Sporting Kansas City has kind of, really, sort of, mostly stunk over the last month and half. This is the takeaway I’ve seen online in recent weeks, and all of it is true.
Sporting KC took a slight step in a positive direction on Thursday night in Carson, Calif., stemming from a scoreless draw again the Los Angeles Galaxy? That is also true.
“I thought our game was very good,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said after the game. “… All in all, if you just look at the game I thought we had some chances to win it. It’s unfortunate but I thought our effort … was tremendous. Unfortunately we couldn’t stick one in, but we almost could’ve taken the three points. It was a good game for us.”
In fairness, we saw the same Sporting KC in some respects. The visitors launched 15 shots, only four of which were put on target. Only New York FC has put up more shots this season (232), but it has produced eight more goals than Sporting KC, who has now fired 214 total shots with just 14 goals to show for it.
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The difference on Thursday, however, came in the ellipses in the quote above, in words Vermes used such as “organization” and “defending” to describe his side’s success in stealing a vital road point.
“I feel we like we have given up a few goals this year because we have lost concentration,” midfielder Roger Espinoza said on the television broadcast moments after the final whistle. “I thought today that was key. That’s a positive note.”
Indeed, poor finishing and silly mistakes, made by a mostly veteran cast have plagued Sporting KC during April and May. They’ve been the two, gigantic sore spots. And while the former wasn’t solved on Thursday, the latter in many respects was.
The organization came from an unlikely lineup, too. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Soni Mustivar are off with their respective international teams. Nuno Coelho is battling an injury. Kevin Ellis, who put in a quality shift last week against D.C. United, was a late scratch due to another groin injury, while Brad Davis is also recovering from a minor knock.
Lawrence Olum led the charge and helped anchor the backline alongside Ike Opara at centerback. He looked much more comfortable covering less space and finished with six clearances and a pair of tackles near the box.
Jimmy Medranda continued to be the creative force in the attack, all the while sticking to his defensive posture when called upon. (This was important, as the Galaxy tried numerous times to overload his side with numbers). He also made a critical recovery off a turnover late in the game — the kind of turnover that has been the nail in the coffin for Sporting KC of late.
Eliminating silly mistakes was enormously beneficial on Thursday with the Galaxy having entered leading MLS averaging 2.25 goals per match. Sporting KC held the home side to just one shot despite the Galaxy having the majority of possession. In large part, that can be attributed to not having to play reactionary defense, which had been the case thanks to careless turnovers.
The proactive defensive approach proved organized, yes, but it also allowed the visitors to push forward.
“I think we were hard to break down tonight,” Vermes said. “We were very stingy in that area of the game, so that was excellent.”
Sporting KC will need to string together two or three of these types of performances before we jump off the careless turnovers narrative. The club also still needs to address its inability to create in the final third before things really start to change.
However, there were signs of improvement on Thursday, good to be found in what had been one of Sporting KC’s two big weaknesses spotted in the first half of the season.
Maybe, just maybe, Sporting KC is on its way to not kind of, really, sort of, mostly stinking any longer.