Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday After Stats

Dom Dwyer's goal was his 15th of the season, tying Eddie Johnson in 2007 as the third most in a single season for KC.

Benny Feilhaber's two assists gave him 35 for his career for KC in league play, tying him with Davy Arnaud for 4th all time.

Feilhaber made his 130th start in all competitions for KC, breaking his tie with Aurelien Collin for 20th all time on that list.

Kevin Ellis made his 50th league start for KC, he's the 49th player to hit that mark.

Roger Espinoza made his 157th start in all competitions for KC, breaking his tie with Tony Meola for 13th and moving him into a tie with Mo Johnston and Seth Sinovic for 11th all time on that list.

Sporting End Their Jinx in San Jose

For the first time in 16 years, Sporting Kansas City is returning to Kansas City from San Jose with all three points after a 2-1 win at Avaya Stadium last night. Not since 2000 when a lineup mixed with starters and back ups went to San Jose and won 3-0 has Kansas City been able to get a win on the road in San Jose. The 18 game winless streak was the second longest in league history after New York's winless run in New England.

San Jose though came out firing immediately attacking Kansas City from the opening kick off, but punching a cross only as far as Chris Wondolowski, Tim Melia made a nice save off the US international. Unfortunately for the Earthquakes the early attack came at a cost as forward Quincy Amarikwa appeared to suffer a serious knee injury while going after the initial cross into the box. KC had an early opportunity of their own in the seventh minute and made no mistake as Benny Feilhaber played a quick restart to Paulo Nagamura who crossed a ball into the box for Dom Dwyer who had found space between a group of San Jose defenders and headed the ball past David Bingham and into the net to put KC up 1-0. San Jose began to push the game against KC from there, spending a lot of time attacking Jimmy Medranda down KC's left hand side. Medranda at times struggled with the spotlight from the opposing attack squarely on him, but KC's defense was able to hold out. All the pressure from the Quakes finally got them level in the 42nd a mistake in the back by Nuno Coelho allowed the Earthquakes to score. A long ball to the top of the box was flicked into the box where Coelho held three Quakes players onside, as Coelho went to the ball he held up thinking Melia was going to come and claim it, but Melia stayed on his line and Coelho took too long making up his mind to clear it as Henok Goitom tried to reach for the ball at the same time. Coelho went down thinking he was fouled while Goitom went for the ball and back heeled it into the path of Simon Dawkins who easily beat Melia to tie the game at 1-1 as the teams headed into the half.

The second half started almost the exact same way as the first as the Earthquakes came out flying and another fantastic save by Melia as Wondolowski redirected a cross kept the Quakes from going up 2-1. San Jose continued to pour numbers forward and attack KC's left side and they had another chance at the hour mark as Wondolowski made the run down the left and crossed the ball in, it eventually was knocked back to Alberto Quintero who fired a low blast that Melia saved and then jumped on the rebound. Kansas City started to find some space of their own with Brad Davis having a curling effort tipped wide of the post (although no corner was given) in the 77th minute. In the 80th minute after winning a corner KC grabbed the lead again as Feilhaber's corner was flicked on by Ike Opara to the back side where Kevin Ellis, facing the wrong way, hit the ball with his calf and into the net from about a yard out as he got just enough separation from his defender, giving KC a 2-1 lead. KC held on the final 10 minutes, including a very late corner kick where the Quakes brought Bingham forward to win in San Jose and help their playoff chances after dropping four points at home.

Wizards Man of the Match - Tim Melia - Came up with some huge saves in goal for Sporting last night, the save on Wondolowski at the beginning of the second half was absolutely fantastic reaction save.

Player Ratings - Melia 7, Medranda 4, Ellis 6, Coelho 5, Abdul-Salaam 6, Mustivar 6, Espinoza 6, Nagamura 6, Peterson 4, Dwyer 5, Feilhaber 5. Subs Davis 6, Opara 6.

What We Want to Happen Today 9/25

To go along with a big win against San Jose, Kansas City got some help elsewhere around the league too. The Houston Dynamo continued to play the spoiler role defeating the Portland Timbers, which allowed KC to jump back into fifth place. Dallas and Colorado both earned road draws against Salt Lake and Vancouver which allowed KC to close the gap for fourth to just two points on the former and extend their lead on the later to eight points with three games to play for the Whitecaps. Today there's another huge game with playoff implications for KC. There's also an Eastern Conference match up that has pretty much no meaning to KC.

Seattle at Los Angeles
What we want to happen - LA win

While LA not sits just five points ahead of KC in third place in the Western Conference, Seattle is the team to watch out for in the Western Conference. The Sounders are in some of the best form of any team in the league at this point and still have six games left. They're outside the playoffs on 35 points right now, but with their games in hand could easily close the gap, so KC fans are rooting for the Galaxy to take all three today.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What We Want to Happen Today, 9/24

Getting down to the last month of the season, things are extremely tight for Sporting KC in their race for a playoff berth. At this point I'm going to forgo the Eastern Conference match ups, just know that KC want as many dropped points out of Eastern Conference playoff teams as possible for that fantasy chance of hosting MLS Cup. On that note, let's take a look at the games involving Western Conference teams and what Sporting want to happen in those games.

Colorado at Vancouver
What we want to happen - Colorado win

While Colorado is only seven points ahead of KC late in the season, they also still have two games in hand on Sporting, so the likelihood of catching them is small, even if Colorado hasn't been in the greatest of form lately. Vancouver meanwhile is just six points back while having played the same number of games. Cutting that lead to just three points is something that KC doesn't want to happen at all.

Portland at Houston
What we want to happen - Houston win

Sporting KC could find themselves back in fifth place after tonight if KC somehow gets a win in San Jose and Portland loses or draws in Houston. But even if they don't, keeping Portland close to KC is the key. Therefore, having the Dynamo close the game with KC to eight, while a little disturbing, is better than Portland making their lead on KC four points.

