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“In the Box”: Quick takes on Sporting Kansas City

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Two matches in is a small sample size, but why not?

MLS: Orlando City SC at Sporting Kansas City Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

So far… So Sporting Kansas City.

To be fair… so early season.

In their 2-1 away comeback win at New York Red Bulls and their 1-1 draw (giving up a 79th minute equalizer) at home versus Orlando City, Sporting Kansas City has looked very much like the team we have seen for a few seasons now.

But there are signs of change. And new blood to discuss. And, hey, the first-choice lineup has not even been on the field yet… figured out yet??

Here are some quick thoughts on individual players (overall to follow):

Gianluca Busio is making good on his declaration that he would reach that next level, even mostly playing at the false 9.

Nineteen-year-old John Pulskamp has made some very good saves. But his distribution needs some fine-tuning.

Both Andreu Fontas and Daniel Salloi are early candidates for Comeback Player of the Year. (That is what getting consistent minutes can do for a player.) I see Fontas sticking… Salloi, not so much.

Khiry Shelton has been jaw-dropping inconsistent. Some great moments (like that precise assist against NYRB), accompanied by painfully “WTH, Khiry?” moments (Like the Orlando City ball in the box in the 49th minute… go ahead, pull it up).

Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is the real deal, on all fronts. (My sense of dread and doom when he went off in the 63rd minute against Orlando was deep…)

Remi Walter is slow afoot; Gadi Kinda has quick feet.

Quick takes on Sporting Kansas City overall:

Four points in two matches is good. Not winning at home is not.

Ilie is missed in the possession game.

That midfield, though, is getting torn apart… literally… (If you want a simile…The path through Sporting’s midfield is as clear as the path to the dance floor at a middle school dance.) Getting the first-choice lineup in will help. But will it solve all the issues? Recent history says no. But we can hope. (I will not say anything about a double-pivot. I won’t. I promise.)

But what is that first-choice lineup? Got to get your best players in the midfield and upfront on together to make this team hum… Ilie and Kinda and Busio and Russell and Pulido. How does that look? I would rather see any combination of them start than start Salloi or Shelton. If you are paying attention… I don’t think Walter is the answer (But he could be a key guy as time goes.).

Fontas and Isimat-Mirin are a good center back pairing. After that it gets questionable.

Sporting’s wide backs are average defensively. Time to grow, though… (Amadou Dia on the left, maybe…) There is time to keep searching for a left back too… There are many strong attacking wingers in Major League Soccer. Nani is just one.

These takes are too pessimistic…

I honestly think this Sporting Kansas City side has the attitude, the character, the talent, the unity, and the coaching to be very successful in 2021. But I get the same feeling as the past: one (or two) additions or one or two players growing into their role can make all the difference.

As always, please share your thoughts below in the comments.