Sporting Kansas City battled back to earn a 1-1 draw against Austin FC in the brutal heat on Saturday afternoon. If you missed the game, we’ve got you covered on the recap and below are nearly eight minutes of highlights.
- The highlights don’t capture that SKC utterly dominated the first 20+ minutes of the game before Austin scored out of nowhere. They didn’t have a ton of big chances, but they had nearly all of the ball and some decent opportunities. This team has to find a way to stop falling behind early. Against lesser competition they’ve battled back, but other teams won’t let them back in the game and will finish those chances Sporting gave up later when they were pushing bodies forward to try to score.
- That Daniel Salloi shot in the first half, where he leaps through the air and throws a kick like a ninja, would have been an amazing finish. Kudos to Stuver for making impressive save after impressive save (he had nine to Tim Melia’s one).
- I’m so glad to see Felipe Hernandez back on the field. He’s looked quite good for SKC II over the last couple appearances since his return from injury. Picking up that injury limited his time as he only has two appearances for 47 minutes with the first team. But he looked good in this game. The preseason experiment at the #6 seemed short lived but he’s a perfect fit for one of the dual 8s SKC play. He was a spark when he came on for the injured Remi Walter and he was goal dangerous as well, which is something he showed consistently in USL but has yet to flash in MLS. The fact that he was subbed off late (after being a sub himself) is inexplicable to me. He was playing so well.
- I thought Johnny Russell looked a little rusty, but he has some really good plays in the game. That ball into Hernandez early in the second half, the diving header on the Martins cross (which admittedly wasn’t going to be on target but could have fallen to another player) and the hustle play that led to the Salloi goal all stood out. Once he’s back in form the team should be even more dangerous and Khiry Shelton will be relegated to coming off the bench where his pace and work rate and grind teams into submission.
- I’m quick to hate on Shelton at times, and I don’t think he had a great game, but what’s cut out of most of the highlights (but is in this longer highlight package) is he is the one that starts the sequence that leads to the goal. His pressure forces the turnover and after a series of passes, blocked shots, saves, etc. the ball falls to Salloi for the goal. Shelton deserves some credit for getting it started, even though his effort on the goal won’t show in the stat sheet. His finishing leaves a ton to be desired (he had a few strong opportunities in this game) but he is definitely making an impact.
- Man Austin missed some really good chances! Particularly Rodney Redes who missed an open net. Maybe the pressure from Luis Martins is enough to put him off, but it’s basically inexcusable. A better team finishes that. Then again, Sporting had some really good chances too. The xG battle ended at 4.40 for Sporting KC to 1.55 for Austin. That’s a lot of chances for a team without TWO Designated Players (Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda). [Also, shout out to the guy who takes that Redes shot in the man zone in the final replay on the highlight reel.]
- The passing networks (pictured below courtesy of MLSsoccer.com) are kind of remarkable. SKC play from such an advanced position with only the circles for Ilie Sanchez and Graham Zusi being behind the midfield line (also, Lindsey played more than Zusi, do they share that cricle??). Andreu Fontas is across it and Luis Martins is very advanced. A lot moves through Busio (again...) and Russell is the most advanced attacker with Shelton having zero lines between him and the advanced midfielders. Austin on the other hand are very deep and only Cecilio Dominguez (their goal scorer) is even on the midfield line.