Tuesday, March 03, 2015

CBA Rollercoaster (and van der Vaart)

One thing this offseason that I've avoided much talk about at least on here is the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The main reason I have has mainly had to do with the fact that it really isn't my area of expertise. I've never been part of a union, nor have I ever been part of labor negotiations so I don't feel comfortable being the one to talk about it much. On Twitter I have been retweeting a number of articles about the on going negotiations. But now, less than 24 hours before the Chicago Fire are set to depart for LA ahead of the 2015 season opener, the talk regarding the CBA has really heated up and been a roller coaster to follow all day.

The big news today really started with reports that a strike was growing more likely, and while the players union didn't have the funds in their coffers to survive an extended work stoppage, reports came out that other players' unions would get help from other sports unions to boost their strike fund. A move like that would certainly signify the union's intent to dig in and stand firm.

That report was followed by more disappointment and worry about the season as more reports came out about the league rejecting the union's compromises and that Clark Hunt is the main hardliner on the owners' side of things. There were even reports of fee agency discussions that were tilted well in the owners' favor. Thirty-two years old with 10 years of experience with that one team was pretty laughable, as only one active player actually would meet that requirement after this season, Brad Davis. Kansas City has never even had a player play 10 years with the club, the closest being Kerry Zavagnin and Eric Kronberg who were both with the club for nine years of their playing career. That report though proved to be some old information and that options had improved since than.

Things took a more positive turn later in the evening with further reports on the CBA. The free agency aspect was still there, and had been improved to 28 years old with 8 years experience, which didn't have to be with the same team. But with the give and take, the increase a player could get over their current contract was only 10% of their contract.

The length of the new CBA is also something that's become a point of contention as the owners want to have an eight year CBA, three years longer than the current one. If a solution is going to come and save the first week of the season, it is going to need to come soon.

I, like many people fall more on the side of the players in this situation. I understand that free agency could bring a challenge to MLS' single entity again, but I feel this may be the time to lose some of that. I don't think the players are going to get full free agency, from the ESPN article, I think they may be able to get a few years of service knocked off the offer, but the owners likely won't want to knock the age down further, but it's something we'll have to wait and see, the doomsday clock has hit 11:58 and things aren't sounding too good right now.

For those curious, Jacob Peterson is the team's union representative, but for the current negotiations, Benny Feilhaber, Chance Myers, and Graham Zusi are also in New York at this time.

Van der Vaart news

Sam McDowell added more information to the discussion of Rafael van der Vaart to Kansas City. McDowell confirmed Sporting's interest, and got new quotes from Robb Heinman regarding the move. Heineman did shoot down the $4.8 million offer KC was reported to make, was untrue, and stated that there has not been a discussion of price.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Sporting are Offering van der Vaart How Much?

Germany media has really picked up on the Rafael van der Vaart to Sporting KC rumors. After Robb Heineman and Mike Illig were at Saturday's Bundesliga match between Frankfurt and van der Vaart's Hamburg, the rumors really picked up with German site Bild jumping all over it.

Now the German tabloid is reporting the price tag that Kansas City is offering the Dutch international. The report is that Sporting would pay van der Vaart $4.8 million per year to play for Kansas City. The entire Sporting KC team last year earned $4.1 million according to the players union. The price alone really jumps out, because it's not something that you would expect Sporting to do. Not that Sporting couldn't afford the salary that's being suggested, it just seems out of character.

Signing van der Vaart for that price would certainly be the largest price paid for a DP that Kansas City has ever paid. But is it too much? Questions about van der Vaart's health and fitness are two things that cause pause for KC fans who know about Peter Vermes and his "Sporting fit" playing style. Would van der Vaart fit in with that style? And if he doesn't, how soon before Vermes puts him on the bench? Another question is van der Vaart's defensive responsibilities, which he isn't exactly known for.

Similar to the Marcel de Jong signing, I feel there are other areas that KC would be better served upgrading than getting a 32 year old attacking midfielder. Van der Vaart would be unlikely to arrive until the summer when he contract with Hamburg expires unless, like with Roger Espinoza, he is let out of his contract to joining Kansas City early.

For me, I am still torn on this, I worry about some of the questions in van der Vaart's game that seem to go against the style of play that Vermes likes to use. On the other, if van der Vaart is still generating interest from teams in Spain, Italy, and Ajax, maybe Vermes can get something out of him.