Dallas at Salt Lake
What we want to happen - Dallas win

With Dallas basically unreachable for KC to catch, Sporting want Salt Lake to drop points and leave them still within touching distance for Sporting KC to catch and potentially get a home game in the playoffs.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Match Day 31: An Unwelcome Road Trip

In desperate need to try to shore up their playoff chances, Sporting KC head on the road for three straight games before closing out the season at home. Sitting just five points above the red line, and having not won on the road against a first division team since April, KC will be trying desperately to try to hang onto that playoff spot. They'll start the road trip tomorrow in San Jose, probably the least hospitable place for Kansas City.

The Earthquakes are still alive in the race to qualify for the playoffs, sitting in ninth place in the West, but only six points behind Sporting KC with two games in hand on them. That makes tomorrow's game a much more interesting match up as a loss and KC's lead is down to just three and the Earthquakes would still have two games in hand. The Quakes look like they may be without Aibal Godoy, the Panamanian midfielder who scored twice last year against Kansas City is recovering from a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable.

Kansas City has finally been getting goals from that second goal scorer that they've lacked for most of the season as Jacob Peterson is hitting career highs for goals and close to career highs in starts and minutes played for his MLS career. He's helped to create a secondary threat that has allowed Dom Dwyer to get some space as well the last few games. Unfortunately for KC the extra support offensively has been offsason by a leaking defense that has allowed five goals in the last two home games. Now they go on the road where they have scored one goal or fewer in 11 of KCs' 14 road games. Sporting's defense will be the first thing that will need to clean itself up if KC wants to make any sort of run towards the playoffs in this road stretch.

Peterson - Dwyer - Davis
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Medranda - Besler - Opara - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 5883 - That's how many days it has been since Sporting Kansas City won a game in San Jose, the last win was on 8/16/2000 when KC beat the Earthquakes 3-0 on goals by Francisco Gomez, Vicente Figueroa, and Chris Henderson.

Key Match Up - KC defense vs Chris Wondolowski - Sporting KC have played five games on the road across all competitions, and in those five games Kansas City have allowed 12 goals, an average of 2.4 goals per game. Going up against one of the league's highest goal scorers of all time doesn't seem to be the best way to cure your defensive woes though.

PREDICTION - Kansas City need to get something out of tomorrow's game, a loss and Kansas City really put their playoff position in a precarious situation heading into the final three games of the season. San Jose for their part have won just one time in their last nine games, at the same time they've only lost twice, so the team seems pretty predictable for a draw tomorrow. It won't end the winless run either this year or in San Jose, and it won't do Kansas City a ton of good, but it'll be better than a loss, which has been the case on most of KC's previous trips to San Jose.

SKC - 1 (Dwyer)
SJ - 1 (Wondolowski)

Sporting KC Competing in MLS 3.0 with an MLS 2.0 Mindset?

Since the Kansas City Wizards rebranded as Sporting Kansas City, the club has begun to rise to the top of MLS in terms of on the field performance, image, and structure of the organization. In the span of a few years Kansas City went from being one of the laughing stocks of MLS to the envy of the league, the "Soccer Capital of America" and MLS Cup champions in 2013. Since then though it seems like the club has been in a bit of a slow decline, yes there was the 2015 US Open Cup, the club's third trophy in four years, but a string of poor league performances, early playoff exits, and poor player personnel moves have caused some of the shine to come off of the club and begin to create some questions about the ability of Kansas City to continue to be one of the league's elite with their current strategies and policies.

Sporting KC's rise to the "Soccer Capital" came as MLS really started to embrace the "MLS 2.0" moniker, Don Garber had first used the term back in 2008 as the next step in the league's evolution, beginning with the expansion into Canada with Toronto FC, the addition of the designated player rule, and the establishing of the homegrown player process. By 2011 MLS was in full 2.0 mode with most teams having had at least one designated player and homegrown players starting to regularly be signed by teams. While other MLS teams were adding designated players with more globally recognized names, Kansas City didn't have that luxury simply because of their location in the United States and their status in the league at the time. KC under Peter Vermes, instead went for a more focused and simple approach. The club worked to build a consistent lineup that played a specific formation and style that would cause teams trouble in MLS. Vermes' high pressure caused teams plenty of problems for other teams, but also had its growing pains for Kansas City as the team shifted their pressure point higher up the field or further back depending how other teams exploited Kansas City's set up. But Kansas City's set style of play gave them a direction that they planned to go with each and every year, and because of that Vermes was able to focus his acquisitions and draft strategy with that in mind. KC found success grabbing players like Aurelien Collin, Julio Cesar, and Oriol Rosell off the European scrap heap, while drafting well with the likes of CJ Sapong and Dom Dwyer. With those acquisitions, Vermes was also get the rest of the core players on the team to buy into the system and play the style KC wanted, with Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, and Graham Zusi all coming into real prominence with their national teams during this early stretch.

KC really started to look like one of the smartest teams in the league, off the field the team was appealing to MLS's long sought after 18-35 demographic, bringing strong attendance to Children's Mercy Park, while on the field they did something that was lacking a lot in Kansas City at the time, win. The 2011 KC Royals finished with their 16th losing season in the last 17 years, and hadn't been to the playoffs since 1985. The Chiefs had just come off winning the AFC West in 2010, but lost in the playoffs at home, making it 17 years without a playoff win for the Chiefs. The team would also go on to a combined 9-23 over the next two seasons. All of that combined to help Kansas City look really good, not just in the Kansas City area to sports fans, but in the US to soccer fans. It was a perfect storm for Sporting Kansas City to really establish themselves in the KC sport scene by being successful and marketing themselves correctly locally.

The smart work on and off the field paid off in full when Sporting Kansas City lifted MLS Cup at home after defeating Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks in 2013. The club was on top of MLS and it was seen as the crowning moment and the fitting end of the rebranding chapter of Sporting KC's history with the rise from an afterthought to the league's best.

