Well... It’s been two days since Sporting KC scored their first goal of 2023 but let a 1-0 lead slip to FC Dallas on the road and it’s been tough to wrap my head around it.
Much like many other SKC fans, every time I think about the result, I go back-and-forth between, “this is going to be a long season,” and “it can’t get much worse, right?”
I catch myself from going to dark places thinking about all the chances we had, including the penalty kick and subsequent re-take of the penalty that were both blocked by Maarten Paes, and wonder if things might be on the up-and-up once our top tier players return.
However, I celebrated Daniel Salloi’s 11th minute banger like a child on Christmas morning. It was a release that SKC Nation needed, though the elation would only last 44 minutes.
We Need Our Strongest Lineup
Sporting didn’t play bad against Dallas, but they didn’t play good enough to win.
SKC’s best players aren’t all out there. Despite a total lack of creativity going forward, there were spells where Kansas City looked dangerous. They just couldn’t find the back of the net. Had Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda been out there, perhaps we find a second goal and at least split points on the road.
There’s no telling when these guys will be back, but it is more and more obvious every match that passes, that their presence is needed.
The 2023 version of Willy Agada is far from the 2022 version we saw when he arrived last summer.
Agada had a game-low 33 touches and out of his four shots, only one was on target. His penalty kick was saved, but VAR deemed Paes came off his line early. Erik Thommy stepped up for the retake and the disappointment on Agada’s face was evident. Fontas even had to move him from the spot.
Khiry Shelton’s play on the wing has not made up for the absence of Russell, and though Thommy is a spark plug in the midfield, the magic is just not there without other pieces around him.
Bend, But Don’t Break Defense
Before the season started, pundits, analysts, fans, the guy in a Dom Dwyer jersey at the tailgate, my wife and many, many others said “we know where the goals are going to come from, but the defense has me worried.”
Somehow, the opposite has been true.
Despite some shaky moments when the back line has allowed the ball to go into the back of the net this season (three goals in four games), the SKC defense was able to withstand Dallas’ 12 shots and seven corners. Credit to Dallas on their two goals that were well earned with outstanding combination play.
The Andreu Fontas and Robert Voloder partnership somehow works good enough right now. With Dany Rosero arriving soon and likely taking the young German’s starting position, the hope is that the defense will only improve.
Graham Zusi is Graham Zusi. Not winning any awards, but a serviceable right back, nonetheless. I do question his and Ben Sweat’s ability to stay fit. They are such a threat pushing forward, but when they have to track back all game, their empty gas tanks became a liability against the FC Dallas counterattack.
German offseason signing Tim Liebold’s injury is a concern going forward and it might be time for Kayden Pierre to get more minutes on that side and hope for Logan Ndenbe to come back soon.
Opponents Are Not Scared
Combining the above two observations, FC Dallas is the latest example of a team not fearing a Sporting KC team who was previously known for a suffocating press and elite wing play.
Whether Kansas City dominates or relinquishes possession, the results have been constant. No matter how many chances you create, if no one can finish them, you won’t win games.
It may not be time to worry, because Sporting has been in every game so far this season and some big-time players should be returning soon, but it sure feels like it.
FC Dallas never felt like they were going to lose and with the Seattle Sounders headed to town this weekend, you know they’ll be out for blood. Follow that up with a road trip to MLS Cup Runners-Up Philadelphia Union, SKC need to sharpen things up and string together some more goals and wins, or this season could get ugly quick.
But hey... at least we scored.
At least we scored... pic.twitter.com/PJw1NVGVZ7— Juan Cisneros (@jcisne95) March 19, 2023