The Full 90 Video Mailbag: How Sporting KC can stay competitive in MLS
With Sporting Kansas City riding high off a stoppage-time victory this weekend a pretty big weekend looming for soccer in Kansas City, it’s time to open up the mailbag and see what’s on the minds of The Full 90’s twitter followers.
I think we know the answer to your first question already: Whenever Krisztian Nemeth fully fit. After an excellent preseason showing, the Hungarian slipped right into the Starting XI his first two games — at attacking midfield and left winger.
Against Philadelphia, he was brought into the game to replace Jimmy Medranda. While the offense didn’t suddenly spring to life when he stepped on the grass, the attack suddenly had a bit more life. He wound up being integral in both of KC’s stoppage-time goals. On the first, his dive into the six-yard box seems to freeze Rais M’Bolhi. On the second, he fights for good position and forces himself (or, more likely, forces Union defender Ray Lee) into the path of Benny Feilhaber’s corner kick.
What I like about Nemeth for this particular team is that he brings a new set of skills to KC’s wide attacking group. He isn’t a guy who needs the ball at his feet all of the time (like Graham Zusi, Bernardo Añor and Medranda) to be effective.
Nemeth has shown that he has the skill, speed and savvy to make the off-ball support runs that can help free up space for Dom Dwyer. Having a player make those type of runs across and behind the opposition backline is what helps keep Dwyer off that island he can often wind up on.
As for part two. I think it depends on the formation. If Peter Vermes decides to roll with the familiar 4-3-3 it’s likely:
DEF: Myers, Opara, Besler, De Jong
MID: Carrasco, Feilhaber, Espinoza
FWD: Zusi (r), Dwyer, Nemeth (l)
If Vermes pulls the opening day formation back out (a 4-2-3-1 without a covering midfielder), it could look a bit similar but with one tweak to the left wing that’s honestly an idea I like, not necessary what PV would do.
DEF: Myers, Opara, Besler, Sinovic*
MID: Espinoza, Feilhaber
AM: Zusi (r), Nemeth (c), De Jong (l)
Given a few games to get familiar with this approach, I think that particular lineup has a very tantalizing upside.
*Check out this week’s episode of Talkin’ Touches, where Andy Edwards and I discuss a bit of the Marcel De Jong/Seth Sinovic debate. For what it’s worth, I think De Jong could make a lot of sense as a wide midfielder for this team combining with Sinovic (who is a better defender) down that flank.
I get a variation of this question, it seems, once a month since I started the mailbag. My answer now is the same as it was last season: If PV didn’t move to two forwards when he had C.J. Sapong (a natural target CF) and Claudio Bieler (a natural poacher), then he’s probably not going to make that switch ever.
Adding a forward up top might help solve an attacking problem, but it doesn’t really jibe with the rest of the pieces on this team or the defense PV has installed over the years.
Kansas City’s defense thrives on the ability to press the middle of the park with three central midfielders (which is often a fourth when you consider how much running and defense Dwyer presents from his advanced forward spot). With that much pressure, KC’s defenders often tasked with keeping everything in front of them and choosing which passing lanes to close down.
When you press, it’s important to have proper cover behind the midfield so the team doesn’t get stuck into one-v-one match ups.*
*This is what Oriol Rosell did so, so, so well, by the way.
Moving a player out of the midfield shape and all the way to top of the field likely weakens KC’s midfield (and by extension, defense) too much for it to balance out. Also, modern attacking fullbacks (like Myers/De Jong/Sinovic) need room to operate and a standard wide midfielder in a 4-4-2 could complicate the space.
How do you maintain balance AND get Nemeth and Dwyer into the same region to combine together? See answer to question one.
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if two newspaper guys answered Twitter questions in front of a camera? Well, you’re in luck.
We plan on doing this once a week. It’s tentatively titled: Two Guys in Plaid Shirts Talk Soccer at a Small Table. Catchy.
(Yes, I know that I nod my head a lot and fidget. Thanks for your comments in advance.)
As I understand it, Vermes just really likes the way that the San Antonio Scorpions play and thinks Jon Kempin and Saad Abdul-Salaam will get quality minutes there. The defending NASL champs have some good pedigree (MLS alums Omar Cummings, Eric Hassli, Marvin Chavez, Julius Jones and Nana Attakora). Things didn’t go so well in the opener last weekend, as the Scorpions lost to the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-1. Both Kempin and Abdul-Salaam played 90 minutes.