Since then though, the club has fallen back to the mean and at times seems to be falling behind other teams that are now doing some of the things Sporting KC innovated better than them. Around 2013 people were talking how MLS was starting to transition from MLS 2.0 to 3.0 with the smart work of teams like LA, Seattle and KC, examples of this came from different sources, one focusing on each of those clubs' ability to develop their own players worthy of designated player contracts (Omar Gonzalez, Osvaldo Alonso, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi). The transition started to come up more with the addition of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) which gave teams another way to acquire higher priced players without sacrificing more of their cap space. With the new TAM mechanism along with General Allocation Money, and the expanded Designated Player rule, other teams were able to be make better player acquisitions, improving the quality of their team. At the same time, teams that had been spending money on the team but not succeeding on the field started to be smarter about their additions and bringing in players that fit, like Toronto FC. Teams willing to use all their GAM, TAM, and DP slots were doing so in much smarter ways on the field, allowing them to find more success. As tends to happen when a team is successful, other teams attempt to replicate how they became successful, adjusting it and making their team more successful. While other teams were doing this, Sporting Kansas City continued to follow their strategy that had made them successful in MLS 2.0. Unfortunately the success that they'd had on the field started to wain as off the field work wasn't as successful.

One of the big parts of Kansas City's roster make up was by building through the draft as I'd mentioned earlier, five of the 11 players that started MLS Cup 2013 were drafted by Kansas City, and all since Vermes took over as the club's technical director. Unfortunately the team's drafting of players the last few years have not been as successful. Since Sporting KC draft Dom Dwyer in 2012, only five of the 16 players drafted have appeared in a single league game for Kansas City, and of those five, just three (Connor Hallisey, Amadou Dia, and Saad Abdul-Salaam) did it with any regularity. That trio also came from just one draft, when KC had three first round picks. In the other three drafts, KC has had just one first round pick, selecting Mikey Lopez in the first round in 2013. KC traded their other two first round picks (although with three second round picks). KC's 2014 first round pick and a 2015 second round pick were used to acquire Benny Feilhaber from the New England Revolution, a move that I'd say has paid off in full. Other trades saw KC acquire Ike Opara from San Jose for a second round pick in 2013 (that trade has worked out pretty well), a first round pick for TAM in 2016 and a second round pick in 2016 for Andy Gruenebaum.

So while maybe not always using picks on selecting players, KC did arguably improve the team with those additions (Feilhaber especially). At the same time though KC hasn't had young players that they have drafted step up into the first team from the draft. That wouldn't be an issue for Kansas City, except as 2015 showed, KC does a lot of their building through the draft. Missing on so many players over the course of four years put KC in a whole in terms of young talent that the Sporting academy doesn't quite look ready to fill.

Instead KC has looked overseas to fill a number of those slots, both among younger players and with veterans. In terms of young talent, the best that is currently on KC (and not out on loan) is probably Jimmy Medranda, who is finally coming well after being signed as a teenager in 2013. He's established himself as KC's starting left back at this point and for a period of time earlier in the season was Sporting's best player. Other signings though haven't worked out so well when brought in from abroad, Jordi Quintilla, for example, for his heroics in scoring the clinching penalty kick in the 2015 US Open Cup final, couldn't seem to establish himself in the lineup for KC and then struggled to do so when loaned to the Swope Park Rangers, before his eventual release earlier this year right before the guaranteed contract date. Mechack Jerome is another younger KC player who didn't work out for Sporting, getting released by the club shortly after the club's exit from the 2013-2014 CCL.

Many of the rest of the additions for Sporting KC though have been more in their prime of their career when signed, and with many of those, KC has tried to follow the same strategy that they've used in prior seasons, picking up cast offs and injury prone players to come in and contribute. That's also had some mixed bags, because while Sporting hit things out of the part with the acquisition of Krisztian Nemeth, who was able to stay healthy during his one season in Kansas City, and Soni Mustivar has been a solid, addition in the center of midfield, the club has also had players like Toni Dovale who come in with some expectations and fail to meet them. Probably the most successful acquisition since the 2013 MLS Cup has been the re-acquisition of Roger Espinoza before the 2015, and his injury that ended his 2015 season lines up with Kansas City's slow slide down the standings during the 2015 season. The list of foreign signings who have failed to impress and have been gone in less than a year though has continued to grow as the likes of Dovale, Quintilla, Marcel de Jong, and Jorge Claros have all seen their tenures in Kansas City cut short despite the success of the likes of Espinoza, Nemeth, and Mustivar.

There's also been those injury prone players who haven't really worked out, the most recent one of those is Nuno Coelho, who looked like a solid, important addition to KC's back line early in the season, but has started just four games since late May, never going the full 90 minutes in any of those games, only making it past half time in two of them. When he's starting he's good, but it's a question of whether he can consistently do it, based on his history this season and with his prior clubs it's certainly one that Vermes is going to have to ask. If he can't, it's another in a growing list of disappointing signings.

The missed signings haven't just been in the international market either, Sporting's additions within MLS haven't worked out either as the team has moved on since 2013. In and out have come the likes of Jalil Anibaba, Servando Carrasco, Amobi Okugo, Bernardo Anor, and Andy Gruenebaum. And this year's crop doesn't look like they'll be around long term either with that headlined by the league's first "free agent" signing, Justin Mapp, who has appeared in just six games, failing to able to stay healthy for Kansas City.

Every team has to deal with their fair share of failures when it comes to signings, both within the league and from outside, but Sporting's list of failures over the last couple years are starting to grow quite a bit longer than the successes at this point. Something that didn't seem to happen in the first few years of Sporting's rebranding under Vermes.

The most successful one in the last few years didn't stick around though either, as Krisztian Nemeth departed for Qatar this past offseason. You can choose to blame whoever you want for the departure, some fans blame the team for it, some fans blame Nemeth, but from both sides it seems after the season, KC came to Nemeth offering to renegotiate his contract in good faith after the season he'd produced for the club. Once the door was open for renegotiating, both sides couldn't reach an agreement on how much was appropriate, the relationship soured and Nemeth was sold. It's not the last time Vermes' contract negotiating skills have come up, as they're now front and center with another player, as Benny Feilhaber is out of contract after the season, is currently able to sign a pre-contract with any club outside of MLS, and as of yet has not had much in the way of negotiations with the team about an extension. It's a strategy that Vermes has used in years past because of his dual role as head coach and technical director. If KC lose Feilhaber without even offering him a new contract, it'll be another black eye for Vermes in his player negotiating skills, less than a year after Nemeth's departure. The Feilhaber saga brings up another job of KC's and Vermes' strategy that may need to change as MLS becomes a more visible league. With more teams around the world taking a look at MLS for talent, delaying negotiations on players in the final year of their contract is a recipe for disaster. Waiting until after a player can sign a pre-contract is just asking for that player to go and sign abroad somewhere if there is interest. In the past that interest was minimal at best, but with an MVP finalist, maybe it'll take losing a player like Feilhaber to see that the tactic needs to change. KC has previously negotiated in season on other players, specifically Roger Espinoza in 2012 after his run at the Olympics and Matt Besler and Graham Zusi after their time at the 2014 World Cup. The in season negotiating worked on the latter two, but Espinoza seemed completely set on a move abroad. Still it's a strategy that Vermes may well need to change if he wants to retain some of his best talent.

