March 29, 2011 1:14 PM
11 (belated) questions about Sporting's 3-2 loss in Chicago
Sporting Kansas City traveled to Chicago with a throng of nearly 300 supporters. Too bad none of them weren't MLS-caliber soccer players. Sporting could've used a few more bodies, bringing a very inexperienced team of 17 players (yes, only six substitutes traveled). Here are 11 (belated) questions about the 3-2 loss.
It's quite simple: Chicago 2, Kansas City 2, MLS Referee 1. Without Jason Anno's decision to award a penalty, the game was fairly even and probably should have been a draw. But, referees are part of the game, so you really have to live with it. Even if it felt/feels sort of dubious. 2. How ridiculous was Omar Bravo's penalty?
I'll let head coach Peter Vermes have his say: “It’s not a red card, it is not even a penalty. Omar goes in, and at the same time he’s giving the guy a little shoulder and he kicks the ball out-of-bounds himself. The guy didn’t even take a shot. The AR2 points to the corner [flag], not to a penalty. Okay, so the center referee always takes precedence over the other guys, but he has to be 100% sure. So not only does he turn it into a penalty, but a red card. Now you’re already behind the eight ball, not once but twice. So it really changed the outcome of the game I think, that call in itself." I personally think it was really quite harsh. (In fact, a tackle just outside of the box on Birahim Diop in the 81st minute seemed far more foul-worthy than Bravo's tackle. Diop didn't fall, though.) I tweeted this during the game, but it bears repeating: According to the notes provided by Major League Soccer, Anno has now awarded 12 red cards and 6 penalty kicks in 20 MLS games. Yes, you read that correctly. 3. What's a big number to know about this game?
90. That's the difference in MLS games played by KC's roster on Saturday (513) versus the six players that missed via injury/selection issues (423). Just for fun, if you pulled Davy Arnaud (219 MLS games) out of Saturday's roster, there were only 294 MLS games split between 16 players. The second-most appearances after Davy? Roger Espinoza (64), who was making his first ever start at centerback. 4. Is this the end of the world?
No. It isn't. Losing sucks; but losing on the road is somewhat expected. According to the book Scorecasting, MLS teams won 69.1 percent of all home games between 2002-09. (Of course, one of the lines of logic in that book is that the reason for the high number is that referees are influenced by home crowds to make calls in favor of the home team. So, read into that and Anno's red-card stats as you will. ) 5. Why did Chicago win?
While Chicago were gifted the opening goal of the game, the Fire very much earned the next two and played well enough to win the game out-right. With KC pressing to get the ball back, Chicago used a decent long-ball over a stretched KC backline to take the second goal and Marco Pappa wriggled his way through poor tackles to poke home the ultimate winner. This is just a thought: I think we might be in for some fairly enjoyable games this season with goals and cards and bruhahas. It might not always be a good thing for KC, but it will certainly not be boring. 6. When is Michael Harrington back?
Seriously, his groin injury can't heal fast enough can it? The position of great stability going into the season (Harrington logged nearly every minute of every meaningful game for KC in 2010) has been a position of great parity two games in. Luke Sassano filled in the first week (with mixed results) and Chance Myers filled in this weekend (with slightly more negative results). The Sporting way has been to use inverted fullbacks to provide width up the pitch. Without Harrington (the team's best attacking fullback), that aspect of the game has devolved into a weakness. 7. The selection crisis is over... right?
Not quite. While Kei Kamara and Shavar Thomas are back from international duty and Teal Bunbury looks ready to start, thanks to seeing red, Bravo will be suspended for the game this Saturday in Vancouver. Ryan Smith is still a few weeks away from fitness. Which leaves the health of Harrington, Sassano and defender Julio Cesar massive question marks. 8. What did Vermes have to say about the game and his team's spirited comeback down a man?
“I really felt that we could come back. It’s not like one of those ‘hey, let’s make everyone feel good and see what we can do’ talks. I really believed we could get back into this game. We had some chances that at the point where we were already down and I just felt we could. We got that goal early and we thought we were going to have some opportunities on set pieces. We thought we were going to score another one. It was the third goal that really put a dagger in us. I give the guys a lot of credit because they came back and got the next one. It was a tough day.” 9. Where there other positives?
Matt Besler played very well, scoring his first MLS goal and also marshaling what was left of KC's back line. Bunbury was very good coming in, not only did he score and push the game, he gave rookie CJ Sapong (who was adrift by himself after Bravo's card) a life-line back into the game. Bunbury's goal was classic Bunbury. 10. Kansas City finally scored on a corner... could this become a trend?
After going all of last season without a goal from a corner kick, I don't want to potentially jinx it any further than this sentence. 11. When does Kansas City get to face Chicago again?
Maybe you've heard, Sporting KC will open a new stadium in June. It just so happens the Fire will be the first opponent... Hmmmmm.