Sporting KC Sign de Jong

The last field player still in camp with Sporting Kansas City has been signed. Sporting today announced that the team had signed Canadian international defender, Marcel de Jong to a contract. The left sided player has spent the second half of preseason with Sporting, playing in four preseason games, usually with what would be considered the "first team" defense.

De Jong had spent the last four seasons with Augsburg of the German Bundesliga until being released from his contract this past January. He helps to add to the new depth at the outside back position at KC, which has grown since the end of the 2014 season. Along with De Jong, KC has also brought in Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amadou Dia, and is welcoming Chance Myers back from injury as well.

Overall, his signing isn't a huge surprise, it almost seemed expected based on the comments that Peter Vermes has made about de Jong during preseason. It does bring up a question of what this does for the team's current starting left back, Seth Sinovic. While de Jong has been with the first team, Sinovic has been getting his playing time with the reserves. Sinovic has been the team's rock defensively the last two years, playing over 80 games across all competitions over the last two years, more than any other player in KC history over a two season stretch.

It's certainly possible that de Jong will be depth while Sinovic starts, and Vermes just wanted to get more of a look at de Jong with the "first team," but with de Jong's experience in Germany, and the potential salary demands of a defender less than half a year removed from the Bundesliga makes me think that de Jong is right now penciled in as the starter.

In a way that's sad for Sinovic who I felt did nothing to "lose" his starting spot. I also felt that left back was an area that while KC needed to build depth, didn't need to go out and spend money to upgrade that position when there were other areas of the field I felt needed it more. On the other hand though, when you have the chance to bring in a player from one of the big four leagues, it's really hard to pass something like this up, but on the surface, this seems like the start of Sinovic getting a bit of the same treatment that Michael Harrington got after Sinovic came in during the 2011 season.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sporting Close Out the Preseason with a Win and a Draw

Sporting KC closed out the 2015 preseason in Tucson today with a pair of games. Sporting pulled out a win and a draw to close out preseason with a 3-2-2 record.

Kansas City started the day with a scrimmage against NASL side, Minnesota United. Sporting put out a team that was likely close to what fans will see on March 8th against the New York Red Bulls (assuming there is not a strike). Kansas City controlled the early going of the game and scored an early goal from Bernardo Anor. Graham Zusi played a corner into the box that was headed by Ike Opara into the air. Anor was the first to react to it, volleying the ball into the far corner to give KC the 1-0 lead. KC controlled the rest of the half with a number of chances. Dom Dwyer got in behind the defense with a 1v1 opportunity, but Minnesota's goalkeeper, Sammy N'Djock played a high line in goal and quickly got off his line to snuff the chance. Amadou Dia almost took advantage of N'Djock's high line after some good pass work, but he put his chip just wide of the goal. Zusi also had a chip attempt, but his effort went high.

The second half, Kansas City continued to press the game with Dwyer against going close, but unable to capitalize. Sporting continued to control the game, but was unable to add to their 1-0 lead and came away with a 1-0 win over Minnesota for the club's first shutout of the preseason.

In the night cap, a team filled with mainly reserve players took on the first team for the Seattle Sounders in the third place match up of the Desert Diamond Cup. Like earlier in the day, Sporting was able to grab the lead, this time it was the team's first first round draft pick, Connor Hallisey who scored from 15 yards out after being played in by Jimmy Medranda. As expected with a first team playing a second team, Seattle dominated play, but Kansas City's defense and Tim Melia both stepped up and kept Seattle off the board heading into half time.

The second half saw Seattle continue to pressure, but Jon Kempin, who came on at half time, continued to play well in net for Kansas City. In the 66th minute though Seattle tied the game as Clint Dempsey played Obafemi Martins in behind KC's defense and he beat Kempin to level the game at 1-1. Seattle continued to press the game until the 76th minute, when Gonzalo Pineda was sent off for a foul on Sporting's Seth Sinovic. The dynamics of the game changed, Seattle continued to try to push the game, but a man down they couldn't do as much and the two  teams settled for a 1-1 draw.

The team will head home tomorrow to Kansas City with an eye towards Sunday and New York, but with the distraction of the CBA still firmly in the players minds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#TBT - It's Mojo Time

With Sporting KC getting ready to kick off their 20th season in MLS (at some time this year depending on work stoppage), I figured I'd start doing a look back at the team's history, not just the games but other stuff involving the team. For a daily dose of "on this date" stuff I suggest that you follow the Sporting KC On This Date Twitter account.