As for Oklahoma City, Kansas City sent midfielder Mikey Lopez there already this season, so they haven’t abandoned their partners down south. (There is no cap/basement on how many players are sent on loan to Jimmy Nielsen’s team.)
One thing to remember: The MLS-USL deal allows players to move back and forth on temporary loans for most of the season; the NASL loans don’t allow for that sort of movement. Meaning, PV might send more players down to OKC as the season progresses for playing time, injury rehab, etc. Kemping and SAS are likely in Texas until the NASL season ends.
As for Fluminense, the agreement between the two sides is still very much in place. This offseason, SKC sent Jimmy Medranda to train in Brazil. Why hasn’t a player come to KC yet? It might because the Braziliero doesn’t kick off until early May.
I’m not sure if the loanee will again be Igor Juliao. Maybe?
Juliao wasn’t a fantastic fit for KC last year defensively, but he’s only 20 and has the ability to make a big difference going forward in attack. I imagine we’ll find out more about Fluminense in the coming days.
While it’s a fun narrative to chalk up KC’s thrilling stoppage-time victory to the power of Sporting Park (which, being a fan of narratives myself I already did), it’s hard to ignore how terrible Rais M’bolhi was in that game.
How bad was he? Well, his head coach held a press conference on Tuesday to announce he was benching the starting goalkeeper and that he had left the country to clear his head.
Whether he was flapping around wildly at crosses or making the odd decision to stay rooted to his line at pivotal moments, he was an all-around dumpster fire.*
*Also, while M’Bolhi drew a lot of the headlines, Kansas City can’t feel too comfortable about how poor Luis “Chilean Rob Riggle” Marin looked in the first half of this game. While Marin probably isn’t “M’bolhi Bad,” it’s not a great sign that he was burned for two set-piece goals and struggled in distribution — supposedly his main quality.
However, I’ll answer your question with another question Ben: What happens when you take a team with a shaky goalkeeper, a team that is weak in the air (near the bottom in aerial duels won) and can’t defend set-pieces (see the disallowed Dwyer goal for more proof), and plop them into the middle of a literal cauldron of almost 20,000 fans? (Answer: They fold under pressure.)
I call it a 60/40 split in favor of the fans.
Let’s move this mailbag out of the past and into the future. This has the potential to be a really, really cool weekend for soccer in Kansas City. It will be our first Saturday-Sunday Sporting KC-FC Kansas City double header of the year — and the first ever with both games at Sporting Park.
The men will take on Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Then the women will take the same field at 3 p.m. on Sunday to start their NWSL title defense against Sky Blue FC.
I expect a decent crowd (especially with the Royals out of town and tickets pretty affordable), but I’m not really sure it can reach “packed-house” level. The NWSL is still very much in its infancy and women’s club soccer lacks the draw of the men’s game and the U.S. women’s national team.
Despite the positives on the field last season, the team saw a pretty large dip in attendance from 2013 to 2014 (according to SoccerWire.com, it was a 50% decrease). Part of that was the move to the just over 3,000 capacity Verizon Wireless Field Durwood Stadium at UMKC. But the league had attendance issues overall.
For Sunday, I think that anything approaching 10,000 would be massive for the organization. (Only the Portland Thorns averaged more than that in 2014; no other team averaged more than 5,000.) Given the venue, timing and word-of-mouth as the Women’s World Cup nears, a reasonable expectation would probably be about 4,000-5,000.
As for the season expectations, while the team wasn’t able to pick up Sydney Leroux (Mrs. Dom Dwyer) this offseason, it’s an exciting time to be an FCKC fan.
The team has high hopes following last year’s title run and brought back U.S. national teamers Becky Sauerbrunn, Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez. The Blues also acquired national team midfielders Heather O’Reilly and Yael Averbruch this offseason. Locally grown talent Shea Groom (Liberty), Kaysie Clark (Liberty), Frances Silva (Overland Park) and Mandy Laddish (Lee’s Summit) all joined the team as well.
I won’t be able to attend the games this weekend, but I’m looking forward to heading out to as many games as possible at the Swope Soccer Village this season, where FCKC will play the rest of its home games in 2015.
Thanks for the questions this week.