CHESTER, PA- JUNE 23: Jack McInerney #9 of the Philadelphia Union scores his second goal of the game past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen #1 of the Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park on June 23, 2012 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
That was awful, abysmal, terrifying, and nauseating. In fact, I could use every negative adjective in the dictionary to tell you how bad it was. Was it a trend or a one-off stinker? In some ways, a little of both.
Usually, I just do a three points recap of a match, but this one was unbearably awful to watch twice and needed some longer thoughts. The second time through arguably made me want to break something. I'd like to say I'm a down to earth guy, and the fact is it happens. Sometimes, in MLS, the favorite gets brow-beaten and nobody knows how to explain it. This one was pretty straight forward. Kick the ball over Sporting Kansas City's defense and run and get it.
If you are looking for consolation, you won't find much from me. I've seen some ugly things happen to this team. Perhaps you were with me on July 4, 2001. Peter Vermes certainly was as he was on the field. It was one of the more harrowing experiences of my teenage years, as Chicago systematically tore the defending champions to shreds. When my tears and anger abated, the scoreboard read seven-nil. So it has happened before to Kansas City, and it has been much worse.
Their was a distinct difference in that loss and this one. Outside of the scoreboard, Sporting controlled possession, but made mistakes that shouldn't occur. Chicago was a great team with confidence and experience, 2012 Philly is not (was not?). The naivete that Sporting KC showed in this game better not be a trend. They came up against a group of youngsters with arguably nothing to lose, and got spanked. Out-hustled to balls, outclassed on finishing, and simply run out of town with their tail between their legs. I would like to say there are lots of things to fix from this game but the narrative is the same as all season.
Sporting played a ridiculously high line against a team who cannot break down a defense right now. The first goal was on a ball over the top, the second goal on a useless step up on a free kick, the third off a pk earned by a breakaway on another ball behind the line, and the fourth, well you get the picture. Aurelien Collin had an awful game: playing men onside, another penalty, and as the marshal of the defense for a 4-0 defeat screams failure. He did however escape without a yellow card somehow, since that penalty should have resulted in one. Matt Besler is very much needed if Sporting always plays that line, because that was AVB Chelsea disastrous yesterday.
The second problem is the one I keep rehashing on this site. They can't shoot straight. Outside Graham Zusi's curling free kick, the Philadelphia keeper Zac McMath was untested. In a match where you hold a 60-40 possession advantage, you should dominate or lose by a fluke set piece goal. Had Sporting scored in the second and lost 2-1, this would have fit that narrative. They however did not. They had the majority of chances, but from where. Over half of their shots were blocked, and only 3 of the other 7 were on target. This doesn't tell the complete story as Teal Bunbury had a header just go over the bar, but all in all, the shots again were taken from bad positions and long distance.
For a team that presses so well to get chances, they still don't have anyone who can play that final pass, and sometimes it just goes to the dogs in the final third. Sporting KC attempted 33 crosses and completed 3. They played zero through balls. The left half of the field was so completely ineffective in supply, that it made you wonder for a while what a left winger could do for Sporting KC. When the extra pass would have gotten an easy goal, Sporting decided to shoot or played themselves out of a scoring chance. Bunbury's header that I mentioned earlier was the most obvious as Kei Kamara was just standing alone but onside waiting for a flick on for an easy goal.
The mistakes of this match on defense are correctable, but the offensive ones seem to be a lingering problem. Sporting's style is not particularly friendly to MLS play, which isn't as open a league as others. The "Chelsea problem" of trying to play high lines against much faster teams will continue to pop up as long as the problem is so blatantly ignored. Now we've seen Orlando City FC exploit it and the second-worst team in the East do it. It doesn't take skill to pop the ball over the top and run it down. Speed and finishing beat sloppy defenses more readily than skill at times
It would probably be best to leave this game behind and never look back. It was poorly coached, poorly played, and really off-putting to any Sporting fan who had to watch it. The bright side is that we can't really do worse from a scoreboard perspective. The downside being that even at 1-0 this wasn't a match Sporting KC should have lost.
In this case, perhaps it is too much sour grapes rather than giving credit to Philadelphia who consistently exploited the Sporting KC backline and played large in front of their keeper, never allowing Sporting back into the match. If they get their heads on straight, they may be a factor in the wild-card and a tough out in the playoffs as the talent is there.