I'll post commercials, photos, videos, etc if there's something related to Sporting's history and their upcoming league opponent I might throw some stuff out on that as well.

This week though is a look at and old Kansas City Wizards television advertisement for the 2000 season. Coming three years after the original Austin Powers movie, and one year after "The Spy Who Shagged Me" the Wizards had this commercial advertising their games on Metro Sports at the time. The ad featured campy dialogue from the players with an Austin Powers impression from the likes of Nick Garcia, Chris Henderson, and Chris Klein. Other players that featured in the commercial were Bo Oshoniyi, Chris Brown, Brandon Prideaux, and Brian Johnson.



And I wondered at the time why more people didn't come to the games...

Heineman's Trip to Europe and Who He May Be Looking At

Robb Heineman is headed back to Europe. Last week on Twitter, Heineman tweeted that he was headed to Frankfurt and Milan in the next week, and asked fans who they may have been interested in. Immediately speculation went to who Heineman was going to see play, and who Heineman might be trying to get to come to Kansas City. Initially fans looked at Eintracht Frankfurt's roster, the only Bundesliga side in Frankfurt seemed like a good start, with a number of fans hoping for Peruvian international Carlos Zambrano, but that just doesn't seem likely. Another thought would be Timothy Chandler; the German-American also plays for Frankfurt.

Neither of those seemed extremely likely though, and shortly after thoughts turned to who Frankfurt was playing this coming weekend in the Bundesliga. Saturday Frankfurt host Hamburg SV at 6:30pm local time. The focus turned to Hamburg and one name that immediately stood out was Rafael van der Vaart, the Dutch international that Heineman had also mentioned as a rumored target previously. The Dutchman is out of favor in Germany, not even dressing in Hamburg's last game even though he was healthy and the club captain. He's also out of contract this summer, which is a phrase that most MLS clubs love to hear in relationship to a player they're interested in. Van der Vaart has been linked with a move to MLS and an unspecified MLS club recently in the German press, although there is apparently interest from Spain, Italy, and his former club, Ajax. Finally yesterday, Heineman even tweeted again that he was headed to see van der Vaart play (if he's in the 18).

Van der Vaart would be an interesting addition; he doesn't exactly fit the mold of the type of player Peter Vermes would want. Immediate questions come up regarding his work rate and whether he can be "Sporting fit." Another question that may have been answered is how you would play both van der Vaart and Benny Feilhaber on the field at the same time. So far in preseason, Feilhaber for the most part has been playing in a deeper midfield position, which would leave space for an attacking midfielder like van der Vaart to be brought in. The follow up question would be what that does to Krisztian Nemeth who has been playing that attacking midfield position behind Dom Dwyer the last two games and has had himself a very good preseason so far.

As for Heineman's next stop, Milan, there hadn't been a lot of talk about that, with most focused on the van der Vaart comments and Tweets, but that you can speculate on as well. One name that could come up is Lazio's Cristian Ledesma; the 32 year old Argentine midfielder who represents Italy internationally has been linked with a move to Sporting KC, where the club will offer him a "succulent contract." This weekend, Lazio is going to be playing Sassuolo on Sunday March 1st, which is two hours south of Milan, so not a long trip for Heineman to make if the rumor is true. Ledesma is a deep lying midfielder, which would give Kansas City even more midfield options, especially defensively. It almost feels a bit humorous and over kill the number of midfielders that KC is bringing in, or rumored to bring in. Even with the departure of Jorge Claros and James Marcelin, there are still a lot of bodies fighting for time in the defensive half of KC's midfield.
So we'll see if either one of these two players are the ones that Heineman is looking at during this trip to Europe. As always, take his tweets with a grain of salt and remember he loves to troll.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sporting Fall to RSL in Preseason Play

Sporting Kansas City fell for the first time in the Desert Diamond Cup, 2-1 to Real Salt Lake in Tucson tonight. Both teams started the game with a heavily reserve squad on the field. Salt Lake was the aggressor early on and in the 12th minute took the lead as Luke Mulholland picked out Emery Welshman, who curled a shot into the far corner past Tim Melia to make it 1-0. Kansas City controlled much of the possession but really struggled to create chances in the first half. Most of Kansas City's attacks came down their right hand side through James Ansu Rogers and Saad Abdul-Salaam. Sporting though didn't really test Jeff Attinella in the RSL net. In the 23rd, RSL almost made it 2-0 as Mulholland payed a cross into the box off a short corner that Welshman headed off the cross bar. Mulholland followed the shot, but put the rebound wide of the net.

