Thursday, September 24, 2015

Priorities for Sporting KC

I've spent much time over the last few years being critical of some of the opinions on the Cauldron Facebook page, including mocking some opinions there with the hashtag #CFBLogic. The page can be a dumpster fire after any loss, like I would think many fan pages for teams all over the internet are. Occasionally though it actually brings some interesting conversations, and while the conversation that led to this post hasn't been overly interesting, the premise of it has been. The idea is the priority of the US Open Cup over Sunday's league game against the Seattle Sounders, and vice versa.
In last night's game, both Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber picked up suspensions due to yellow card accumulation. The two will now miss Sunday's game against the Seattle Sounders. Feilhaber's yellow was particularly interesting as he seemed to be arguing to receive a yellow card from referee Sorin Stoica, who did after Feilhaber walked away and proceeded to kick the ball away. With Feilhaber one game away from an accumulation suspension it almost seemed that he was intentionally trying to get that yellow card and miss Saturday's game against Seattle. Almost like he knew he wouldn't be playing so he wanted to get his suspension cleared out so he didn't have to worry about missing another game later in the season.
This leads to the question of priorities between a league game that has turned into a very important match Sunday against the Seattle Sounders and the US Open Cup final on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union. When Kansas City beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 to make the US Open Cup final, KC looked to be in fantastic shape, a Supporters' Shield favorite and looked to be cruising to a playoff berth at the least. Since that game though KC has gone 1-5-1 in league play, picking up just four points, and dropping in the standings to fifth place, just four points above the playoff line.
This makes Sunday's game against Seattle all the more important. A win and KC can solidify their playoff spot; a loss and they will root themselves deeper into the fifth or sixth place spot and by the end of the weekend could see themselves just one point above the playoff line. Three points are almost a must for KC at this point. Unfortunately KC has a game that is just as, if not more, important on Wednesday against Philadelphia. In a normal league situation, Peter Vermes would likely just do a little rotation to give a few guys a break, but keep the majority of the starting lineup available. With a cup final in the middle of the week though KC likely has plenty of attention turned toward that game and more substantial rotation seems a good possibility for the game Sunday at home.
The question fans ask is where should their priorities lie? On the one hand you have a cup final, another chance to "paint the wall," to win their third trophy in the last four years, to get back into the CONCACAF Champions League, and to get that extra allocation money that comes with the spot in the 2016-2017 version of the competition.
On the other, the US Open Cup is still a fringe competition that doesn't have mass appeal to the majority of fans. This is especially true in the US and KC where you have a large number of "young" soccer fans who are not used to leagues that have multiple competitions going on at one time. Those fans see the league as being a much, much more important priority for KC and see the playoffs as being more important for KC to focus on at this point. This view point is helped by the fact that the final still has no announced televised schedule for the game just six days before the final (although there are current reports the game will be on ESPN2).
With that first view point, it's easy to see why the Besler and Feilhaber suspensions aren't a huge deal. Fans that subscribe to that view point were hoping and expecting that Vermes would sit the two anyway, along with other players to get them rest for the final. Many fans that subscribe heavily to this view point wouldn't be disappointed if KC threw out a completely different 11 from the one that eventually takes the field on Wednesday against the Union. They understand that they're sacrificing this game to have the team better ready for the final.
With the league priority, it's all about getting that playoff spot. The form over the last month has been horrible for KC; the drop in the standings has many people on both sides of the priority line concerned, at least a little, about the playoffs. The main feeling is that KC really needs to right the ship that is their season, and get the opportunity to win the bigger trophy, MLS Cup. Some also point to Vermes' tactics of playing guys multiple times in a week as proof that KC could do something similar on Sunday against Seattle.
I personally lean towards the priority of the US Open Cup, but I understand the frustration on the other side, especially with Sunday's game at home. People don't want to go to a game to watch a bunch of "second teamers" run out there, its part of why so many fans leave NFL preseason games early once the starters are out. You especially don't want to see it at home in a competitive game when you've paid money to attend the game. You go with the expectation of a certain level and some people I've already seen state their frustration in Sunday's game if KC does indeed field a weakened side to face the Sounders.
If KC does field a weakened team, as weakened as some want, those on the USOC side of priorities have to be ready for the consequences, should the Sounders walk all over a weakened SKC team. On the other side of things, this is MLS we're talking about, where a San Jose Earthquakes team that looked dead in the water walked into a stadium where a team hadn't lost all season, and put five goals past them in route to a 5-0 win.


Anonymous said...

We need to prioritize the Open Cup. It may not be a big deal now but I believe as far legacy in the future, it will gain more respect and will certainly be something to point back in the years to come. It is still one of the major championships / trophies that can be won in our league.
I'd rather see us field a more weakened team come Sunday and with a our strongest line up for the Open Cup.

Stan Johnston said...

Go all in for the Cup final. After the Houston debacle, hoping that this team will somehow turn around the regular season doesn't seem like a good bet, especially if it costs the team a chance at a trophy.