This seems like an appropriate place to start:
Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver Whitecaps FC bookended a series of 1-1 draws around MLS on Wednesday night at BC Place. The visitors earned their first draw of the season, coming nine weeks into the 2016 campaign, while fending off a leapfrog attempt by Vancouver in the sixth spot of the Western Conference Standings in the process.
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Let’s get to the three thoughts:
Mixed bag of emotions after a mixed result
This is a tough performance to judge for several reasons.
On one hand, Sporting KC kicked its three-game losing streak to the curb and earned a valuable road point in the process. That’s something all MLS teams strive for away from home, especially in this case with the visitors putting forth a half-choice starting XI. The point also kept the Whitecaps from leapfrogging Sporting KC in the standings, as stated above. Another positive.
However, on the other hand, Sporting KC has just one goal in 133 minutes this season when playing with a man advantage, including 39 minutes on Wednesday with a starter-heavy lineup thanks to some second-half substitutions. The single point also appears paltry when lumped in with the 12 points possible over the last four matches.
Even from a player perspective, there are positives and negatives. Jimmy Medranda was shockingly impressive again (more on that below) and Diego Rubio finally found the back of the net for the first time in Sporting blue. But there were too many instances of players going silent for large stretches of the match, and then going gun-shy in or around the box.
There are more than 20 weeks left in the season, so rash reactions for the sake of rash reactions are senseless. But there are trends starting to present themselves within this team, such as the lack of a dynamic playmaker on the wings, meaning teams can help off on Benny Feilhaber, or this: cross after cross after cross, this team doesn’t have a natural finisher.
The addition of Justin Mapp and reemergence of Soni Mustivar will undoubtedly help this team improve, and all things considered, this is a storm Sporting KC has weathered fine through the month of April (usually it holds off until May). It’ll continue to frustrate readers, but the jury’s still out for a few more weeks.
Jimmy ‘Defensive’ Medranda shines again
The artist formerly known as Jimmy “Shoot First” Medranda has turned some heads in his two starts this season.
The 22-year-old utility piece put a shot on goal that forced Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted into his only save of the night, but it was his defensive effort that had people talking.
Medranda added another recovery and tackle before departing in the 75th minute. The only downside of his night was hovering around 50 percent passing, but even that can be deceitful: at least one of his unsuccessful passes just missed connecting with Dom Dwyer inside the box.
His defensive success should be the talking point here, if only because Vancouver has the type of game-changing speed on the flanks that few teams can effectively counter against. Medranda’s speed proved to be enough of a counter on Wednesday.
“I think for Jimmy he actually really does have a lot of qualities for the game on both sides of the ball,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match. “I think the biggest thing for him was being able to play at the pace of an MLS game, and also the conditioning and fitness aspect of it. He’s really made a big jump in that area, and I think more and more the other qualities he has will come out in games.
“He’s a quick guy. He’s good on the ball. He’s got great technique and sees the game well. He’s really starting to get a rhythm in his play. I’m happy for him, because he’s worked hard. I know it’s been tough, because the last couple of years he hasn’t really played a lot. But he’s come every day in training, and that’s what you have to do sometimes to find your way.
“He did a good job tonight. He’s getting there.”
Medranda isn’t the end all be all for Sporting KC’s success or failure, but fans and media members alike touted this team’s depth before the season. His improvement is at least some reflection of that to this point.
Ask The Full 90: speed round
This team loves this cross. Loooooooooves it. Like, to the tune of 29 in Wednesday’s draw. The problem, once again, is that the club presently lacks a finisher. As scrappy as Dom Dwyer is, nine times out of 10, he’s not going to win a cross inside the box. I also believe this team is a little gun-shy when trying to attempt shots from outside the box. Those two factors, coupled with Vancouver packing it in playing down a man, will always make for an uphill battle with this Sporting KC bunch.
Recovered? Yes. Still shaking off some rust? That too, which is understandable given the time he missed. Besler made some nice plays on Wednesday, including a sliding recovery to keep Vancouver from scoring a second goal. He’ll be fine moving forward.
Soccer rules have always been about interpretation, so there’s some margin here. I think there’s tactical simulation that referees and those of us at home can stomach, then there’s what Octavio Rivero tried in the second half, which is what FIFA describes as trying to “deceive” an official. That said, Rivero deserves an Emmy for his performance. Two thumbs up.