The second half saw RSL grab an early second goal to make it 2-0. Mikey Lopez, a half time sub lost the ball deep in KC's own end, to Mulholland but was able to win it back immediately. Lopez tried to play the ball back to Melia, but his back pass was too slow and was easily picked off by Devin Sandoval who beat Melia to the ball and chipped it over him and into the net to double RSL's lead. KC's best chance up to that point came in the 55th minute when a KC corner was headed on goal by Kevin Ellis, but his effort was cleared off the line by RSL to keep them on top 2-0. Just after the hour mark, Sporting made 10 more changes, bringing on more first teamers to finish out the game. Immediately the pace of the game changed as KC pushed for a way back into the game. They got it only a couple minutes after the subs. A corner kick by Benny Feilhaber was met by Dom Dwyer at the near post who was able to direct the ball into the far corner to cut RSL's lead to 2-1. Only three minutes later, Marcel de Jong almost tied the game. Heavy pressure by de Jong on Attinella and Jordan Allen forced a turn over. From a tight angle, de Jong tried to turn the shot in, but could only hit the near post. Attinella also came up with some big saves on both Dwyer and Bernardo Anor in the second half to keep RSL on top. In the 87th de Jong gave KC their best chance for an equalizer playing a great ball into the box for Dwyer, but KC's leading scorer last year couldn't put the effort on goal.

Overall it was your standard KC vs RSL game, it was chippy game with seven yellow cards handed out, and three shoving matches broken up by officials, bringing back memories of the 2011 preseason match up between the two teams that was ended early because of a bench clearing scuffle.

As for who impressed and didn't tonight, I'd say that KC's attacking options for the first 60 minutes were lacking quite a bit. Ansu Rogers was really the only threat for KC going forward, Peterson and Hallisey brought a little to play, but not much, this lineup highlighted KC's lack of center forward options, especially if Peter Vermes is going to try to find a way to play with both Dwyer and Krisztian Nemeth on the field at the same time. Defensively, I felt that Seth Sinovic was off quite a bit tonight. I don't know what was wrong but he really wasn't playing like himself. I don't know if it's the threat of losing his starting job to de Jong, or what, but he just was not on tonight. As for who impressed, I have to go with the person trying to take Sinovic's job, de Jong. It's a little hard to judge parts of the game because de Jong was going against a tired back line and he was fresh for 30 minutes. But de Jong caused trouble for RSL and was able to get forward very well, which is something that Vermes likes out of his full backs. I also felt that Benny Feilhaber continues to have a solid preseason in a deep role in KC's midfield.

KC will now close out preseason on Saturday with a pair of games. The first will be against Minnesota United and then KC will play their final Desert Diamond Cup game against Seattle.

Duke on Trial with OKC - Former SKC Wizards Update

The MLS season is supposed to start in a little over a week, which means more former Sporting players will be back in action. While that's going on, another looks set to attempt to continue his career in the lower divisions, Christian Duke, who had been in camp with Sporting KC for a while was in the Oklahoma City Energy squad today that took on HB Køge from Denmark. Duke would continue the tradition of the Energy being Sporting OKC becoming another former player to play under former player, Jimmy Nielsen should he sign.

Meanwhile, another former draft pick was back in town this past week. Michal Mravec, Sporting's third round pick in the 2011 MLS Supplemental draft was back in own with the Tacoma Stars to play the Missouri Comets at the Independence Events Center. It wasn't a great night for Mravec or the Stars. Tacoma lost the game 17-1, and in the fourth quarter, Mravec picked up a blue card for a pushing foul on Comets Leo Gibson. As Mravec was walking to the box, pleading his case, he grabbed he hand of referee Ron Cory and looked to attempt to show him what happened, mimicking kicking out. Mravec struck Cory in the shin while the referee reached for his red card. You can see the video of it below.



Here's the rest of this week's update.