Another issue with Nemeth's departure that has become a reoccurring theme now for Kansas City is the club's replacing top level talent with lesser talent hoping for similar results. With Nemeth the club had Justin Mapp and Brad Davis who could both step in and play the wing. The hope was that the pair would be able to pick up the goal scoring slack as a committee with the departure of Nemeth. Unfortunately as this season has shown, the pair has not, as Mapp has fewer appearances than Nemeth had goals, and Davis, who was expected to provide additional service for KC, has provided more goals (2) than he has assists (1).

Nemeth isn't the only example of losing talent and failing to replace it in the last few years, Oriol Rosell is a big one that comes to mind. KC tried to replace the Spaniard with Jorge Claros, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Servando Carrasco, and even James Marcelin (who was signed in the offseason and waived in preseason) all to varying degrees of success in KC's high pressure system that needs the defensive midfielder to be good with his distribution. The best KC has gotten out of that is Soni Musitvar who still struggles at times but has been an adequate replacement for Rosell.

Aurelien Collin is another player that KC for the longest time failed to replace adequately. The main issue here was the inability by Ike Opara to stay healthy in 2015 (2014 as well when Collin was still with the team). Opara's been healthy in 2016 for the most part, but Coelho's injury issues since late May along with Matt Besler's drop in form and absence with the US national team haven't helped the recovery of Kansas City's center back situation.

Besler's performance as a designated player along with KC's other three designated players during the last few years is another area that hasn't helped Sporting KC in their slow slide since the 2013 MLS Cup. KC has gotten far less than a DP level performance from their four DPs they've had on their roster since 2013. The pair signed new contracts with KC in 2013 using the newly instituted "retention funds" that allowed the club to retain certain players who were near the end of their contract. Then after both were consistent performers for the US national team in the summer of 2014, the pair were signed to designated player contracts on July 19th of that year, fending off potential interest from Europe. Since then, further national team call ups, injuries and form have held back the two players from consistently playing at a DP level. In the 79 league games played since the pair signed their DP contracts, Besler has played in 61 of those games (77%), while Zusi has played in 57 (72%), and while Besler's numbers are harder to quantify as a defender, Zusi has been a part of just 20 (7 goals, 13 assists) of KC's 106 goals (19%) since he was made a DP. If you're giving these two DP contracts you're going to be expecting more from them on the field than what is currently being provided.

KC's other two DPs haven't performed much better. After a solid start to his Sporting KC career, Claudio Bieler lost his starting spot to Dom Dwyer late in 2013 and never earned it back in 2014. He scored just a pair of league goals in his second season with KC and returned to Argentina in the offseason. Then this year, Sporting KC brought Diego Rubio in on a young DP contract on loan at the beginning of the season. While the young DP contract offers KC some advantages due to its lower cap hit, Rubio hasn't really been a big contributor to the team. From the time he was signed until June 30th when his loan was extended through the end of the regular season and he was no longer a DP, Rubio appeared in just nine games, only two of them starts and scored just one goal. Of his seven sub appearances, only two were more than 10 minutes, while the young DP designation makes it hurt less, playing that little with the "DP" tag on your name isn't something that's going to give fans lots of excitement.

Meanwhile elsewhere around the league in this stretch, other teams are really starting to get production from their designated players on the field, from the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, to Bradley Wright-Phillips, to even David Accam, more teams are getting goal scoring performances from their designated players. Even for all his issues with actually playing, when he does Frank Lampard has shown he can still run a team and score goals for NYCFC. With more designated players in the league than ever before, and more producing results on the field it seems, having two of those slots currently filled by players that really aren't holding up their end of the contract can be a real hindrance to a team, especially in MLS with its cap restrictions.

For all the issues with their DPs though, Vermes has done some good work to try to have the roster ready, using TAM and GAM to pay down the likes of Espinoza and Dwyer, who according to the players' union both make over the roster max. For KC to compete though they're going to have to start getting more production from their DPs, whether it's Besler, Zusi and a third DP, or any combination that sees Besler or Zusi no longer DPs.

In the end it just seems that since Sporting KC lifted MLS Cup in 2013 the club has gotten a little complacent in their work. Both from the team on the field and in the work done by the scouting department in bringing in players. The good news is that Vermes has already built this team once and I don't doubt that he can do it again, really I think he just needs some kind of kick in the butt to get them going again. Maybe the current slide that has lasted much of the season and could very well see them miss the playoffs is the kick that they need to get things turned around and headed back up again. For all the fun talk about winning the US Open Cup and competing in the CCL, it's the league season and playoff run especially that will ultimately decide whether or not Vermes and his staff keep their jobs. And after the last few years with KC tailing off late in 2014 and 2015 and then struggling for long stretches early and late in 2016, Vermes seat could begin to get quite warm in 2017 if he doesn't make changes to address it. To do that though he may need to go about changing some of his player acquisition strategies that he's used for the past six years with some decent amount of success, but in an MLS that is continuing to evolve and change quickly, sticking to your old ways when they appear to be less and less successful is not going to keep you around for the long term.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jewsbury to Retire at the End of the Season - Former SKC Wizards Update

Another long time MLS player is hanging up their cleats at the end of the season, former Kansas City Wizards' midfielder, Jack Jewsbury announced this past week that this year would be his final year in MLS. Jewsbury announced that he would retire at the end of the season at Portland's Stand Together Banquet on Sunday, it will bring to an end a career that has seen the 35 year old play 14 seasons in MLS, his first eight were in Kansas City where he's on the club's top 10 list in terms of starts, appearances, and minutes played. He's one of only nine players who have played in 200 games across all competitions for the club. In 2011 when he seemed to be losing his minutes on the field as KC started to go another direction he was traded to the Portland Timbers where he was the club's first captain when they joined MLS. He's since gone on to be a main part of their team and for his career is in MLS' all time top 10 in terms of appearances (348) and 29th all time in minutes played (25,363 up to this point. Congrats to Jewsbury on a fantastic career.

