What a win by Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. Goalless streak broken. Winless streak broken. LA Galaxy broken! This result puts SKC one point ahead of D.C. United in the “race” for the wooden spoon. Hopefully the next nine games are more of the same.
Those New Signings!!
Erik Thommy and Willy Agada just joined the team in the last couple weeks and they’ve already made appearances in all four subsequent games (three in MLS and one in the US Open Cup). It was nice to see them both gets goals on Saturday night.
While technically Sporting KC are still alive for the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, it’s an extreme longshot. For that reason, as was said in our comments, I’m looking at this like a long 2023 preseason run up. Get those chemistry issues sorted so that the team hits the ground running next season.
A good discussion to have over the coming weeks and months is how all these pieces fit together. Agada has taken over at striker. Thommy is filling in nicely in that 8/10 role that Gadi Kinda typically occupies. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a place on the field for all of these players when Kinda and Alan Pulido return. There are still lots of holes to fill on the roster, but the attack suddenly looks much more loaded.
Sweat’s Best Night... Until it Wasn’t
Throughout the game I was very impressed with Ben Sweat’s performance. He’s gotten his first run of games in a row starting with the US Open Cup last week against the Sacramento Republic. Due to an injury, he started again on the weekend against Austin FC. Without a doubt his best performance was tonight against the LA Galaxy, his third straight start.
Until it wasn’t. He started so strong shutting down many attempted attacks directed at his side of the field. He connected well with his teammates and got up into the attack. Then late in the game, when he did look pretty tired, he made a few critical mistakes. The first was he kept Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez onside and after a video review a goal was given.
Then on the handball (more on that in a bit), he’s very out of position. Sporting had just given a goal and LA was enjoying more possession and on the attack. But instead of being back in line with his fellow defenders, he’s up “guarding” the same guy Salloi is while leaving Araujo wide open with a ton of space. Arguably, this could be Salloi’s man, but it seems Sweat should pass off Grandsir since he’s so much deeper than Araujo (even though he’s the fullback) to Salloi. I won’t pretend I know the assignments.
His positioning and exhaustion means he can’t get back in time. Andreu Fontas has to try and cover, but Sweat never gets to Andreu’s spot so the ball comes in. It’s obviously not his fault Uri handles the ball, but he let that build up start by not playing defense first.
I would argue Sweat had a good night until he keeps Chicharito onside on the first LA goal and then is no where near his backline on the build up to the handball.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) August 7, 2022
Here is the full sequence. pic.twitter.com/B8dDc5RVxA
Uri Rosell had to sub into the game because there were only two midfielders on the bench and Espinoza and Thommy needed to sub off (presumably Jake Davis is with the II’s in Houston). Hernandez was already in the game, so Rosell came on when Thommy couldn’t go anymore. And even in limited minutes, Uri had a huge mistake.
As mentioned above, Sweat contributed to it, but Uri has to do better. He has had a 2022 season to forget and a handball in the box only adds to it.
After the game Peter was unhappy with the handball call. He said a similar handball had happened against Sporting KC just recently and they didn’t change that call (I don’t recall the play in question).
I will admit, I thought ball to hand wasn’t a penalty and the ball clearly deflects off of Rosell’s body before it hits his outstretched elbow. Thanks to Josh Hurlbert on Twitter for pointing out the IFAB law change that took that former rule out of the game.
It changed July 2021. The screenshots are from the 2020 Laws, the subsequent laws have deleted the entire section on directly off your own head/body. https://t.co/PnKJGnd69F pic.twitter.com/QZnRBKXTRW— Josh Hurlbert (@JoshHurlbert) August 7, 2022
In literally any other game this MLS regular season that would have been enough to undo Sporting. This is the first time since 2021 the team scored three times in a game. Thankfully it didn’t cost them today.
Controversy on the Second SKC Goal?
There was a bit of confusion on the second Sporting KC goal. Live, I thought Roger Espinoza was offside in the buildup to Willy Agada getting three shots (the second of which actually crossed the line) ‘saved’ by Jonathan Bond. However, the flag stayed down from the AR and eventually the play went under review.
