Sporting Kansas City faltered over the weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps, just like all their closest opponents in the standings failed. It was a lost opportunity to gain on the Seattle Sounders and put some breathing room between SKC and the Colorado Rapids. Let’s watch the highlights and try to figure out what went wrong.
After the game, I tweeted this passing chart from MLSsoccer.com:
It's hard not to notice how disconnected Shelton is from the rest of the team on this passing chart from @MLS. No connection with Salloi or any of the three midfielders. The thin lines from Zusi/Russell mean minimal passes. #SportingKC #VANvSKC pic.twitter.com/PR9UTQzP37— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) October 18, 2021
Khiry Shelton has no connections to any midfielder to the left side of the attack, which is often how this team comes up. He also had a team low 22 touches and simply wasn’t involved enough in the match (h/t to @DGreenwald). When Alan Pulido isn’t involved, he drops deep into the midfield to get involved. I understand that’s not Shelton’s game. He’s holding up the ball and making runs to create space for others, but the space just didn’t exist. Kansas City had one shot in the box on goal and it was a flicked header from Andreu Fontas (about 20 seconds into the highlight video). That’s just not good enough.
Peter, you get five subs!!
That brings me to my second point. The Blue Testament and other outlets have asked questions all through the second half of the season around lack of subs and it basically comes down to Vermes has a secret plan. Hopefully it’ll work out, but it’s hard to miss that it isn’t so far.
Since about the middle of the season, Vermes typically makes only one to two subs a game, despite having five at his disposal. Even in the games where he uses two or three more consistently, it’s often in garbage time with little to no chance to affect the game. Previously, PV has talked about not wanting to break the rhythm the team had going, but no second half shots on target tells us they weren’t in a rhythm. It’s hard to believe Wilson Harris couldn’t have at least been as good as Shelton. What do you have to lose?
Plus Cam Duke has earned the right to get subbed on in each game to try to make an impact. Weirdly, I’d have been okay with subbing off Roger Espinoza who came out like a demon to start the second half but faded (though it’s rare you sub the sub). Duke and Gadi Kinda being on together can be magic at times but standing pat when down isn’t working.
As our own Mike Kuhn pointed out on Twitter, the come-from-behind SKC team, was the first half of the year. Since their last successful comeback win, they are 0-4-3 when falling behind. The difference, at the beginning of the season, PV was averaging more than three subs a game. Now his average is just north of one. How can everyone but Vermes see this?
That First Vancouver Goal
This one seems the most preventable. A lot goes wrong. Fontas steps to intercept and does, but the ball bounces around a bit unluckily and Owusu does a great job to keep it deep in SKC’s end. Then on the cross, Fontas is still recovering so Luis Martins is covering Brian White but he doesn’t leap to defend the header and appears to be heading wider to get the other wide man, leaving White open to head the ball back into the middle.
From there, Jose Mauri is basically stuck covering two guys. It seems someone else should be in there helping. Presumably Ilie Sanchez makes the right move to step back and cover the goal line (and he nearly makes the play). For me, it might be a miscommunication between Graham Zusi and Remi Walter. Walter is pressuring the cross, which maybe Zusi is accustomed to handling, so I assume Zusi needs to cover Dajome so Mauri can get Ryan Gauld (the goal scorer). All that said, it’s Mauri’s man so it’s probably on him. Either way, there is plenty of blame to go around.
- Sporting KC are 0-2-2 after a break of 10 or more days. Rest simply doesn’t seem to be good for this team and the playoffs start after a similar break due to an International Window. When I asked Vermes about it, he didn’t have an answer.
Vermes on SKC being winless (0-2-2) after breaks of 10 or more days and the playoffs starting after such a break: He said he "doesn't believe in streaks" but he doesn't have an answer. #SportingKC #VANvSKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) October 18, 2021
- You hear it on the highlights, but they don’t show it. Russell Teibert absolutely gets away with a red-card worthy foul on Gadi Kinda. He steps on his Achilles and it’s amazing he wasn’t injured. It was reminiscent of Roger Espinoza’s red earlier in the season. Man how that would have changed the game since it was before the second goal. For what it’s worth, the Instant Replay guys didn’t cover it.
- On the second Vancouver goal, it seems like a general malaise by SKC. Mauri is late stepping to Teibert (who would have been off if they got the red card challenge right). It’s no wonder Mauri was subbed at halftime. I won’t be surprised if Walter is the starting 6 against Seattle and Espinoza resumes his starting role in the midfield. Then Cam Duke can sub on for a burst.
- Cristian Dajome is a player I’m learning to greatly dislike. He goes down so easily. Even the TSN broadcast was commenting on how easy he was going down. The problem is, the ref gave him every call. It encourages this bad behavior and MLS needs to go back and suspend flopping or the plague will never leave the beautiful game.
Sporting KC are back in action this weekend against the Seattle Sounders in a game that will surely go a long way in deciding who wins the West. This will no doubt be looked at as a blown opportunity.