In their first away game in about two months, Sporting KC looked strong against one of the strongest home teams in the league, but couldn't capitalize on their possession and ended up falling to RSL 1-0 at Rio Tinto. KC tried to set the tempo for the game early on wiht much of the early play taking place in RSL's half of the field. KC struggled to create much from that early possession though, really only testing Nick Rimando once when Aurelien Collin forced a good save off of a long throw from Matt Besler. Rimando tipped the header over the bar for a corner kick. While KC controlled early, the other thing that became apparent about the early part of the game was that it was very physical. Both teams were being whistled for fouls, disrupting the flow of the game. On the majority of the free kicks that KC got, RSL's height advantage kept KC from doing much with the chances, when they did Rimando ended up coming up with a nice save. He did it again on Collin in the 24th minute after a Graham Zusi free kick ended up at the feet of Collin, but Rimando made a nice kick save knocking the ball away. Late in the half Rimando made another good save on a cross from Roger Espinoza. Espinoza had raced down the line with the ball and cut inside. He fired in a cross on the ground hoping to hit either Teal Bunbury at the near post, Kei Kamara at the far post, or possibly get a deflection into the net off an RSL defender, but Rimando laid out and grabbed the ball before it made it's way through.
The rough play continued in the second half, throughout the game the two teams combined for 34 fouls, 17 each. A needless foul in the 53rd minute by Collin on Andy Williams gave RSL a free kick from about 35 yards out. Kyle Beckerman lofted a ball into the area for Nat Borchers, who had gotten away from Collin, who had a horrible 2 minute stretch after committing the foul. And while Collin's defending on the play was poor at best, KC got no help from the referee as the photo below shows Borchers about as far offside as Collin was when his goal was ruled out against LA back on Labor Day.
After the goal, KC continued to be the one pushing the game, Bunbury tried to respond immediately but fired his shot just wide of Rimando's goal. Julio Cesar forced another strong save from Rimando, firing a shot from 35-40 yards out on a frozen rope that Rimando could only tip over the bar for a throw in. Espinoza had another decent opportunity, getting around his markers and firing a shot in that was wide of the goal, but found Omar Bravo, who had overrun the ball and was in an offside position anyway. RSL's chances in the second seemed to be few and far between, they had one chance off a free kick after a Collin hand ball, but on the ensuing free kick a foul on RSL called the play back. Trying for a quick restart Jimmy Nielsen and Jamison Olave collided, Olave's shoulder hitting Nielsen in the chip. Nothing malicious in the bump, but Nielsen went down almost like he'd been shot. I don't believe that Nielsen was totally acting, I think taking the shoulder in the chip probably hurt a little bit since he never saw it coming, but I also think Nielsen tried to play the contact up just a little bit, which is extremely unfortunate. Nielsen was called on to make a big save in the 75th as Alvaro Saborio got played in to Nielsen's left, but Nielsen made a big save on a powerful blast by the Costa Rican.
In the 84th there was a bit of confusion after Rimando collected a cross as Rimando was getting ready to distribute up field when he seemed to drop the ball. The ball fell to Davy Arnaud who fired the ball into the empty net. But referee Ricardo Salazar called the play back saying that Seth Sinovic had interfered with Rimando distributing the ball. Replays seemed to show KC's left back making no contact with RSL's goalie. RSL should have doubled their lead in the 87th when Fabian Espindola got played in behind KC's defense, but 1v1 with Nielsen, the Dane made the foot save. KC's continued pressure created some chances for Bunbury and Jeferson, but they were unable to beat Rimando. RSL had one good chance to find a second as some comedic defending by KC saw them give the ball away in their own end. Nielsen tried to chase down an errant back pass from going out for a corner and gave the ball away to Jean Alexandre. Nielsen though showed well defensively to keep Alexandre wide and Besler was able to head the cross away without a goal given up. KC couldn't find a goal at the very end and their return to the road ended with a loss.
KC seemed to do enough to at least get a draw last night, especially with the possession that they had. But they didn't do enough with that possession. They forced Rimando into making three or four big saves, but those are basically all the saves that Rimando had to make all night. With the amount of time that KC spent in RSL's offensive third Rimando should have been forced into more work than he was.
WIZARDS Man of the Match - Julio Cesar - Both sides of the midfield were physical, and while Roger Espinoza was doing some on KC's side, Cesar was the one that was doing more of it. He helped to shut down the middle of RSL's attack in his return to the midfield.
Player Ratings - Nielsen 5, Harrington 5, Collin 4, Besler 5, Sinovic 5, Cesar 6, Espinoza 5, Zusi 4, Kamara 5, Bunbury 4, Bravo 3. Sapong 4, Arnaud NR, Jeferson NR.