After review, Sporting KC were given the goal because there was clear and obvious evidence that the second shot crossed the line.
However, Galaxy Twitter was livid. Then it turns out they had some right to be as Soccer Photogrammetry later seemed to show Espinoza was offside.
So on the 2nd #SportingKC goal, it appears that Roger Espinosa was offside. While the model says 1.5', I can't be very sure b/c the model isn't very good, but it seems unlikely that he was onside. #SKCvLAG pic.twitter.com/4WDptLE6qf— SoccerPhotogrammetry AKA "A Nice Gentleman" (@OffsideModeling) August 7, 2022
So why wasn’t the goal overturned? It’s complicated, but my colleague Jimmy Mack tweeted out the responses the pool reporter got from the referees.
Basically it comes down to this:
- The call on the field was originally not offside, but also no goal
- Upon review, it was clear and obvious the ball cross the goal line
- But it wasn’t clear and obvious that Espinoza was offside
So the entire play is looked at when the ref is called to the monitor. What would have made it more clear is if MLS had goal line technology. Then they’d have known immediately the ball was a goal and the review would just be for the offside. Considering all the math and photo angles they had to look at to show it may have been offside, I get how that can’t get fixed quickly under a review.
Sporting have been on the wrong side of a ton of these calls over the years, so I don’t really feel for the Galaxy here.
What a Celebration
After the referee signaled goal, Willy Agada was elated. So elated he ran to the sideline and tried to jump into Peter Vermes’ arms, kind of choked him a bit and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
After the game, the media had to ask Peter about it.
Vermes on getting a kiss on the cheek from Agada post-goal: "I've never been strangled. When he came running and he wanted me to catch him, I'm a decently fit guy but I don't know if I'm ready for that." #SportingKC #SKCvLA— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) August 7, 2022
What’s your favorite?
Remi to Agada Connection
Another new wrinkle in the Sporting Kansas City attack happened when Remi Walter moved from defensive midfielder (#6) to his preferred #8 role. On two occasions he quickly came up with a ball off a turnover and wasted no time passing dimes up the middle of the field into space where Willy Agada could get it.
Neither play resulted in a goal, but they both resulted in very high quality chances. Take a look for yourself.
Here is the second. Salloi should probably hit this first time and Willy should probably pass it to him a hair earlier, but the quick build up started by that Remi pass is something I'll look forward to seeing more of. #SportingKC #SKCvLA pic.twitter.com/0OaTMAq2b8— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) August 7, 2022
I can’t get away from talking about this game without talking about the opening goal. Obviously it’s a stunner of a shot from Erik Thommy and it should be up for MLS goal of the week.
But something that may get lost in many of the highlight packages is the build up. It’s a series of passes from Daniel Salloi to Agada, back to Salloi to Espinoza who curls a delightful ball into Thommy who chests it to himself and volleys it home.
Bonus Quick Observations
- #MikeStat of the game after Johnny Russell missed his PK... it was the first one he’s ever missed for Kansas City.
Fwiw, Russell had been perfect on PKs for KC up to that point— Mike (@downthebyline) August 7, 2022
- #DrewStat is that Sporting KC had nearly three expected goals (xG) and in two games with Agada starting at CF they are at 4.7 xG. Over a quarter of the xG for the entire season in two games (BTW - Drew is a good follow on Twitter. Very informative. And he has a podcast, Home and Away that I’ve told him the episodes run a little long for me, but has good tactical insights [for the portions I made it through]).
SKC had almost 3 xG tonight. In two games with Agada at CF they have 4.7xG. That is over 25% of their season output prior to his arrival.— Drew VanderPloeg (@alvanderp) August 7, 2022
- Only Johnny Russell has the confidence to pull this look off.
- And in case you missed it, the entire game is up on Twitter and you can go back and watch it (hence my middle of the night video clips I pulled from it).
Next time I’ll call this article, “Things Chad Tweeted about the game.” However, I doubt that’s an interesting enough title to tell you what you are going to get. You should still follow me on Twitter (@PlayFor90).