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Three Thoughts on Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake

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Observations from a depressing Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park and how SKC got there.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City
Whats in the box for Sporting KC? Pain.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Y’all, things are bad. There are so many reasons for things being this way that were avoidable. I am not feeling generous right now about all of this so let's rant a little and then we can wrap up with a more hopeful look forward.

Decisions that lead to Decision Day

Let's shoot straight here, Sporting KC did not deserve to be #1 in the Western Conference. Why do you ask? Because the best teams in MLS understand that: a win and a loss (1.5 Points Per Game) is better than two draws (1 PPG) and is much better than two losses (0 PPG). Because of this fact, the best teams rotate players to create depth and prevent fatigue so they can optimize for most overall wins and not just “winning the next game”.

Peter Vermes and company with regards to the above knowledge are somewhere along the spectrum of:

  1. The best and still not great case -> They are unaware or overly optimistic about their players.
  2. The kind of bad case -> They are aware but feel like they need to do this to “harden” the players despite what sports science and logic would suggest.
  3. The worst-case -> They are aware but PV & Co are too arrogant to admit it because of the constant questions this year from the press.

If I had to guess we are somewhere between two and three. That is incredibly frustrating because I think we truly take first in the West pretty easily with smart rotation/subs throughout the year. Instead, we fell Sporting Flat™ and stumbled our way into a third seed with three straight losses to end the season.

Buuuutttt the handball!!!!!

If you are screaming right now that they could have won the game and been in first if the refs had just called the game right! I would say...

For those who don't know:

Recency bias is a cognitive bias that favors recent events over historic ones. A memory bias, recency bias gives ‘greater importance to the most recent event,’ such as the final lawyer’s closing argument a jury hears before being dismissed to deliberate.”

So how does this relate to the handball? Well in reality, when we think about missed calls we must recognize that over the season referee calls will tend to even out (despite Peter Vermes crying a river in the post-game press conference).

If you need more proof look at this recent example where SKC got lucky points: Tim Melia should see a red card after the Christian Roldan body slam incident but instead sees yellow. That game Timmy would go on to make so many saves and clears that, no offense to Kendall McIntosh, I just don't see him saving. So does the handball sting? Yes! It f’in stings like an untreated STD but it is not the ultimate reason we did not finish first in the West.

Real Salt Lake’s goal was classy

I feel like we see a few of these a year scored by opponents, a sexy bicycle shot/pass to set up a tap-in. I can't remember ever seeing one of these from SKC, and I am not sure why... less flashy players? Coaching staff discouraging that style of play? Lack of technical talent? It is hard to say but I wish we would see them sometimes from the boys in Sporting Blue. All that said we do see very good goals from Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russel, and Alan Pulido regularly but they tend to be big curling shots or nice jukes to lose a defender.

For some hope

  • This is still one of the most talented SKC teams I can ever remember.
  • We will have Pulido, Johnny, and likely Kinda back for the playoffs.
  • When this team is on and rested they are unstoppable, and I think they will come out with a good bit of fire after the rest.
  • The other top-tier teams in the Western Conference feel weak right now, so it is hard to say there is a huge favorite in the West’s playoff bracket. So why not SKC?

In conclusion

Let's hope (with some justification) this is a “the night is darkest before the dawn” moment for SKC and not a slow death of the 2021 season. I love this team, I love this Blue Testament community, and I want SKC to lift the MLS Cup so get out to Children’s Mercy Park and show the Vancouver Whitecaps why it is called The Blue Hell!