Active without a club or unknown
Federico Bessone
Bobby Convey
Christian Duke
Mechack Jerome
Will John
Michael Kafari
Neal Kitson
Igor Kostrov
James Marcelin
Rauwshan McKenzie
Nelson Pizarro
Ivan Trujillo
Konrad Warzycha

MLS
Davy Arnaud - DC - Offseason.
Teal Bunbury - New England - Offseason.
Aurelien Collin - Orlando City - Offseason.
Luis Gil - Salt Lake - Offseason.
Michael Harrington - Colorado - Offseason.
Jack Jewsbury - Portland - Offseason.
Eddie Johnson - DC - Offseason.
Kei Kamara - Columbus - Offseason.
Chris Konopka - Toronto - Offseason.
Eric Kronberg - Montreal - Capped tied to Kansas City, could not play for Montreal vs Pachuca
CJ Sapong - Philadelphia - Offseason.
Khari Stephenson - San Jose - Offseason.
Tyson Wahl - Columbus - Offseason.
Sal Zizzo - New York - Offseason.

NASL
Stefan Antonijevic - Tampa Bay - Offseason.
Kyle Miller - Atlanta - Offseason.

USL
Brian Fekete - Pittsburgh - Offseason.
Cyprian Hedrick - Oklahoma City - Offseason.
Jonathan Leathers - Charlotte - Offseason.
Alex Martinez - Orange County - Offseason.
Victor Munoz - Arizona - Offseason.
Tony Rocha - Austin - Offseason.
Michael Thomas - Oklahoma City - Offseason.
Yomby William - Richmond - Offseason.
John Wilson - Charleston - Offseason.

Indoor
Jamar Beasley - Ontario - Had an assist in Ontario's 3-1 loss to San Diego.
Adnan Gabeljic - St. Louis - Did not play in St. Louis' 14-9 win over Tulsa. Did not play in St. Louis' 13-3 win over Tacoma.
Josh Gardner - Missouri - Had three goals and an assist in Missouri's 17-1 win over Tacoma.
Pat Healey - Baltimore - Had an assist in Baltimore's 24-0 win over Chicago. Had three assists in Baltimore's 25-5 win over Harrisburg.
Mike Jones - Dallas - Did not play in Dallas' 6-2 loss to Monterrey.
Michal Mravec - Tacoma - Played in Tacoma's 13-3 loss to St. Louis. Played and received a red card in Tacoma's 17-1 loss to Missouri.
Boris Pardo - Wichita - Did not play in Wichita's 12-6 win over Tulsa. Did not play in Wichita's 22-4 win over

Tulsa.

International
Korede Aiyegbusi - Auerbach - Germany - Game this week was postponed.
Scott Angevine - Vasa - Finland - No games until 4/12
Vicente Arze - Blooming - Bolivia - Did not play in either of Blooming's games.
Claudio Bieler - Quilmes - Argentina - Started and played 90 minutes in Quilmes' 2-2 draw with River Plate.
Omar Bravo - Chivas - Mexico - Started and played 90 minutes in Chivas' 2-1 win over Cruz Azul.
Reinaldo Brenes - Saprissa - Costa Rica - Did not dress in Saprissa's 2-0 win over Alajuelense.
Mitchell Cardenas - Atlético Coatzacoalcos - Mexico - No game this week.
Sunil Chhetri - Bengaluru - India - Started and played 90 minutes, scoring a goal in Bengaluru's 4-1 loss to Mohun Bagan. Started and played 90 minutes, scoring a goal in Bengaluru's 2-1 win over Maziya.
Jorge Claros - Qingdao Jonoon - China - Just signed for the club.
Eloy Colombano - AD Berazategui - Defeated Juventud Unida 2-1.
Daneil Cyrus - Ha Noi T&T (W Connection) - Vietnam (Trinidad) - No game until 4/3
Toni Dovale - CD Lugo - Spain - Started and played 86 minutes in Lugo's 2-1 win over Recreativo Huelva.
Pablo Escobar - Cúcuta Deportivo - Colombia - Started and played 90 minutes in Cucuta's 1-1 draw with Boyaca Chico. Started and played 90 minutes in Cucuta's 0-0 draw with Cortulua.
Herculez Gomez - Puebla - Mexico - Dressed but did not play in Puebla's 2-1 win over Morelia. Started and played 90 minutes, scoring two goals in Puebla's 4-3 loss to Toluca.
Jermaine Hue - Harbour View - Jamaica - Lost 7-2 to Waterhouse.
Jeferson - Boavista - Brazil - Did not dress in either of Boavista's games.
Peterson Joseph - Azam FC - Tanzania - Drew 0-0 with Tanzania Prisons.
Igor Juliao - Fluminense - Brazil - Did not dress in either of Fluminense's games.
Carlos Marinelli - Universidad San Martin - Peru - Did not dress in SAn Martin's 1-0 win over Melgar.
Neven Markovic - Servette FC - Switzerland - Did not dress in Servette's 2-1 win over Schaffhausen.
Yura Movsisyan - Spartak Moscow - Russia - No game until 3/6.
Lawrence Olum - Kedah FA - Malaysia - No game until 2/28.
Akeem Priestley - Sheikh Russel KC - Bangladesh - No game this week.
Pablo Punyed - Stjarnan - Iceland - Lost 2-0 to IA.
Oriol Rosell - Sporting Club de Portugal - Portugal - Started and played 80 minutes in Sporting's 2-0 loss to Wolfsburg. Did not dress in Sporting's 2-0 win ovr Gil Vicente.
Soony Saad - BCC Tero (loaned fromBEC Tero Sasana FC) - Thailand - Defeated Assumption College 2-0.
Peter Schmetz - Wuppertaler SV - Germany - Lost 1-0 to Sonsbeck.
Yann Songo'o - Blackburn - England - Did not dress in either of Blackburn's games.
Martin Steuble - Ceres-La Salle - Philippines - No game this week.
Milos Stojcev - FK Sarajevo - Bosnia - On break until 2/27
Matt Taylor - Saarbrücken - Germany - No game until 2/28.

