Sunday, February 22, 2015

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.

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