Here is the rest of this week's update.

Active without a club or unknown
Vicente Arze
Pablo Escobar
Brian Fekete
Neven Markovic
Victor Munoz
Akeem Priestley
Jordi Quintilla
Brendan Ruiz

Jalil Anibaba - Houston - Started and played 90 minutes in Houston's 1-0 win over RSL.
Teal Bunbury - New England - Came off the bench and played 8 minutes in New England's 3-1 win over Montreal.
Servando Carrasco - Orlando City - Started and played 90 minutes in Orlando's 4-1 loss to Columbus.
Aurelien Collin - New York - Started and played 63 minutes in New York's 1-0 win over Alianza. Started and played 90 minutes in New York's 3-3 draw with Toronto.
Marcel de Jong - Vancouver - Did not dress in Vancouver's 1-0 loss to Seattle.
Amadou Dia - Montreal - Did not dress in Montreal's 3-1 loss to New England.
Herculez Gomez - Seattle - Dressed but did not play in Seattle's 1-0 win over Vancouver.
Michael Harrington - Chicago - Started and played 76 minutes in Chicago's 2-2 draw with DC.
Jack Jewsbury - Portland - Did not dress in Portland's 4-2 loss to Saprissa. Started and played 90 minutes in Portland's 2-1 win over Philadelphia.
Kei Kamara - New England - Started and played 90 minutes, recording a goal and an assist in New England's 3-1 win over Montreal.
Chris Konopka - Portland - Dressed but did not play in either of Portland's games.
Eric Kronberg - Montreal - Dressed but did not play in Montreal's 3-1 loss to New England.
Mikey Lopez - NYCFC - Dressed but did not play in NYCFC's 2-2 draw with Dallas.
Yura Movsisyan - Salt Lake - Started and played 90 minutes in RSL's 1-0 loss to Houston.
Amobi Okugo - Portland - Dressed but did not play in Portland's 4-2 loss to Saprissa. Did not dress in Portland's 2-1 win over Philadelphia.
Tony Rocha - Orlando - Started and played 45 minutes in Orlando's 4-1 loss to Columbus.
CJ Sapong - Philadelphia - Started and played 74 minutes in Philadelphia's 2-1 loss to Portland.
Tyson Wahl - Columbus - Did not dress in Columbus' 4-1 win over Orlando.
Sal Zizzo - New York - Started and played 90 minutes in New York's 1-0 win over Alianza. Came off the bench and played 21 minutes in New York's 3-3 draw with Toronto.

Bernardo Anor - Minnesota (loan) - Out injured.
Stefan Antonijevic - Tampa Bay - Started and played 90 minutes in Tampa's 1-0 win over Carolina.
Omar Bravo - Carolina - Came off the bench and played 4 minutes in Carolina's 1-0 loss to Miami. Started and played 90 minutes in Carolina's 1-0 loss to Tampa.
Mechack Jerome - Jacksonville - Started and played 90 minutes, scoring a goal in Jacksonville's 3-3 draw with Puerto Rico.
Michael Kafari - Puerto Rico - Started and played 90 minutes in Puerto Rico's 3-3 draw with Jacksonville.
James Marcelin - Carolina - Started and played 76 minutes in Carolina's 1-0 loss to Miami. Came off the bench and played 23 minutes in Carolina's 1-0 loss to Tampa.
Rauwshan McKenzie - Oklahoma City - Dresed but did not play in either of OKC's games.

Amer Didic - Swope Park - Started and played 90 minutes in Swope's 3-0 win over OKC.
Christian Duke - Swope Park - Started and played 90 minutes, recording an assist in Swope's 3-0 win over OKC.
Cyprian Hedrick - Oklahoma City - Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 3-0 loss to Swope.
Ryan James - Rochester - Started and played 90 minutes in Rochester's 1-0 win over Charlotte.
Alex Martinez - Charlotte - Started and played 73 minutes in Charlotte's 0-0 draw with Richmond. Came off the bench and played 8 minutes in Charlotte's 1-0 loss to Rochester.
Tyler Pasher - Swope Park - Started and played 85 minutes, recording a goal and an assist in Swope's 3-0 win over OKC.
Michael Thomas - Oklahoma City - Started and played 90 minutes in OKC's 3-0 loss to Swope.
Kris Tyrpak - Swope Park - Started and played 82 minutes in Swope's 3-0 win over OKC.
Ualefi - Swope Park - Started and played 87 minutes in Swope's 3-0 win over OKC.
Yomby William - Richmond - Did not dress in Richmond's 0-0 draw with Charlotte. Came off the bench and played 18 minutes in Richmond's 2-1 loss to Charleston.

Adnan Gabeljic - San Francisco - Offseason.
Faik Hajderovic - St. Louis U23 - Offseason.

Jamar Beasley - Cedar Rapids - Offseason.
Mike Jones - Dallas - Offseason.
Boris Pardo - Missouri - Offseason.