Sporting Sign 3rd Round Pick, James Ansu Rogers

Sporting Kansas City announced today that they had signed third round draft pick, James Ansu Rogers to a contract with the club. Ansu Rogers was selected with the 53rd pick of this year's MLS Superdraft, and becomes the fourth of Kansas City's five draft picks to sign with the club this year.

Ansu Rogers has been impressive this preseason, appearing in all four of KC's games, scoring one goal, the game winner on Saturday against Seattle, as well as providing an assist to Krisztian Nemeth in KC's 4-2 win over FC Tucson in the team's first phase of preseason.

The Sierra Leone born American has represented the United States at the U20 level in his career and has been a part of both Colorado's and Real Salt Lake's academy systems over the years. Rogers will provide Kansas City with more wide forward depth, joining the likes of Connor Hallisey and Jacob Peterson.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Claros and Marcelin Waived

Sporting KC made some room on their roster today, and opened some international spots as the club announced that they had parted ways with midfielders Jorge Claros and James Marcelin. Claros' exit isn't that surprising after the news on the weekend reporting that he was on his way to China to join Qingdao Jonoon, Marcelin's on the other hand is a little surprising simply because of the fact that the midfielder had just been signed back in December.

With the number of defensive minded midfielders on the roster though, some moves were definitely going to need to be made. Kansas City still has Servando Carrasco, Roger Espinoza, Mikey Lopez, Soni Mustivar, and Paulo Nagamura who all play a more defensive role in the midfield, so making that a little less crowded was something that needed to happen at some point.

Claros' career in KC will be highlighted by two things, Sporting's long pursuit of Claros, the team almost brought him in during the 2013 summer transfer window, but couldn't get him until the summer window this past year. The second thing he'll be remembered for is the three game suspension he picked up for "inappropriate language" late in the season. In the end he made seven appearances in league play, four in the CCL, and one in the playoffs for Kansas City. In the end, Claros really just didn't seem like he was fitting into KC's formation that well. He hadn't played a role so far this preseason having been on duty with the Honduran national team for part of it.

Marcelin had played in KC's first three preseason games against Portland, Tucson, and Colorado, but didn't see the field on Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. At the time that wasn't surprising as Paulo Nagamura and Erik Palmer-Brown also didn't play in the game, similar to Mikey Lopez not playing against Colorado. I'd assumed it was just a case of Peter Vermes wanting to give different guys a look and didn't put much into it at the time.

The departure of the two players opens up two international spots on the roster, giving KC three spots to play with heading into the final weeks of preseason.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Comets Finish Regular Season Unbeaten

The Missouri Comets closed out the regular season today against the Tacoma Stars at the Independence Events Center. It took the Comets a little while to get going, but when they did they played Tacoma completely off the field on their way to a 17-1 win over the Stars.

