Saturday night wasn't exactly the result that the record crowd at Sporting Park were hoping for: A crushing 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
The Kansas City Star
The fans and the team won't have much time to let that loss fester. On Wednesday night, KC starts its CONCACAF Champions League campaign against Real Esteli FC in Nicaragua. The match is on Fox Soccer Plus at 9 p.m.
Here are some thoughts and leftovers from Saturday night's game.
1. Peter Vermes didn't mince words after the match
After apologizing to the fans for that performance, Vermes gave this seething summation of his team's performance.
"[New York] made the most of their opportunities. I think the stats were like 27 shots to five or something like that. Definitely, definitely not good enough from that perspective. We had so many chances in the first half we need to score. The bottom line is we need to put the ball in the back of the net. There were too many good chances there for us not to score and our desire in the second half to close that game out was not of Sporting level. The guys are going to feel this one; theyre going to feel it from me."
KC set a single-game high for the club in shots taken with 27. What's disturbing is the lack of accuracy of those shots: 11 were off target. By comparison, of New York's five shots, three were on target.
It represents a problem of balance. Kansas City will almost always outshoot its opponents -- it's the nature of a high-press team that pushes the ball into the opponents half. The problem on Saturday was how wasteful the shots were. Some came without support; others when teammates were in better positions.
Where was the ball movement? Where was the circulation? Where was Claudio Bieler -- who had to press himself back into the game in the second half?
Kei Kamara's goal -- the 50th of his career -- is a pretty good example of KC moving the ball well to create a scoring chance.
But movement like that wasn't the norm. I tweeted during the game that Kamara is a hammer who sometimes believes he's a skill saw. Kamara hammered that goal home. KC needs him in hammer mode more often.
When Sporting KC presents a balanced attack -- which is usually when Graham Zusi is pulling the strings and finding space to operate with -- the shot selection is better and the ball circulation is more fluid. When operating as the central attacking midfielder, Zusi seems to keep the whole field open for the attack. He slips into spaces that keep Kamara wide. Or he'll slip into a channel that opens up Claudio Bieler to a pass from a wide position.
It's a familiar story this year:
When KC stagnates, it takes bad shots.
When it moves the ball and opens up the game, it creates chances.
2. All-Star hangover?
Perhaps all of the festivities and appearances and spotlights shone on KC this week finally caught up to the team. After an inspired and energetic first 25 minutes, Kansas City seemed to let off the gas. The play became slower and sloppier as the first half wore on. The second half was almost devoid of energy until the last 15 minutes -- which, granted, were absolutely bonkers.
It was also the third match in a row that went more than 6 minutes into stoppage time for Kansas City.
3. Shredded by the counter
On Saturday night, New York scored three goals against KC's once-impregnable defense. Three. Two of them on the counter.
Vermes called the goals "horrendous." It was very reminiscent -- right down to the scoreline -- of the 3-2 loss to Portland in April.
Both the Timbers and Red Bulls exploited space and gaps in the KC defense to create lethal counter-attack chances.
So, what's wrong? While it might be easy to point fingers at certain players (Chance Myers and Aurelien Collin did not have strong games for sure), it's often a team effort that causes these exploitations.
And the problem seems to often originate in the midfield. Case in point, the first goal from Johnny Steele.
After initially repelling the Red Bulls attack back into its own half, the midfield gets caught over-pursuing the movement of the ball.
Both Benny Feilhaber and Peterson Joseph are in front of the play while Oriol Rosell and Collin are both pulling hard toward the left side. As Rosell slips right by the play and Matt Besler is just a bit too far away to make the challenge, Dax McCarty slips a ball through a very narrow window.* Myers, who also was leaning too far into the middle, can only chase down Steele from a bad position.
*Credit to McCarthy, it was a heck of a pass.
While I remain firmly behind Rosell -- he's such a tremendous passer and he reads the game well for a 20-year-old -- he needs more support in the middle. Support he's not going to get with two attacking midfielders ahead of him. Without Lawrence Olum back there or Paulo Nagamura to shield him, Rosell will be attacked by counter-attacking teams.
And, while it was a team let down on that goal, you have to get better positional awareness from Myers and Collin.
Let's close on a positive: Dom Dwyer's first MLS goal.