belser in the face causing Besler to have to leave the field for treatment. If VAR was around, it’s possible Adi gets sent off. Instead, he got no card.
Tim Melia also left that game injured and was replaced by Jon Kempin who would ultimate miss his PK and give up the game winning penalty to Adam Kwarasey, Portland’s keeper. I distinctly remember the Portland fans booing an injured Melia. If the team was wasting time, it was a bad time to do so as Sporting trailed 1-0 late before Kevin Ellis ultimately equalized to send it to extra time.
Of the three listed games, this is definitely the biggest reach in terms of being “screwed.” Portland did win the game and go on to win a questionable MLS Cup against the Columbus Crew scoring two goals that would have been overturned with VAR.
There is lots of coverage of this game if you desire to see it (but why would you). There is a documentary on the double post too. The full game was even released during the coronavirus as a ‘classic.’ The highlights are here (MLS has forbidden embedding for some reason).
I hope you enjoyed (though you most certainly didn’t) this run down memory lane. I sure do miss sports, even when things go horribly wrong. Just think, a few different things happen and Sporting KC have five stars instead of two.