The Comets came out in the first quarter and controlled the game, but the Stars did a good job of staying with the Comets and keeping them off the board for much of the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Stars they couldn't hold out forever, and in the final five minutes were completely undone by Leo Gibson and the Comets high pressure. Gibson, on his way to a career day scored all four of the Comets goals in the final five minutes of the quarter. First winning the ball on a turnover in the Stars end and scoring. Less than a minute later, Gibson found himself unmarked at the back post after a good run down the wing by Alain Matingou. The Frenchman picked out Gibson who had an easy tap in to double the lead. Gibson then took matters into his own hands, beating his man on the dribble before firing a shot into the net. The final tally of the first quarter came in the final minute. After a foul in the Comets end, Missouri quickly moved the ball up field where it finally came to Josh Gardner. Again Gibson was unmarked at the back post, and again he was picked out and just had to redirect the ball into the net to put the Comets on top 4-0 after one quarter.

In the second quarter, the Comets didn't take so long to get things going. Less than a minute in, Brian Harris was the first one to react to a first to a loose ball near the yellow line. Harris fired a shot on goal that Aaron Anderson didn't see until late and before he could react it was past him to make it 5-0. Merely seconds later, Josh Gardner made it 6-0. Stefan Stokic led a counter, firing a shot off the wall.The rebound collected the rebound and put it away for his first of the day. Gibson returned the favor for the earlier goal to Matingou just before the four minute mark. He collected the ball near the yellow line and touched it into the middle for Matingou who hit a bullet with his toe to make it 7-0. A minute later, the Comets made it eight on the power play. After some good passing around with the man advantage, the ball got played in to Gibson in the box, Gibson turned and played the ball to Sosa in the corner who fired his shot over Anderson and into the net. It was nine before the half way point in the quarter as Gardner scored his second of the day after a layoff from Coady Andrews. Before the half, Vahid Assadpour got his first of the day off an assist from Gibson on a restart before Bryan Perez finished off the scoring with another power play goal and the Comets went into the half time break up 11-0, with Gibson being involved in eight of Missouri's 11 goals.

The third quarter again saw the Comets jump on the board early, this time with Andrews getting his fourth goal of the season after cutting across the top of the box. Thirteen seconds later though the Stars scored their loan goal of the night. After a shot by Vince McCluskey went wide, Evan Denmark followed the shot, missing with his first effort, but putting the second back into the net, cutting Missouri's lead to 12-1. The Comets though would earn the goal back in spectacular fashion before the half way point in the quarter. Off a quick restart the ball got played into the corner for John Sosa. Sosa tried to ship Tacoma's Chris Kintz, but the goalkeeper got a hand on it. The rebound though fell to Sosa who hit the shot on the bicycle, scoring to make it 13-1. Minutes later, Gardner finished off his hattrick to make it 14-1, where the quarter ended.

The fourth quarter, like the first, belonged to Gibson, who scored all three goals in the quarter for Missouri. Two of which came on power plays after cards to Michal Mravec. The first, less than three minutes in, saw the Comets completely dismantle the Stars around their own box with about five straight one touch passes that eventually found Gibson who had a simple shot for the goal. A minute later it was Gibson again. His initial shot was fired wide, but was recollected by Assadpour who played it back into the middle for Gibson to put home and make it 16-1. Near the midpoint of the quarter, Mravec and Gibson got into it a bit in the corner, Mravec ended up pushing Gibson and earning a blue card. Mravec argued the call with referee Ron Cory as Mravec made his way to the box. Mravec proceeded to grab Cory's hand and then appeared to be trying to show Cory what happened on the play. Mravec kicked out, presumably trying to show that he was getting kicked by Gibson. Mravec's kicks though hit their mark on the crew chief, and Cory immediately went to the red card, sending off the Stars player. On the ensuing five minute power play, the Comets killed much of the clock looking for goal 17. Late in the power play they finally got it as Gibson fired a shot from long range that made it into the net and made it 17-1.

With the eight goals and four assists on the day, Gibson extended his record for points in a season, finishing with 93 points, almost 30 more than second place Gordy Gurson. His eight goals gave him 48 for the season, enough to past Gurson for the most goals in a season, and he also finished with the most assists, 45. His 12 point performance on the day also set a league record for points in a single game. All fill Gibson's MVP credentials quite well as the forward should win the award this season.

