On Saturday night, Sporting Kansas City put out a stunted lineup with a surprise scratch from Daniel Salloi and a potentially expected one from Khiry Shelton. Unsurprisingly, they struggled in Colorado, where they often struggle, and lost 2-0. It’s only the second time a Peter Vermes coached Sporting KC team has put up three points or less through three games.
Despite the rough results, and assuming Salloi, Shelton and Felipe Hernandez are back soon, I think things will be okay and there are actually some positives to take away from the game (even as ugly as it was at times).
Marinos Tzionis Got a Start
I thought it might be quite a while before we saw an extended run from the team’s Cypriot winger. The 20-year-old had some later sub appearances in the first two games and showed flashes of brilliance. Because of injuries, he was forced to start and go 90 minutes on the road at altitude despite just being with the team just a few weeks.
He was forced to step in with a player next to him that had been with the team just days and he still sparked the team at times (was that a missed PK call??). As he gets more comfortable and gets more familiar with his teammates and the system, that should only improve.
90 Minutes for Vujnovic
Nikola Vujnovic had been struggling to get into the country but he finally arrived in Kansas City early in the week. It was reported he had about two practices with the team and I was personally very skeptical that he’d even see the field at all. Instead, he started and played all 90 minutes at altitude in Colorado. He struggled to see the ball much, but just getting the minutes seems promising. Also, that Vermes trusted him and seemed to know that even if it went bad, him starting over now 18-year-old Ozzie Cisneros, might be a better play to save Ozzie’s ego from a tough loss.
In the second half he seemed to be finding his rhythm, though he was clearly getting tired. Like Tzionis, once he knows his teammates and they know him, it should only improve. He showed a different wrinkle than Shelton and he dropped into the midfield to get the ball more and connect with those around him. No one had a particularly good game, but I think his skill set will be good for playing against a bunker, versus Shelton being good in a game like this where it’s more wide open and his pace and physicality can make an impact.
Valuable Minutes for the “Kids”
Kayden Pierre was handed his MLS debut, even if it was at right wing instead of right-back. It’s probably not where you want to see him on the field, but simply getting him into an MLS game is a plus in my opinion. He seemed fine, as no one around him was doing much to get him the ball, and he should only be better when everyone is playing better (and he’s in his natural spot).
Additionally, while it wasn’t a debut, Jake Davis added a spark to the game (and some physical play) when he came on for Roger Espinoza, which is a very like-for-like sub. He acquainted himself well, despite over pursing a few plays slightly. He showed a willingness to get involved and if Hernandez does miss time, I’m completely comfortable with him being the first midfield sub.
Cam Duke can be lumped in here too because he got significant minutes for the injured Felipe Hernandez. Besides maybe Remi Walter and Tim Melia, he was the best player on the field. He showed he should play more, and no matter the health of some of his teammates, he surely will.
I’ll sneak Kortne Ford in here quickly as well. He isn’t a ‘kid’ but he got his SKC debut against his former team, which is always nice. I still have no idea why he didn’t come on for Isimat-Mirin who was clearly playing worse than Andreu Fontas, but I look forward to seeing him more.
I won’t pretend the game was good. It was not. There are some real concerns (the defense, scoring) but also legit excuses (road games at Colorado, literally brand new players) for a performance like this. Nervingly, if these forward injuries (Salloi, Shelton and Russell also sure looked to be limping) are out for any length of time, it’s hard to imagine winning those games, but if some of them are back quick, I worry way less.
Overall, it’s just three games. Vermes almost admitted he expected a slow start with so many guys joining late (and being without Pulido and Kinda), so I’m not worried... yet. The Chicago Fire got their first win, but it was against a bad team. Let’s hope Sporting can start to right the ship this next weekend.