The return of Major League Soccer also meant the return of the absurdity and frustration that goes along with it. Most of it the latter on Sunday will come from the FC Dallas camp after Sporting Kansas City scored twice before halftime to secure a 2-0 win, its second in 12 matches dating to early April.
Indeed, FC Dallas was wronged early in the game when Lawrence Olum’s estranged back pass squirted past an oncoming Tim Melia and eventually over the goal line. The referees then missed a blatant handball in the box that would’ve — if in a perfect world — equalized the match in Sporting KC’s favor. More absurdity ensued before the whistle blew and the players wiped off sweat and headed toward the locker rooms.
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And that’s about it. Really. Not much else happened. As such, there are few conclusions to takeaway here, but in an attempt to entertain let’s talk about the three things that stood out:
Extreme temperatures force a different kind of match
Fans started making their way toward the concourse at halftime, and by final whistle there were more empty seats than cheerful spectators inside Children’s Mercy Park.
As the heat index forced temperatures into the mid- to upper-90s, the atmosphere and energy level on the pitch started to wane. Passes went untouched in the attacking half while more and more blue jerseys settled into a defensive shape behind the ball.
“It was a tough game,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “If you just look at the fact that they train in this kind of the weather for the majority of their year, and we really haven’t seen weather except for a week. Then we went to Minnesota and it was cold. We’ll go to Montreal and it’ll probably be in the 70s, 80s — not going to be that hot. You need to play in this weather to get your core temperature ready to play in it.
“The way we were able to grind the game out and hang in there was great.”
These are two teams that typically want to get on the front foot. FC Dallas may be deadlier on the counter, and, sure, Sporting KC has been jaded in the attack, but these are clubs that want to force the other’s hand and play. There’s a reason these matchups usually bring excitement.
However, there was none of that on Sunday.
On top of the heat, both Sporting KC and FC Dallas were coming off competitive U.S. Open Cup performances on Wednesday, and both starting lineups included a majority of the players who were active during their respective midweek clashes.
If the quality of play wasn’t enough of an indication, the only player to go the full 210 minutes this week was FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges, who is a defender.
“Today, I thought we all in the stadium where dealing with the extra factor, which was the heat,” FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja said. “Of course I thought that had an influence on the match.”
PRO Referees isn’t to blame for the own goal gaffe
PRO referees have been an easy target for pundits and fans alike this season, but Sunday’s flubbed own goal was unfortunate more than anything else.
Regardless of the officiating crew, no assistant referee will be in position to make that call with 100 percent confidence. That lends itself to a deep dive into more complex discussion on instant replay and goal-line technology, which continue to gain traction as the missed and erroneous calls continue.
Goal-line technology is a touchy subject for the league and its executives. Before the new CBA and television deal with ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and UniMas, the technology was deemed too expensive, costing each club more than $200,000 to install and thousands more to actually implement each game. The cost of hiring a fifth official to man the end lines would easily surpass that of goal-line technology.
Because of those factors, instant replay seems to be the most likely candidate to come of this. With MLS looking to tinker with instant replay at the USL level, fans could see it arrive sooner rather than later.
We have the advantage of instant replay at home. Maybe it’s time PRO Referees has that benefit too.
Tribute to the Orlando victims was the real highlight
Yes, Sporting KC nabbed three important points away from another Western Conference foe. And yes, it came at an important time, after the club won just one match in 11 games.
But it’s my hope that the lasting impression of this match is the emotional tribute to the victims of this country’s deadliest mass shooting ever. Sports often are used as a platform to point to something more important, and Sunday was just one example.
The silence was nearly palpable, piercing the emotions of everyone in attendance. It was a perfect tribute for a horrific and sad incident, one this country sees far too often.
As a banner hanging in the Cauldron once said, there’s too much love to let hate win.