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Four Observations From Sporting Kansas City’s Loss to Real Salt Lake

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Frustration. Sadness. Heartbreak.

MLS: Playoffs- Semifinals-Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC
These guys get it.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

That was all kinds of terrible. Even after a day or two to gather my thoughts and calm down I still feel frustrated, sad, and confused by the game we witnessed on Sunday. If you want to get in the right headspace to read this article I would listen to Bo Burham’s song $&@! on repeat (a lot of cussing obviously).

Freebie: Don’t be the man/woman/non-binary individual to jump on the “Fire Vermes” train.

Go read Chad Smith’s article on this.

1. Sporting KC never came out of the dressing room

“We weren’t there. We weren’t in the game as we normally are for some reason.” - Peter Vermes, post-game conference.

I cannot remember the last time Sporting Kansas City failed to show up to a game as badly as they did against Real Salt Lake. I was stunned to see them late to almost every second ball, losing duels all over the field, and utterly outworked by a team on shorter rest. While I have some frustration with PV this game it was obvious that the players did not deserve the win today. And to give credit where it's due, RSL did show up and worked their asses off.

The thing that made the lack of passion displayed by SKC even worse was how much the crowd showed up for them. I live in Denver so I did not get to go to the game but the crowd sounded so loud and up for it on the broadcast. I can only imagine that in the stadium it was completely electric, so I am sure more than a few fans are left feeling betrayed by the players on this one.

2. Where was Zusi?

I think that was the most uninspired game I have seen from Graham Zusi this year.... or maybe ever? I mentioned last week in my article about the Vancouver game that “... I don’t understand how any team that watches game tape on SKC is willing to concede the diagonals.” Well, RSL understood the assignment and simply did not give Zusi the opportunity to play long balls across the field to Dániel Sallói or up his side of the field to Johnny Russell.

With Graham unable to pick out those passes he quickly became unproductive going forward. This could be forgiven if he was winning his defensive battles, but he won exactly zero of his seven duels. Finally, on RSL’s second goal all he had to do was pull Justin Meram down and take the tactical yellow card instead he gets completely left in the dust.

3. Peter Vermes lost the tactical chess match

As bad as SKC was playing there was a period early in the second half where I thought they just might be able to pull off an ugly win, then Anderson Julio came on and shattered that illusion. The players on the field did not have an answer for him and it was immediately obvious. He was running circles around Luís Martins and the midfield was certainly not slowing him down. PV in the 71st minute finally brings on a counter sub in Roger Espinoza but the damage was already done as the team had been under intense pressure for too long at that point and Julio would score a minute later. Following the goal, we did see Julio become more contained by Roger’s midfield tackles and I think there is a good chance he keeps SKC ahead (or at least ahead for longer) if he comes on ten minutes earlier.

But it was not just the timing of the Roger substitution, it was waiting too long to sub out Alan Pulido who was visibly gassed by halftime. It was also subbing off Kinda who was really our only effective offensive player all game. And finally, I was desperate to see Cam Duke come on for a struggling Salloi. Hindsight is 20/20 and maybe I am overstating my case here but it sure seems like PV was outplayed by Pablo Mastroeni (who by the way is not exactly known for his tactical prowess).

4. The reality

Only one team gets to win the MLS Cup and the odds that it will be your team is always slim. It did feel like the stars were aligning this year but that is playoffs for you, they are a cruel mistress. Someday, maybe MLS will be a single-table balanced league that decides teams on the merits of their regular-season record... HAHAHA J/K commissioner Don Garber will never let that happen.

In Conclusion

And now we wait for the 2022 season. There will be off-season drama and some players we love will probably be gone and hopefully, some new promising one will be brought in. And who knows by the pre-season, I might even be dreaming once again of silverware.

On a different note, I have really enjoyed writing these post-game observations for this awesome community, and I am sad that it will be a few months before I write another. Until then stay classy my Blue Testament friends.