Korede Aiyegbusi - AFC United- Sweden - Started and played 68 minutes in AFC's 1-1 draw with Gais. Started and played 90 minutes in AFC's 1-0win over Sirius.
Scott Angevine - YPA - Finland - Lost 3-1 to Kraft.
Claudio Bieler - Belgrano - Argentina - Started and played 90 minutes, scoring 2 goals in Belgrano's 2-0 Copa Sudamericana win over Estudiantes. Did not dress in Belgrano's 0-0 draw with Olimpo.
Reinaldo Brenes - Belen Siglo XXI - Came off the bench and played 10 minutes in Belen's 2-2 draw with Municipal Liberia.
Sunil Chhetri - Bengaluru - India - Started and played 90 minutes in Bengaluru's 1-0 win over Tampines Rovers.
Jorge Claros - Alajuelense - Costa Rica - Dressed but did not play in Alajuelense's 2-0 win over Santos de Guapiles
Daneil Cyrus - W Connection - No game this week.
Toni Dovale - CD Leganes - Spain - Did not dress in Leganes' 5-1 loss to Barcelona.
Luis Gil - Queretaro - Mexico - Did not dress in Queretaro's 1-0 win over Pumas.
Will John - RoPS - Finland - Came off the bench and played 32 minutes in RoPS' 1-0 win over PK-35 Vantaa.
Igor Juliao - Fluminense - Brazil - Dressed but did not play in either of Fluminense's games.
Igor Kostrov - Slavia-Mozyr - Belarus - Did not dress in Slavia's 6-2 loss to Minsk.
Luis Marin - CD Temuco - Chile - No game this week.
Michal Mravec - RoPS - Finland - Did not dress in RoPS' 1-0 win over PK-35 Vantaa.
Krisztian Nemeth - Al-Gharafa - Qatar - Started and played 90 minutes, scoring a goal in Al Gharafa's 4-2 loss to Al Ahli.
Erik Palmer-Brown - Porto (loan) - Portugal - Out injured
Pablo Punyed - IBV - Iceland - Started and played 83 minutes in IBV's 2-1 loss to Stjarnan. Started and played 90 minutes in IBV's 1-1 draw with Breidablik.
Oriol Rosell - Belenenses (Sporting Club de Portugal)(loan) - Portugal - Came off the bench and played 5 minutes in Belenenses' 1-1 draw with Vitoria Guimaraes.
Soony Saad - Pattaya United (BEC Tero Sasana) - Came off the bench and played 35 minutes in Pattaya's 4-0 loss to Sisaket.
Daniel Salloi - Gyirmot FC Gyor (loan) - Hungary - Defeated Zalakomar 7-0 in the cup. Started and played 81 minutes in Gyirmot's 0-0 draw with Paksi.
Peter Schmetz - Wuppertaler SV - Germany - Started and played 90 minutes in Wuppertaler's 2-0 loss to FC Schalke 04 II.
Yann Songo'o - Plymouth Argyle - Started and played 90 minutes in Plymouth's 2-0 win over Exeter City.
Kevin Souter - Deveronvale FC - Scotland - Did not dress in either of Deveronvale's games.
Martin Steuble - Ceres-La Salle - Philippines - Defeated Forza 11-0, lost 1-0 to Kaya.
Milos Stojcev - Atromitos - Greece - Did not dress in Atromitos' 2-0 loss to Panaitolikos
Matt Taylor - Kickers Offenbach - Dressed but did not play in Kickers' 1-0 win over Stuttgarter Kickers. Started and played 59 minutes in Kickers' 1-1 draw with Waldhof Mannheim.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sporting Academy Players in College

Here's this week's update on how players from the Sporting KC academy have done in college.

Class of 2013

Joe Amico (Jacksonville) - D - Sr - Came on as a substitute in Jacksonville's 3-1 loss to Mercer. Started Jacksonville's 4-1 loss to UCF.

Matt Bernard (Cal Baptist) - MF - RJr - Came on as a substitute in both Cap Baptist's 3-0 loss to MSU Billings and their 3-0 win over University of Mary.

Paul Dean (Rockhurst University) - D - Sr - Started and had an assist in Rockhurst's 3-0 win over Saint Joseph's. Started their 1-0 win over Indianapolis.

Seo-In Kim (UCSB) - MF - Sr - Did not play in either of UCSB's games.

Adam Lightner (Northern Illinois University) - D - Sr - No game this week.

Clay Stewart - (University of Missouri Kansas City) - MF/D - Sr - Did not play in either of UMKC's games.

Wes White (Coastal Carolina) - F - RJr - Came on as a substitute in Coastal Carolina's 1-0 loss to Charlotte.

Drew Wilson (Fort Hays State University) - D - Sr - Started all three of Fort Hay's games as they went 2-1 this past week winning 7-3 over UC-Colorado Springs, losing 1-0 to Western Washington, and defeating Seattle Pacific 2-1.

Class of 2014

Darby Cronin (Missouri State)- MF - Jr - Did not play in Missouri State's 1-1 draw with Oral Roberts.

Heath Honold (West Virginia) - F - Jr - Started West Virginia's 0-0 draw with UMBC and was a substitute in their 3-0 win over George Mason.

Mason Leonard (Drake) - D - Jr - Started in Drake's game against Green Bay that Drake ended up forfeiting. Started Drake's 1-0 loss to Loyola.

Blake Levine (Baker) - F - Jr - Started Baker's 4-0 win over Clarke.

Matthew Lewis (Fordham) - D - Jr - Started both Fordham's 0-0 draw with Manhattan and their 2-1 win over Stetson.

Andy Lopez (North Carolina) - MF - RSo - Was a substitute in UNC's 1-0 loss to ETSU. Did not play in UNC's 1-0 win over Pitt.

Noah Mudd (Trevecca) - D - Jr - Started both Trevecca's 3-1 loss to Lee and their 3-0 win over Malone.

Joey Piatczyc (West Virginia) - MF - Jr - Started both West Virginia's 0-0 draw with UMBC and their 3-0 win over George Mason, scoring a goal in the second game.

Cole Stevenson (Fordham) - F - Jr - Started both Fordham's 0-0 draw with Manhattan and their 2-1 win over Stetson.

Zach Wright (North Carolina) - F - Jr - Started both UNC's 1-0 los to ETSU and their 1-0 win over Pitt.


Andrew Blalock (Drake) - GK - RFr - Did not play in either of Drake's games.

Robert DeWitt III (Xavier) - MF - So - Did not play in either of Xavier's games.

Jack Freeman (Furman) - D - RFr - Did not play in Furman's 4-3 win over Gardner-Webb.

Bryce Gibson (Creighton) - D - So - Came on as a substitute in both Creighton's 3-0 win over UMKC and their 4-1 win over Seton Hall.

