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Six Late Observations from Sporting KC versus Orlando City

Let’s revisit Week 2, before moving on to Week 3.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Sporting Kansas City Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, Sporting Kansas City gave up a late lead and ended up with a draw against Orlando City. I spent the night in section 102 but thought the game was worth a re-watch on TV to see if I missed anything. The following observations are based on the notes I took from my FS1 re-watch.

VAR Had a Good Night

As frustrating as it can be, it feels like the video assistant referee, Chris Penso, had a good night. I’m definitely for getting the calls right and Penso did that. He took away what appeared to be the opener for Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. Which was correct. Then in the 49th minute, Nani is left with too much space, Remi Walter fails at a header and actually flicks the ball on to Orlando but luckily Antonio Carlos gets a touch which leaves Perea offside and the VAR went back and fixed the incorrect goal call.

Finally, Nani’s goal was correctly given after initially being called offside. The whole sequence is a mess as Jaylin Lindsey and Andreu Fontas keep Smith on. Then Puncec gets a weak foot on the ball and ultimately Luis Martins stands around keeping Nani onside and never attempts to stop the goal.

Joe Dickerson (the center ref) Did Not!

Let’s do a rundown of Dickerson’s mistakes:

  • 9th minute: Gadi Kinda is fouled the ref just misses it.
  • 16th minute: Gianluca Busio is wiped out, advantage is played. Daniel Salloi loses the ball nearly immediately but the foul isn’t brought back. (That’s not an advantage!!)
  • 24th minute: Busio gets called for a really soft foul to stop his counter.
  • 59th minute: Salloi wiped out but ref indicates he got the ball (admittedly hard to tell).
  • 84th minute: Mendes shoulder charges Johnny Russell in the back with no play on the ball. He was on a yellow and probably should have been sent off.
  • 87th minute: Puncec makes a play on the ball but catches the man, gets a yellow just after a yellow wasn’t given for a worse challenge by Orlando.
  • 92nd minute: Smith is on a yellow and when the ball goes out the AR rules it’s SKC’s throw but Smith grabs it and throws it in the wrong way, which delayed the restart. Immediately after that Smith throws a forearm into Lindsey’s back for no call. No play on the ball, also could have been a second yellow (but should have at least been a foul in a dangerous area).

These are just the ones that really stood out. Do better Joe.

Pulskamp: Good Saves, Sketchy Feet

In the modern game a goalkeeper is expected to play the ball with their feet and be proficient. John Pulskamp, who was making his second career MLS start, struggled with his feet. He had several, low driven clearances that could have turned out bad but Orlando would back out when they were primed for a counter.

In the 48th minute a bad back pass to Pulskamp and he blasts his attempted clearance off an Orlando player in the box. Luckily, they again gain possession and just back the ball out instead of attacking. Other teams won’t let KC get away with these mistakes.

On the other side, Pulskamp had some really big saves. In the 1st minute he has to make a double save and they were both solid. He had another great save in the 40th and it’s cleared by Fontas (more on him in a second). In the 58th Khiry leaves too much space for Nani who finds Mueller. Luckily Tesho gets offside but Pulskamp made a huge save that won’t be on the stat sheet.

If Pulskamp solidifies his feet, the skies the limit.

Fontas has Started Strong

Through just two games, Andreu Fontas has 17 clearances. A few stood out to me when watching the game. The 17th minute he blocked a rocket of a shot (that was probably going wide). In the 22nd he intercepts the ball before another player brings it back in and he clears it. He has a good clearance in the 41st, but Orlando was offside so it’s not in the stats.

On the heels of a 59th minute non-foul on Salloi, Fontas wins the ball back, drives through the midfield and puts a rocket of a shot on target. The ensuing set piece sees him head the ball on goal to force a diving save (though the play is stopped for a separate foul in the box).

In the 60th minute, Isi then gets hurt and the defense is never the same with Roberto Puncec in.

Speaking of Isimat-Mirin...

He had another strong night until injuring his hamstring on a quick counter after the near Fontas goal off a set piece. He inexplicably stays in the game after the 60th minute injury and cannot jump on the ensuing set piece.

After that, Puncec came on and was out of sync with the rest of the defense. Orlando had SKC on their heels a lot in the second half but there was noticeable deterioration without Isi in the lineup. It could be that Puncec hasn’t played with Fontas at all (Kaveh Rad got most of those preseason minutes). Muscle injuries can linger, so it’ll be interesting to hear Peter Vermes’ update during Thursday’s press conference.

Bonus Thoughts

I stayed away from Busio’s goal, because Robert already covered it in great detail. I wrote down a few more things, though:

  • Really good possession in the 28th minute ends with Espinoza hitting a beautiful switch and Gadi Kinda just missing it.
  • In the 46th Shelton fails to play a through ball that looked easy to Salloi who would have been in on goal. He ultimately plays it late and Salloi is incorrectly called offside (his shot was off anyways).
  • 82nd minute Shelton steals the ball in a promising area and immediately gives it away.
  • Luis Martins made several unforced turnovers past the 80th minute.
  • 94th minute sees Espinoza hit a bullet through ball to Busio who’s shot is blocked for the last solid chance of the game.

On the whole, the result felt about right. Orlando controlled possession (possibly to their detriment since they failed to attack when they should have). There were lots of sloppy plays by both teams and neither team was at 100 percent healthy. Sporting’s attack seems poised to be better but the loss of Isimat-Mirin could be really bad for the defense.