The Full 90

March 8, 2014

Three thoughts after yet another Sporting KC loss to Seattle

Sporting Kansas City falls 1-0 on yet another late goal by the Seattle Sounders.

The Full 90

Covering Sporting Kansas City and soccer throughout the Midwest and the world

Kansas City and Seattle have now played nine times in MLS action. The Sounders have won seven of those matches and drawn another. What’s more, the Sounders haven’t lost to Kansas City in the last 8 of those matches.

But it’s not just that Seattle is dominating Kansas City, it’s how they are dominating Kansas City.

When Chad Barrett scored after a scramble in the box, it was the fifth time that Seattle has won or drawn a game against Kansas City on a goal scored after the 90th minute.

After playing so well for 90 minutes as a collective defense in front of new starting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, the defense collectively fell apart for only a few seconds. But it was enough in a tightly-contested affair between two of the league’s best rosters.

It shows a lack of concentration and, at least against the Sounders, it’s starting to feel like a recurring nightmare for Sporting fans.

Here are three more thoughts about the match.

1. The Champions League apparently is the priority

With a crowded slate of March games, including the two-game Champions League series against Cruz Azul looming the first leg is this Wednesday at Sporting Park, Peter Vermes opted to rest a few key players. Making his intentions clear: The Champions League is the priority.

His typical first-choice fullbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic didn’t even travel after picking up small injuries during preseason. Midfielders Paulo Nagamura and Oriol Rosell didn’t get on the field, neither did designated-player Claudio Bieler. SKC’s “reserve” starters played well enough, especially Lawrence Olum and Kevin Ellis (who did fade down the stretch, but wasn’t a major problem).

That Kansas City managed to keep even (on the road) with one of the league’s most talented rosters with several reserves in the lineup says a lot about the depth of Kansas City and about how well they can compete with the added games this year.

If Myers and Sinovic can recover with the extra rest, Kansas City should be able to present Cruz Azul with a very solid lineup.

2. Kansas City can’t afford its forwards missing quality chances

Kansas City’s biggest problem down the stretch in 2013 — especially after Kei Kamara left for Europe for good — was getting goals from its forwards. Or, more precisely, getting its forwards to convert quality chances. It’s quite telling that defender Aurelien Collin was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs.

This year, it looks like the problem still exists.

With Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber pulling the strings on attack, Dom Dwyer and Jacob Peterson both had several very good looks at the Seattle net. Neither were able to convert them.

While Dwyer and Peterson put in a tremendous amount of effort

outside of the 18-yard box, Kansas City won’t get very far unless it can find a forward who can do the work inside of the box

too.

If the game had ended tied at 0-0, it might not have mattered that much. Unfortunately, the late Sounders goal amplified those miscues.

Maybe Bieler can be the answer. Though, he was left on the bench in Seattle, much like he was for road games at the end of 2013. Hopefully he was just being rested for Cruz Azul and FC Dallas next week.

3. Man of the Match: Benny Feilhaber

Think he’s only an attacking midfielder? He led the team in recoveries (a stat that tracks winning the ball back for your team) with 12 and fouls (5) against Seattle. For good measure, he also controlled the midfield and created some of KC’s best chances.

He’s a very important player, and Kansas City needs him to play at his best as often as possible. When he plays like this in all three zones as he did today, he’s an offensive-version of Roger Espinoza.

Bonus Stat: 40 total fouls

What do you get when you combine rain, wet turf, two teams still trying to find match fitness, a team like Kansas City that makes fouling part of its game plan and, on top of all of that, you add a replacement referee? A disjointed, physical game that comes down to a simple mistake to settle the outcome.

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