On a chilly Halloween day, Sporting Kansas City went to Minnesota United and with tired legs and minds, fell flat. Let's dig in to a few observations on why that happened.
1. Ilie slid back... and so did the team
Ilie Sanchez took back his role as CB most likely as a way to rest Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, who is still getting back to full fitness. Sadly, Ilie looked less impressive after seeing the immense Isi play a few times. Ilie gave up the penalty although that might be more a nod to the ability of Reynoso, however, the thing that was most disturbing is how often he was caught in the box watching the ball and not marking anyone. At one point in the game Chase Gasper runs into the box alone and no one on the team marks him. Gasper should have had an easy goal in that scenario and it was symptomatic of the lack of awareness of the player movement in the box that has plagued this backline all year. In fairness, Minnestoa has a very dynamic front four who routinely float around the final third to find space so this was always going to be a challenge for SKC but the team did not rise to the occasion. Looking forward to getting the level of aggressive marking and defensive awareness that Isi brings for us to back soon.
2. SKC could not keep possession and were ineffective when they had it
If you want to get a sense of this from purely the data, check out this stats page for the game. SKC struggled to possess the ball in this game as evidenced by the fact that SKC ended the match with only 46% possession despite being behind for more than half the game. Minnesota were routinely able to dispossess our midfield and forwards by pressing them with numbers or shutting down passing lanes quickly. I also saw several instance of SKC players failing to check over the shoulder when receiving the ball which made it too easy for MIN to pick their pockets. We never really had answer for this and SKC is not a team that plays well without a lot of the ball. Something that might have helped, given how tightly the ref was calling this game, would be to go down from contact more easily. We can squabble about the ethical merits of that but it sure feels like Kinda could have drawn quite a few more fouls by toppling under the pressure.
3. PV used some subs
I am a regular complainer of PV's lack of subbing but he went big today using four out of five possible subs. Salloi came on the 54th minute for Duke in what I assume was a pre-planned sub to get Daniel back up to fitness. Salloi generally looked rusty and was definitely not going 100%. He could often be seen jogging instead of running unless absolutely necessary. And then, in a bit of an odd move, PV swapped out three more in the 82nd minute, the odd part was that he took out Shelton who was honestly having a good game and normally you leave forwards on when chasing a game. The other two to come out made more sense as they were Luis Martins who had struggled, and Roger who looked gassed. While I still wish some of those changes had been earlier or different people I appreciated seeing some rotation.
4. About that Dia tackle
This should not be allowed in the sport. It is dangerous and reckless and I have no idea how VAR does not overturn that for a straight red. I would assume we see another DisCo suspension handed down for this, it likely will have little effect since Amadou Dia is not a regular anyways but hopefully it sets a precedent.
SKC looked second best today. They lost midfield battles and JFR's routine of conjuring magic finally came to an end (I mean he still got an assist... but I was really getting used to a goal or two every game). SKC still holds their own destiny in terms of finishing first in the West but the road ahead looks like it will be much more nervy now. Drop a comment to let me know your thoughts.