It wasn't exactly the start that Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City hoped for, falling down 1-0 in the first half. But a determined Graham Zusi and company more than made up for it with three unanswered goals and a solid second half. Here are thoughts and highlights after the come-from-behind win.
The Kansas City Star
1. Graham Zusi might have a higher ceiling.
After turning in an MVP-caliber season (he finished third in league voting in 2012) and earning a regular spot in Jurgen Klinsmann's United States roster, many could have reasonably expected that Zusi had reached his full potential. Or was at least near his ceiling.
I think we know the answer to that now. He has the capacity to be the best player on the field AND his team's leader. Taking him from solid competitor/All-Star territory and into legitimate star range.
He was involved in all three scoring plays, hammering home a well-taken rebound to level the match before halftime and placing a beautiful free kick into the path of Oriol Rosell's head. For good measure he snagged an assist on the third goal.
But, more than that, he grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck and forced KC back into it. For 30-40 minutes, Kansas City seemed out of sorts and stumbling through the game. Then Zusi started popping up everywhere and dictating the pace and style of the game.
That's a level of player KC hasn't had here in a while.
Goal of the Night
This folks, is why Kansas City is paying Claudio Bieler big bucks. Calm. Composed. Collected.
2. KC still has work to do on its overall game plan.
Kansas City learned a valuable lesson in the first half: It's not really easy to press high up the pitch and shield the defense without the tenacity of Roger Espinoza and understanding of Julio Cesar.
It was a bumpy (and that's being very, very kind) first half for KC. They really should have felt lucky to have escaped the first 30 minutes only down 1-0. Chance Myers gave the ball away easily. Rosell mistimed a few tackles. Aurelien Collin pleaded for offside flags instead of playing to the whistle. The whole backline appeared incapable of keeping a reasonable shape while Philly harassed and harangued the ball.
It's the kind of performance that raises some interesting questions for Kansas City to ponder.
Does the high-press work with these players? Will Myers and Seth Sinovic need to stay home more often -- especially early? Can Collin/Matt Besler fix the issues they have with pacy forwards exploiting the gap that often forms between them -- and was often filled by Cesar last year?
For now, it's a credit of the team -- or, more likely, Peter Vermes at halftime -- the team recovered in the second half to lock Philadelphia out of the match.
WTH? of the Match
How much trust do you think Besler has in Jimmy Nielsen? Unreal.
3. Making do with (far) fewer shots
Kansas City took only seven shots -- four on target. I knew Kansas City would take fewer attempts without Kei Kamara around. But not like this.
By comparison, Philadelphia -- who played an awful lot like Sporting Kansas City did circa 2011 -- took 17!
But here's the thing: Kansas City scored three goals in those seven shots. That's way more efficiency than we are used to around these parts. It's also more goals. Last year, KC scored three times in one game just five times in all competitions -- two of those matches were against lower-league competition against Orlando City and the Dayton Dutch Lions. None after August 1st.
If this is a sign of what's to come from this offense when it's clicking, it's definitely an encouraging one.
Man of the Match
Really? You need to really ask? It's Zusi. Best player on the field.