Sporting Top Seattle in Tucson

Sporting KC continued their run in the Desert Diamond Cup last night against the Seattle Sounders, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before holding on late to win 3-2. Kansas City's primarily first team lineup played the first 60 minutes before making way for reserves. Graham Zusi, Saad Abdul-Salaam, and Jon Kempin made their preseason debuts for Kansas City in the game as well, with Zusi making the start for KC.

Seattle had the better of the play through the early going of the game, although KC looked better than it did in the first half against Colorado on Wednesday. Seattle really should have gone on top on the 26th minute as Lamar Neagle beat Marcel de Jong down KC's left and played a great ball into the middle for Clint Dempsey. Dempsey had drifted in between Amadou Dia and Ike Opara, but his shot from inside the six yard box went over the goal. KC though were the ones that grabbed the lead in the 34th minute through Zusi. Benny Feilhaber continued to show he can play fantastic long balls, sending a great ball from midfield that Zach Scott couldn't get enough of a head on. Zusi, who'd been making the run for Feilhaber, allowed the ball to roll into the box in front of him before hitting it into the far corner out of reach of Stephan Frei. Zusi immediately made his exit from the game immediately after the game, making way for James Rogers. Seattle almost responded immediately as Neagle held off Matt Besler at the top of the box, turned and fired a shot that went just wide of Luis Marin's left hand post. KC though began to get more of the play after the goal and in the 38th made it 2-0. Off a throw-in, Roger Espinoza played Dom Dwyer into the box with a nice ball. Frei made a good save on the initial shot, but Bernardo Anor was the first to reach the rebound. Anor backheeled the ball into the path of Krisztian Nemeth who fired the ball into the net from around the penalty spot to double Kansas City's lead.

The second half saw Kansas City continue to create chances. Dwyer should have tallied his first goal of the preseason in the 55th minute. Another long ball over the top was mishandled by Chad Marshall, allowing Dwyer to collect the ball and head into the box one on one with Frei, but the Seattle goalkeeper knocked the ball out for a corner. After the full scale changes for both teams around the 60th minute, there was another feeling out period as the new players adjusted to being on the field. In the 73rd though KC grabbed a third. Jimmy Medranda set up the play, getting the ball near midfield and racing towards Seattle's goal before laying the ball off to Rogers. Rogers cut inside two Seattle defenders back to back and fired a shot past Frei to give KC a 3-0 lead. Just a minute later, Seattle got themselves on the board as Vic Mansaray out muscled Seth Sinovic on a corner kick and headed a ball past Kempin and into the net to make it 3-1. Seattle continued to pressure and in the 78th minute, worked it from KC's left side of the field to the right before a curled shot from inside the box hit the outside of Kempin's far post and bounced back into play keeping the score at 3-1. Two minutes later, Seattle did cut the lead to one as a long ball into the box, bounced about 10 yards out as Sinovic missed going for the ball. Kenny Cooper was unmarked at the back post and fired a shot that went under Kempin and into the net to make it 3-2. The final 10 minutes of the game were filled with Seattle pushing numbers forward trying to find an equalizer. KC's defense though held on and Sporting came away with the win.

Performance wise I thought the the three man attacking midfield of Anor, Nemeth, and Zusi did extremely well last night, they interchanged and did quite well getting forward. Feilhaber behind them continues to play fantastic long balls from his deeper midfield position. On the other side of things, I don' think either of KC's left backs, Sinovic or de Jong had very good performances, Sinovic got beat on the first goal and missed a chance to clear the second before it got through to Cooper. de Jong, while he looked fine going forward, he struggled a bit with some of the pace that Seattle used out wide. Also I thought Connor Hallisey struggled in his 30 minute shift. He got caught up high a couple times, most noticeably on Seattle's second, when he should have been tracking Cooper. I think last night also showed Kansas City's lack of forward depth quite apparently. If Dwyer and Nemeth are on the field together (and the way Nemeth has looked this preseason I don't think you can leave him on the bench) then that leaves KC extremely thin on the bench when it comes to forwards, with only Jacob Peterson there. And really, for all of his work ethic, Peterson isn't a center forward. If both Dwyer and Nemeth can't go for some reason, KC likely would be better off playing a style similar to Spain's 4-6-0 they used, playing with six midfielders.

Kansas City next play on Wednesday against Salt Lake in the final "group stage" game of the Desert Diamond Cup. A win would put KC into the first place match on Saturday the 28th. A draw or a loss and the third place game becomes a likely destination.