If you didn’t make it out to Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday night (or flip on the TV), you missed a fun one. Sporting Kansas City smacked down their Western Conference ‘rival’ Minnesota United by a scoreline of 4-0.
Before we get to some takeaways and observations, let’s watch the highlights in case you missed it.
Prior to these back-to-back home wins, Sporting KC endured a tough stretch of home games. No, they weren’t losing matches (well, okay, one match) for the most part, but they weren’t winning either. After their win on June 26th at CMP against LAFC, they went over two and a half months before beat the Chicago Fire and then Minnesota. During that run, they were 0-1-3 at home (they played seven road games for a 4-1-2 record during that same stretch).
What’s the difference you may ask? How teams choose to play. When SKC are on the road, teams play a more attacking style of soccer because they are expected to win their home games, and to win, you often need to attack. But when teams travel to KC, they tend to sit deep and bunker. Minnesota didn’t. They played wide open and they had several good chances early in the game. The key seems to be for other teams to hit on one of those chances, then sit in deep. But if you don’t, you are playing the way Kansas City wants. When you press up the field, it creates space and they play through that space.
It wasn’t perfect on Wednesday, but they carved Minnesota apart. Let’s hope other opponents want to play offensively as well since it will suit KC’s style.
As Peter Vermes entered the media room after the game, before he even sat down he said, “I used a couple subs” to a chuckle from the assembled media. He was probably trying to stave off our questions about the lack of subbing in the prior matches. That said, in my opinion, they weren’t quality subs (not the players, the timing). The fourth goal was scored in the 52nd minute but the first sub didn’t come until the 83rd minute. Minnesota had made four subs by that point.
I have heard some defend this because SKC are off for 10 days until they play the Seattle Sounders a week from Sunday, but why risk the health of your players? Alan Pulido picked up what Vermes described as a minor injury because he stayed in too long against the Fire in a game the team was up 2-0 in. Sure 2-0 is the ‘most dangerous lead,’ but I doubt you can argue the same about 4-0 at home.
So Grayson Barber got seven minutes, Wilson Harris got three and Jake Davis made his MLS debut and played one minute. I’m not even sure he got a touch (though he did deliver a foul). Vermes told me before the Fire game that he basically has secret reasons for the way he subs... I’m not sure what to think of all that.
Vermes on not using subs in the last 5 games, especially against LAFC while down a man and losing 2-0: There are lots of factors that go into making subs or not making subs but he didn't want to share his thought process to not give anything away. #SportingKC— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) September 7, 2021
What I do know is players have gotten hurt before (which can happen when you make subs too), but fatigue and burnout are a thing. This feels like the best Sporting KC team in recent memory. No need to take unnecessary risks in games that are already won or lost and it’ll be good to get some of the young players meaningful minutes in case you need them as the season winds down.
Actually Quick Observations
...since, you know, those other two were sort of long.
- Daniel Salloi borderline deserves an assist in this game and the prior game for shots that had rebounds that immediately led to goals (Shelton’s against MNUFC and Russell’s against Chicago).
- In case you missed it, Alan Pulido and Remi Walter missed the game with “minor” knee injuries and Gadi Kinda missed to observe Yom Kippur. After the game Peter said both injured players would be back soon and he could have played Nicolas Isimat-Mirin as he has recovered from injury.
- The Cauldron, despite being not quite full for a midweek game, were lively all night. With chants of “you’re no Zendejas” to GK Tyler Miller while the former SKC keeper sat on the bench. They also had “You’re no rival” towards Minnesota and they chanted “MVP” after Salloi scored his goal.
- Speaking of that chant, Daniel confirmed he heard it. “I actually heard that one,” began Salloi. “It means a lot to me. It’s important to me to be in the MVP conversation.” He also talked about chasing Raul Ruidiaz and Ola Kamara (who bagged a hat trick last night) in the Golden Boot and said he’s keeping an eye on it and he knows he’s in the running. SKC PR were quick to point out Kamara has a lot of PK goals. He actually has seven to Daniel’s zero (he’s had no attempts other than the all-star game banger he had). Plus when you look at goals plus assist, Salloi has that lead too. MVP is right!
- The fourth goal of the night had a couple fun things. First, Johnny Russell recorded his second assist of the night (on top of a goal). But Cam Duke, who scored his second goal of the regular season (third when you count the Leon game), immediately ran to celebrate with the subs. He showed he probably should be on the field more than he is a sub not seeing game action.
- To end on a fun note, the team put up a message to the fans in the second half on the video screens that read:
“Sporting KC Fans: We are sorry to report that due to your support and SKC continuously finding the back of the net, we have run out of fireworks. Please direct all your complaints to @SportingKC on Twitter.”
I was amused and snapped a picture. Of all my attempts at actual news, this is my most liked and retweeted tweet. Approaching 1,000 likes and 100 RTs.