The Full 90

Sporting KC regains its footing in the East

Updated: 2013-08-13T15:12:40Z

Charles Gooch

The Kansas City Star

In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: "Boy, that escalated quickly... I mean, that really got out of hand fast."

What started as a potential game-of-the-week candidate between two Eastern Conference playoff contenders descended into full-blown craziness: 6 cards, 3 goals, 2 ejections, 1 player helped off the field and a fair amount of bad blood.

The cumulative result? The 3-0 win over New England helped Sporting KC get its footing back at home after a few shaky weeks and slip back into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Read the full match report from The Star.

Apologies for being a day late on this post, The Full 90's been under the weather since Saturday.

These two teams have some interesting history

Since 2010, some of the more memorable (for good and bad) Sporting KC matches have come against New England.

The (first) Diop Game. The Aurelien Collin ejection that was later rescinded. The dramatic Teal Bunbury "bobblehead" goal in 2011. The Irish Jig celebration game. The "wind-aided" draw this year.

The last eight meetings between the two teams have featured 15 goals* (including two 3-0 wins for KC) and five ejections (including the two Saturday).

*That's 20 goals if you include the 5-0 shellacking KC gave the Revs in the U.S. Open Cup qualification match in 2011.

For the sake of the MLS Disciplinary committee, it's a good thing these two teams aren't scheduled to play again.

Speaking of refs… I think Baldomero Toledo did a pretty decent job with that match. While he may have let the game get too aggressive, the foul calls were just about equal (KC had 16 to New England's 15). The biggest difference? New England -- especially Dimitry Imbongo -- lost their cool after Kei Kamara's second goal.

Instead of calming down after getting a yellow for dissent and a few warnings, Imbongo kept ramping up his aggression. Which led to his second yellow for a fairly soft elbow to Oriol Rosell's throat. If you've been warned for that specific thing, you can't do it in front of the referee less than 10 minutes later.

The second red -- to Andy Dorman for a dangerous tackle from behind on Kamara -- was an unquestioned straight red card in my mind. I don't even want to talk about intent (though, he doesn't really make an attempt to play the ball). It's just a dangerous tackle. His leading leg is up off the ground and his trailing leg comes behind and "scissors" Kamara's plant leg. He certainly did "get him." While Kamara was taken off the field with some help, it looks like it might just be a sprain.

Jimmy Nielsen was big when he needed to be

There has been talk recently -- not loud, but it was happening -- that Nielsen is looking a little out of it this year. Maybe looking his age (36). The biggest stat to back this up: He's allowed almost as may goals this year (24) as he did all of last season (27).

The three-goal losses to Portland and New York combined with shaky play of late -- not mention the meningitis scare during the All-Star break -- have only furthered that perception that he's on the decline.

Tonight, those issues weren't present. He made two very big saves in 1v1 chances, including this one:

What's more, looking at the rest of his numbers this year, you see a slightly different picture than the perception: He's tied for the league lead in wins (11), games played (24) and shutouts (9). Slowing down, perhaps. Decline? I don't buy it.

So why are his goals allowed up this year? I think it's because he's been exposed to more 1v1 challenges -- which has never been his strength as a 'keeper.

Like New York, the Revolution had a few stellar 1v1 chances against KC. Unlike the week before, New England's attackers couldn't capitalize. I remain worried that Kansas City are going to give up these chances as long as Oriol Rosell remains the only holding midfielder. He is often easily drawn out of a defensive position, which often even more easily draws Aurelien Collin out of position to protect him. If those two are out of position with Chance Myers often closer to midfield than defense, it will leave Nielsen exposed.

This could come back to haunt KC against better teams this year.

What to make of Kei?

This was a good Kamara game. He was a match-up nightmare for New England's fullbacks, a handful in the box and a threat every time the ball came his way.

It was a positive change from the week before when he was often splattering shots off target, disrupting spells of possession and creating a black hole on the right wing -- the ball enters and mysteriously disappears into the stands.

That's Kei being Kei, right?. Sometimes he's brilliant. Sometimes he's frustrating. Sometimes that happens in the span of 10 minutes. Sometimes on the same play.

But here's the thing: Only two players have scored as many goals since May when Kamara from England -- Camilo and Mike Magee. Those are the two co-leaders in goals (both have 14) right now. Kamara has appeared in 8 fewer games than Camilo, 6 than Magee.

He's doing it this year with more efficiency too. Last year, when he led the league with 134 shots, Kamara scored 11 times. You'd really expect that to be higher. (Chris Wondolowski had 27 goals on 127 shots as a matter of comparison. New England's Saer Sene had 11 goals on only 75 shots for another comparison.)

This year, Kamara has 7 goals on 42 shots. That seems odd. Only, maybe it was 2012 that was odd. It's the only year Kamara topped 100 shots in a season. This year, with 10 games left, he's on pace for about 72 shots. If he'd been around all year, he probably would've been in the mid-90s.

It's worth noting that last year was his career high in goals scored and he is on pace to break that this year with fewer games played -- and fewer shots taken.

Even though I'm not going to budge from my opinion that he can become a possession black hole, I'm willing to concede that he's not as erratic this year as I've perceived him to be.

The league certainly loves parity

After this weekend's matches, there are 13 teams within 10 points of league-leading Real Salt Lake. Two more teams are 11 points back. There are only 19 teams in the league. (And two of those teams -- Chivas and Columbus -- picked up points against playoff teams this weekend.)

Sporting Kansas City are back on top of the East with 39 points, but only by the most razor-thin of margins: One ahead of New York, two ahead of Philadelphia and four ahead of Montreal (with two games in hand).

Goal of the Match

It's not often in MLS you get to watch a goal that built up for more than a minute and featured every outfield player getting a touch in. So, enjoy this one.

Man of the Match

It's also not often that a guy who scores twice isn't the man of the match, but this will be one of those nights. As nice as it was that Kamara finished both of his headers exquisitely, it's worth pointing out that the only reason he was able to finish that well was because Soony Saad placed two even-more exquisite crosses into his path. I applaud the run and skill from Kei, but I respect the whole game that Saad threw down. (He'll turn just 21 this weekend, by the way.)

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