“In the Box” is a dynamic Kansas City soccer column on The Blue Testament dropping news, fun, thoughts (and sometimes musings on life) most Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays by @spkclife and the TBT staff. Participation in the discussions via comment(s) are strongly encouraged.
It was like a rocket on a launchpad. The rockets had begun firing. The countdown had reached the “bellowing smoke” stage. The excitement was building. T-30 seconds... it was about to lift.
Systems failure... Abort. Abort!
No, Sporting Kansas City’s last formal preseason match was not a failure. Yet no Johnny Russell, no Gadi Kinda, no Alan Pulido, and then a warmup adductor strain for Daniel Salloi tempered the event, the first time fans were able to see their team perform in 2021.
But there was still plenty to see. Here are the notes I took on certain moments as I watched Sporting defeat the LA Galaxy 1-0. There were some good moments. But, let’s be honest; the result was very flattering of Kansas City.
Quick hit I
“Khiry Shelton is invaluable defending set pieces in the box.” Truth.
“4th minute, SKC caught up, too many to ball, overcommitted.”
“Midfield and Forward line more compact, more of a defensive unit, not that LAG [play is] much to worry about.”
The first seems an outcome of the second. Sporting was making not only the field smaller - a common defensive tactic - but the midfield small. The forward and midfield lines functioned more like a unit than I have noticed in the past. A problematic tendency of that could be too many Sporting defenders being drawn to the ball. However, the tactic worked well in limiting space for the Galaxy to play through the gut of midfield.
“14th, Busio nice penetrating ball for Harris.”
“17th, good low ball in from Busio after clip past defender.”
“27th, sweet through ball from Busio to Shelton, strongest chance of half.”
And, of course, his goal.
Gianluca did what a player who wants to prove he is one of the best on the pitch should do. He showed a head above everyone. At only 18, mind you.
His ingenuity and ability to not only recognize penetrating passing opportunities, but to put the ball where it needs to be was a step-above in this preseason match. And he scored a nice match-winner in a game that Sporting had little business winning.
His performance is a good sign for the season. Now, he will have to step it up with better players around him when it gets real.
Quick hit II
“Harris looks a little of a player out of his element, not his thing to create for himself, go 1 v 1.”
But… in the 30th minute, Harris checked into midfield, received from Isimat-Mirin, and played a nice through ball for Shelton. Later, it is his clever touch for Shelton that leads to the goal.
The hopeful backline prodigal-son deserves a pass. It was his first action with his new squad after the required arrival quarantine.
Early on, Isi looked right at home right, asked to do nothing too urgent. He began composed on the ball, but in time he was shaky in tight moments, lost a touchline battle in his own end (out of hesitation mostly), and failed to clear on a head ball that led to a chance LAG attacker Sacha Kljestan usually puts away.
And it is okay.
What is NOT okay...
“18th misplay, let by Fontas, should be down 1-0, typical for SKC to dominate and not take advantage.”
“String of giveaways through 20th.”
“Fontas/Melia confusion leads to strong chance in 49th.”
Affirmation time... it is preseason. These things will be ironed out...
...It’s a curse. Does anyone know a Master of the Dark Arts??? We need some Voodoo up in here... Jimi? (Make sure Salloi attends the cleansing...)
“24th, Walter, excellent touch to keep cross alive deep on right side, composure to turn out for option to Lindsey instead of forcing a cross.”
“40th, RW recovery run and wins ball, carries forward under pressure and releases.”
“42nd recovery run after losing battle (tough tackle put in) and LM loses battle, earns throw.”
“55th, sweet chest take down and layoff from RW.”
Remi Walter showed well. Here is to him growing even more comfortable and effective.
To be succinct
Though injuries and a spotty defensive performance held Sporting down to Earth, the roster displayed some celestial flashes. At least Sporting is not a handful of falling stars, a once spectacular, but now imploding array (to be fair, that was not anything near a full strength LAG squad either, but, eh, who cares...).