Nic Jaimes (Drake) - MF - So - Started in Drake's game against Green Bay that Drake ended up forfeiting. Started Drake's 1-0 loss to Loyola.

Ryan Krutz (Notre Dame) - GK - So - Did not play in either of Notre Dame's games.

Zane Moxley (Air Force) - D - So - Did not play in either of Air Force's games.

Alexis Quevedo (UNLV) - MF - So - Did not play in UNLV's 2-0 loss to Oregon State.

Hector Solorio (Niagara) - MF - So - Started both Niagara's 3-0 loss to Buffalo on their 1-0 loss to St. Bonaventure.

Tucker Stephenson (West Virginia) - F - So - Was a substitute in West Virginia's 0-0 draw with UMBC, started their 3-0 win over George Mason.

Andy Velez (JCCC) - MF - So - Started JCCC's 3-0 win over Cowley County.

Bailey Weeks (Northeastern State University) - D - So - Did not play in either of Northeastern's games.


Dakota Karns (Missouri State) - MF - Fr - Did not play in Missouri State's 1-1 draw with Oral Roberts.

Ryan Kellogg (West Virginia) - D - Fr - Was a substitute in West Virginia's 0-0 draw with UMBC and started their 3-0 win over George Mason.

John Leisman (Yale) - F - Fr - Came on as a substitute in Yale's 2-0 loss to Quinnipiac. Started Yale's 2-0 loss to Lafayette.

Logan Lucas (West Virginia) - D - Fr - Started West Virginia's 0-0 draw with UMBC and was a substitute in their 3-0 win over George Mason.

Andrew McLeod (Northwestern) - D - Fr - Did not play in either of Northwestern's games.

Absalom Solorio (Niagara) - MF - Fr - Started both Niagara's 3-0 loss to Buffalo on their 1-0 loss to St. Bonaventure.

Paul Whitener (Marshall) - MF - Fr - Started both Marshall's 1-0 loss to High Point and their 3-0 loss to UAB.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday of Stats

Lots of stats from today's game, lots of landmarks hit.

Dom Dwyer's goal was his 50th league goal for KC, he's only the second player to hit that mark for KC.

In the 62nd minute, Dwyer hit 10,000 minutes played for KC in all competitions, becoming the 24th player to hit that mark.

In the 20th minute, Matt Besler moved past Preki and into 4th place for minutes played in all competitions for KC, he finished the game with 20,708 minutes played.

Besler made his 236th appearance in all competitions, breaking his tie with Chris Klein for 5th all time on that list.

Besler started his 228th game in all competitions for KC, tying him with Jimmy Conrad for 5th all time on that list.

Jacob Peterson's goal for Kansas City was the 1,100th in all competitions for KC.

His goal was his 13th league goal for KC, tying him with Matt McKeon, Jose Burciaga, Sasha Victorine, and Claudio Lopez for 19th all time on that list.

Peterson's goal was his 8th at home in league play for KC, tying him with Lopez, Burciaga, and Teal Bunbury for 20th on that list.

In the 47th minute, Roger Espinoza again moved past Seth Sinovic and into 13th place for minutes played in all competitions, he finished the game with 14,064 minutes played.

Roger Espinoza started his 156th game in all competitions for KC, tying him with Tony Meola for 13th all time on that list.

Benny Feilhaber started his 129th game in all competitions for KC, tying him with Aurelien Collin for 20th on that list.

Soni Mustivar made his 50th start in all competitions for KC, he's the 57th player to hit that mark.

Landon Donovan's goal was his 14th in league play against KC, tying him with Jason Kreis as the 2nd leading scorer all time against KC.

Sporting Draw at Home Again, Playoff Chances Take a Dive

Yesterday's results around MLS didn't going Sporting Kansas City's way, Portland jumped ahead of Kansas City thanks to a win over Philadelphia while Seattle closed the gap with Sporting KC to just four points with a win over Vancouver. The pair of results put KC in a dangerous situation heading into today's game against the LA Galaxy, a game where Kansas City really needed to win to give themselves some breathing room above the red line and making the playoffs. Unfortunately on the field Sunday Sporting KC put on a typical Sporting KC performance where they dominated in terms of shots, but couldn't put many of those opportunities on goal and had to settle for a 2-2 draw with the Galaxy. The result now sees Sporting KC start a three game road trip, probably needing to pick up a couple wins in those three games to keep in the race for a playoff spot.

Sporting KC came out with some early control of play with Jacob Peterson putting a header just over from about six yards out that showed KC's early intent to really push the game against the Galaxy. Unfortunately it was the Galaxy that struck first early as in just the seventh minute, Emmanuel Boateng got the ball out wide and crossed a ball into the box where Alan Gordon had gotten some separation from Matt Besler and beat Tim Melia with a header to put the Galaxy up 1-0 very early.

After the goal the rest of the half turned into Sporting KC trying to find an equalizer. They created a number of opportunities but either by missing the target or by sliding challenges by LA defenders, KC didn't get a shot on goal until late in the half. The pressure was firmly on both teams as they went into the half time break. It was on KC as the club desperately needed to find a goal to get themselves back into the game, while LA was under all the pressure on the field, having to consistently deal with the Sporting KC attack coming at them, or controlling the ball in their end of the field.

KC found their way back into the game early in the second half though as Dom Dwyer made his way out wide after collecting a ball and crossed into the middle for Jacob Peterson who had about his fourth or fifth chance of the game with his head. Peterson finished this opportunity and leveled the game at 1-1 in only the 50th minute, giving Kansas City plenty of time to find themselves a second goal. The second goal in the 69th minute for Kansas City off a quick restart as Benny Feilhaber smartly put the ball down and played it to Saad Abdul-Salaam who was racing up the wing. Abdul-Salaam crossed it into the middle for Dwyer who knocked the ball into the net to put KC on top 2-1, a heads up play by Feilhaber to catch the Galaxy slack in the back as they slowly backed up for the free kick.

