It's a new year for Sporting KC, but it's the same old problems that came up again in their 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls Sunday at Sporting Park. Kansas City had 18 shots yesterday, just four of those 18 ended up being on goal, just 22%, and just one goal as KC played to a 1-1 draw, closing the game with just 10 men after Matt Besler was sent off for two cautionable offenses.
KC had some good early pressure in the first half forcing an early corner that almost led to the first regular season goal in Seth Sinovic's career. Graham Zusi played the corner short to Sinovic who was near the top of the box, he faced up and fired a low shot towards the far corner, but New York goalkeeper, Luis Robles got down well and pushed the shot away denying Sinovic the goal. Overall though other than that chance, both teams really struggled to create clear chances in the first half an hour or so with a lot of the play taking place around the middle of the field. New York really lacked for chances in the first half, their best coming on a break when Bradley Wright-Phillips received a ball over the top and touched it into the path of Felipe. The ball was too far in front of him though and Luis Marin was able to get quickly off his line and block Felipe's effort without it posing a ton of danger. Neither team really offered much in the first half as both teams still appeared to be in preseason mode feeling each other out.
The second half saw both teams pick up their level of play, and just five minutes into the half KC had jumped on top. After a corner by KC was partially cleared, KC kept the Red Bulls pinned in their own end. The ball eventually made it back wide to Benny Feilhaber who played a nice cross into the middle where Ike Opara came running in unmarked and headed the ball past Robles and into the net. The lead didn't last long though as minutes later, New York was level through Lloyd Sam. KC's midfield of Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, and Krisztian Nemeth had done well in preseason in covering for each other and limiting space, but last night there were all kinds of openings there as neither Espinoza nor Feilhaber really sat back to help defensively. This allowed a through ball by Felipe to pick out Sam in that space between the midfield and center backs. With the gap, Besler stepped up to challenge Sam, who attacked at Besler as the defender was already on a yellow card at that time. Besler pushed back, trying to shadow Sam away from getting a shot away. Sam though cut back on Besler and curled a nice shot into the far corner out of reach of Marin and into the net to tie the game.
Besler wasn't able to avoid the second yellow forever though, and in the 71st minute as New York started to counter, Besler went for a ball that was played in to Wright-Phillips at midfield. Wright-Phillips got to the ball first knocking it ahead up field, Besler went through Wright-Phillips as the ball went away. Certainly a foul, but referee Baldomero Toledo felt it was a tactical foul, giving Besler his second yellow and his marching orders for his second foul of the game.
While New York had the man advantage and the possession after the red card they didn't seriously threaten Marin's goal that much. In fact, it was Kansas City that ended up looking to break more on the counter. In the 88th minute, Dwyer could have won it for KC as Sporting attacked down the right, Feilhaber played a great low cross into the middle for Dwyer, but he couldn't turn his sliding shot on target, pushing it wide of the post keeping the game tied at 1-1. In stoppage time, Dwyer had another great opportunity to score the winner. This time on a long ball over the top, Dwyer got behind his defender and into the box. He shrugged off a challenge from a defender and stayed on his feet before trying to put a shot between Robles' legs. The New York keeper though made the kick save and the rebound was eventually cleaned up by the New York defense as both teams settled for a point.
Overall last night the game looked like two teams playing their first real game, neither team looked like they were firing on all cylinders at any point during the night. In fact that seemed to be true of pretty much every MLS team this past week with one to two exceptions. Dwyer struggled greatly last night, and admitted his failings post game, specifically when it came to his finishing, taking the blame with his two late misses. As I mentioned previously, the midfield wasn't together last night either, without a true defensive midfielder in there, there are big gaps created between the midfield and defense. Maybe it's because over the years I've grown used to seeing the likes of Julio Cesar, Oriol Rosell, and even Lawrence Olum sitting in that hole to help clean up anything that comes through the middle. Last night without it, New York overran KC's midfield until the introduction of Paulo Nagamura helped to settle things down for KC. While Matt Besler's form still doesn't look like it's really picked up, Ike Opara looks like he came in with a chip on his shoulder, last night was a dominate performance from the center back, he read the game well and after Besler went out did a good job of organizing the back line with Feilhaber filling in at center back until Erik Palmer-Brown was subbed on late.
Wizards Man of the Match - Ike Opara - A great run to get into the box to get on the end of Feilhaber's cross to give KC the lead. Did a good job of denying service to Wright-Phillips throughout the night and shut down New York's attack when they were a man up.
Player Ratings: Marin 6, Dia 6, Opara 7, Besler 4, Sinovic 5, Espinoza 4, Feilhaber 6, Nemeth 5, Anor 4, Dwyer 4, Zusi 4. Subs Nagamura 6, Peterson 4, Palmer-Brown NR.