Sporting Kansas City won a season opener for the 10th time in its history, topping Chivas USA 3-2 to start a 10-game road trip on the right foot.**Did you know that KC is 10-4-2 all-time in season openers, which is the best record of any MLS team. Did you also know that KC has only lost a season opening game once in the last 10 seasons?
Here are 11 questions from last night's game.1. What was they key to KC's victory?
This might sound overly simplistic, but Kansas City converted its chances. There were five shots on goal by Sporting and three goals. Last year, KC lead the league in shots on goal but were near the bottom in goals scored. A lot of the credit this should go to Bravo. In fact...
Um, yes. Emphatically. His touch, his vision and his read of the game not only helped win this game, but he should make everyone better as the season moves on. He abused Heath Pearce and, in combination with CJ Sapong, caused Chivas' backline fits all game.
There were 19 passes that led to this goal, but it's Bravo's touch and positioning that makes this goal special.3. How did the newcomers fare?
Bravo, Sapong, Milos Stojcev, Julio Cesar and Luke Sassano made their debuts with Kansas City. All but Sassano were making their MLS debuts as well. Obviously, Bravo had a stellar game. Sapong scored the quickest debut goal by a rookie in MLS history and was a handful for Jimmy Conrad to cope with. Stojcev was instrumental in several bouts of possession and generally gave the team a different option in the middle. Cesar certainly doesn't lack in on-the-ball confidence and for the most part was really quite sturdy next to Matt Besler.4. Who was KC really missing?
Michael Harrington. Sassano was filling in for injured regular and wasn't completely convincing as a right back (most of Chivas' quality chances came when they drove through the wide gap between him and Cesar). Harrington's best feature is his ability to get up and down the space on the right. Sassano doesn't have the same pace or vision for that specific role.5. What area does KC need to sort out?
The midfield wasn't a strength for much of the game. Individually, Davy Arnaud, Stojcev, Craig Rocastle (and Stephane Auvray when Rocastle went out with a leg injury) played all right, but as a group they were overrun and didn't maintain consistent pressure on or with the ball. Somewhat telling, the best the team played (stoppage time in the first half) was when they strung together 19 passes (with Stojcev, Kamara, Arnaud and Auvray playing central roles) before Bravo chipped in the second goal. Should improve with time.6. Where there any soft goals?
Not really soft, more sloppy. They were the sort of goals a team gives up when they've got 5 new players in the lineup. On the first goal, Sapong was caught out of position and on the second Chance Myers and Julio Cesar just barely kept Chivas onside.7. Has Matt Besler made the leap?
Not only is he physically stronger (and tougher) but, as Sasha Victorine pointed out on the broadcast, his read of the game has improved. He bailed out the team out on numerous occasions and even pushed forward and took an audacious shot that wasn't too far from frame.8. How did KC coach Peter Vermes think the team played?
"The good thing is that the two new guys on the team, our first round draft pick in C.J. – his debut, he scores and I think he had a monster game. He was dangerous, had the ball a lot, he was just very good for us and then Omar, two timely goals. I think the first 25 minutes he struggled because he was so anxious, being the DP, playing against Chivas USA; I think there were so many things that he wanted to prove and then he calmed down and once he calmed down, that’s when he started playing his game. And that’s why he’s here, because of the way he played."9. Craig Rocastle or Stephane Auvray?
Vermes opted to start Rocastle as the team's defensive midfielder last night. And, while Rocastle is a hard tackler and a deft passer, covering the middle of the park isn't his strength. It's probably too early to tell, but when Auvray came in (and he worked himself into the flow of the game in the second half) the team's pressure increased and became more effective.
Next weekened, the choice should be easy if Rocastle is healthy -- Auvray will be with Guadeloupe on national team duty while KC is in Chicago.
But after that... it should be an interesting battle to watch.10. Are there any lingering issues going into next game?
Health. The team would've loved to get Teal Bunbury some action last night, but Rocastle's injury meant spending a sub in the first half. Also, Harrington can't get back soon enough. Same for Ryan Smith.11. How did Jimmy Conrad play?
In his first game against his old mates, the former captain had a Jimmy Conrad hatrick: He scored a goal, picked up a yellow card (for a nasty arm-drag takedown of Sapong) and took shot to the nogging that left him on the ground for a few seconds.
Stoppage Time question:Can Johnny's Tavern in the P be KC's soccer bar?
Until the stadium opens, absolutely. The place was packed last night with Sporting fans and you've got to hand it to a KC sports bar that turns the sound down on college basketball for soccer fans. The member's club at the stadium should take over as the main watch party location for SKC fans, but I hope Johnny's keeps it up.
Assorted interesting stats:
• Sporting KC is now 6-4-3 all-time against Chivas USA and 2-3-6 on the road in the series. After going winless the first five away games of the series, Kansas City has won each of the last two road matches in the series.
• Sapong, starting in place of Bunbury, scored his first professional goal one minute, 43 seconds into Saturday’s match, making it the fastest ever scored by a rookie who started in their debut.
• Sporting KC captain Davy Arnaud played the 219th game of his MLS and KC career, surpassing Preki for 3rd on Kansas City’s all-time chart.
• Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made three saves in the win, tying Garth Lagerway for sixth on the club’s all-time saves chart.