The Galaxy then had to chase the game, and did so by inserting the league's all time leading scorer, Landon Donovan. Donovan had an immediate impact, equalizing just two minutes after coming on, he worked a give-and-go with Robbie Rogers down KC's left, and ran away from Soni Mustivar who seemed to slow down. Receiving the pass back from Rogers Donovan slotted the ball into the far corner on Melia like he had never missed a game and the game was tied 2-2. Kansas City picked the pressure back up after the goal but were unable to find a third and had to settle for the 2-2 draw that sees them only increase their lead on the Sounders to five points while the Sounders have two games in hand.

Wizards Man of the Match - Dom Dwyer - A goal and an assist for the new dad in the game, he set up Peterson with a great cross and read the quick restart that Feilhaber played very well to beat his man. On the down side, he had six shots but only put one of those six on goal.

Player Ratings - Melia 4, Medranda 4, Besler 4, Ellis 4, Abdul-Salaam 5, Mustivar 3, Espinoza 4, Feilhaber 5, Peterson 5, Dwyer 6, Davis 4. Subs Rubio 3, Coelho NR.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Match Day 30: Needing a Win

Sporting Kansas City find themselves in a troubling spot heading into the final few weeks of the MLS regular season. After results earlier today, Sporting Kansas City has fallen into sixth place in MLS' Western Conference, and currently just sit four points clear of the Seattle Sounders, who are in seventh place and still have a game in hand before KC plays tomorrow. With all those results, Sporting KC will kick off against the LA Galaxy at Children's Mercy Park feeling the late season pressure of the playoff chase. A loss and Kansas City's chances of making the playoffs start to really become worrisome heading into a three game road trip to some environments that have been less than inviting of late to KC.

The Galaxy will have a familiar face available to them tomorrow as former US national teamer, Landon Donovan came out of retirement last week and rejoined the Galaxy. Donovan is the third leading scorer all time against Kansas City with 13 goals, but only trails first place Jeff Cunningham by two goals. He came off the bench last week against Orlando, and I'd expect similar tomorrow for him. The bigger issue for tomorrow may be Giovani Dos Santos who is rounding into form for the Galaxy at the right time and will be a handful for Sporting to deal with defensively, and that's without throwing in other forward options like Robbie Keane or Sebastian Lletget in the midfield.

Sporting KC should have a fairly well rested lineup as there's only one player who saw the field on Tuesday that I think really has a chance of starting tomorrow, and that is Tim Melia in goal. Other than him I'd expect full scale changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Vancouver in the CCL. The only big injury worry for KC is Graham Zusi who will again miss out on the game due to a calf injury. The other injuries for KC are all squad players at this point with Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, and the perpetually injured Justin Mapp. A team similar to last Friday's game against Houston, but with Jimmy Medranda back at left back seems the most likely.

Davis - Dwyer - Peterson
Feilhaber - Espinoza
Medranda - Besler - Coelho - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 1 - That's how many home games Sporting KC has left after tomorrow. Given KC still has yet to defeat a first division team on the road since April, getting full points from your remaining home games is absolutely imperative to Sporting KC at this point, they can't afford any more slips like last Friday.

Key Match Up - Dom Dwyer vs Brian Rowe - You have the third leading shot taker in the league, Dwyer (100), going up against the goalkeeper with the third most saves this season, Rowe (100). Dwyer has had to carry much of the goal scoring load for KC this season without a secondary scoring threat (other than Benny Feilhaber from the penalty spot). He's been quite successful doing it, but KC will have to ride him the rest of the way if they hope to make the playoffs and advance.

PREDICTION - This is basically a must win for Sporting KC, a loss or a draw with the three game road trip ahead of them and the playoffs become a big question for the club with the surging Seattle Sounders right behind them. The Galaxy haven't been a strong road team, but have been able to get themselves draws on the road with some regularity, and with their talent, it's not going to be easy for KC to get a win. Unfortunately I think this is going to be another disappointing result for KC that will leave them barely hanging onto a playoff spot and needing results on the road over the next few weeks.

SKC - 1 (Dwyer)
LA - 1 (Keane)

What We Want to Happen Today 9/17

It's a busy day of MLS games today, with plenty of games having a big impact on Sporting Kansas City and their playoff hopes. With Sporting playing on Sunday, they get to scoreboard watch today and hope that come Sunday morning they're still in fifth place in the West.

Vancouver at Seattle
What we want to happen - draw

A draw keeps either side from closing the gap by more than a point, and it takes a point off the board as well. With the Whitecaps only five points behind and the Sounders seven (but two games in hand) Sporting don't want either one of the two teams to gain too much ground on them, but better they split the points than one get all three.

Philadelphia at Portland
What we want to happen - Philadelphia win

With a West vs East match up, take the East team almost every single time, even if it hurts the fantasy of an MLS Cup at Children's Mercy Park. A win by Portland would see them jump over KC and into fifth place. Sporting want that "buffer" between them and the red line.

Dallas at NYCFC
What we want to happen - Dallas win

Really at this point KC's chances of catching Dallas are pretty much nonexistent, Dallas sits 12 points clear with only 15 points left available for KC. NYCFC is still catch-able for that fantasy MLS Cup run, so hope that Dallas doesn't have a hangover from their US Open Cup win.

San Jose at Colorado
What we want to happen - Colorado win

Similar to Dallas I am not sure that KC has any chance of catching Colorado, they sit seven points ahead of KC and have two games in hand on Sporting. On the other hand, San Jose still has two games in hand on KC and sits just six points behind Sporting, so them dropping points is the result KC needs more in this game.

Houston at Salt Lake
What we want to happen - Houston win

Houston still sits rooted to the bottom of the Western conference with 26 points while Salt Lake sit five points ahead of KC for one of those wild card home games. Dropped points by Salt Lake and a KC win would see Sporting close the gap to just two points with the same number of games played.

Columbus at Orlando
What we want to happen - Columbus win

The fantasy of an MLS Cup at Children's Mercy Park, hope the teams closer to a playoff position lose, Orlando is currently in seventh, tied with DC for the final playoff spot in the East, Columbus is at the bottom of the East, so Orlando dropping all three is most ideal.

New England at Montreal
What we want to happen - New England win

Like the Columbus at Orlando game, keep the team higher up the table from getting all three points. Montreal is only one point behind KC in the overall table, so New England picking up all three is the result KC want here.