Sunday night against the LA Galaxy, Sporting KC played up a man for the final 20 minutes of their 1-1 draw at Children's Mercy Park. The red card given to the Galaxy's Ashley Cole was the fourth given to a Sporting KC opponent this season, the most in all of MLS. The next closest teams have only been up a man twice. With being up a man four times, Kansas City has obviously been up a man more minutes (153) than any other team in the league, the Galaxy is in second place having been up a man 107 minutes on the season.
The big thing for Kansas City over the last two games is that according to the statistics on the league website, Sporting Kansas City has not recorded a single shot on goal while up a man. That's a span of 59 minutes in two games where the game was tied at the time the red card happened. It's one thing to not record a shot when you're leading by a goal or two and up a man, like FC Dallas did this year, recording just a single shot on goal over 24 minutes up a man against DC because they were already up 3-0 at the time the red card occurred. It's also understandable when the red card occurs late in the game, like Colorado not scoring a goal in the final four minutes after going up a man against Seattle, while winning 3-1. But when you're up a man for 20-30 minutes or more in a game, not getting a single shot on goal shows a mixture of bad offense and good defense. But when you have one team that is doing it over multiple games then you have to look specifically at the offense and their inability to test the goalkeeper and generate chances when up a man.
With that in mind I took a look at all the red cards that have been issued in games this year that led to a man advantage for a team on the field. I then took a look at how that team did offensively up a man, looking at their goals, shots on goal, and shots off target and blocked. I also looked at the amount of possession teams had after going up a man. I also made sure to look at whether the team was at home or away, as that can obviously change game plan. Basically I was looking to see if KC's stats were as bad as I felt they were when I looked them up. So far this season there have been 24 red cards in 22 games, 23 of those red cards led to a man (or two) advantage, the only outlier was Salt Lake vs Orlando where Orlando was up a man for 25 minutes after a Demar Phillips red card before Darwin Ceren was sent off in the 45th minute to make the game 10v10 for the final 45 minutes.
As I mentioned earlier, Kansas City leads the league in playing up a man, both in terms of times (4), and in terms of minutes played (153), in those 153 minutes, KC has held possession about 69.4% of the time. In those games, Kansas City has recorded a total of 22 shots; just five of those shots have been on net, none in the last two games. The other 17 shots have either been off target or have been blocked. While up a man, KC has scored one goal, Nuno Coelho's 30 yard shot in the opener against the Seattle Sounders, they have also conceded once while up a man, a penalty kick goal by Pedro Morales in KC's home opener against Vancouver.
So how does Kansas City match up with other teams this season when it comes to red cards?
LA, Colorado, New York City FC, Orlando, and Philadelphia are the next closest in terms of playing up a man, all five teams have played with a man advantage twice so far in 2016 (Portland has also seen two red cards handed to opponents, but both were in the same game). When it comes to minutes played up a man, those five teams are obviously high up the list, but Kansas City has played almost 50 more minutes up a man than any of the other teams. Sporting has seen a pair of red cards late in the first half, along with almost 40 minutes last week at BC Place against the Whitecaps. The fewest minutes KC has spent up a man was actually Sunday against the Galaxy when Sporting only played 20 minutes up a man.
The next highest on the list is the LA Galaxy who have spent 107 minutes up a man in their two games as both times they played up a man started in the first half. The next highest is Orlando City, who would be much closer to KC if not for their having to play 10v10 against Salt Lake. The likes of Philadelphia and Colorado both come next having played over 80 minutes each up a man. Columbus has the most minutes played for just a single red card, having played 72 minutes up a man recently against Houston.
In terms of goals, Kansas City is tied for third with seven teams all of who have obviously spent less time up a man than KC. LA has the most goals, scoring three times in their two times being up a man (all came in 45 minutes against the San Jose Earthquakes). Portland has scored two goals in 59 minutes against Salt Lake, the second of those two goals coming when Portland was up two men on RSL.
KC's struggle to get shots on goal is supported here as well. Their five shots on goal while up a man are tied for sixth, with NYCFC, who KC has spent three and a half times longer up a man. The only team with multiple games with a man advantage with fewer shots on goal in Orlando City who has just four. The leaders in this category are LA and Colorado with nine and seven respectively.
In shots off target and blocked though KC is leading the way with 17 shots, three more than the next closest Colorado. The same is true for total shots where Kansas City leads Colorado and LA by one shot, 22 to 21; they're followed by Portland who has 19 shots. That said, KC playing so many more minutes than those teams, they should be outshooting them by more. KC has averaged a shot every seven minutes or so while up a man. LA meanwhile has averaged one every five minutes while Colorado is getting one almost every four minutes. In fact the only teams worse than KC in terms of shot creation up a man were Orlando who averaged a shot almost every eight minutes, Dallas who averaged a shot every eight minutes (already up 3-0 when they went up a man), and New England who got just two shots over 29 minutes up a man (but were already up 1-0 at the time).
While Kansas City has struggled to create chances on goal and goals, they haven't struggled to control the game when they go up a man. KC is averaging over 69% possession when they have been up a man this season. That's good for fifth of the teams that have had a man advantage, but one of those four is San Jose who had a man advantage officially for just a minute after a red card in stoppage time for Portland. Two of the other three ahead of them, Columbus (77%) and Portland (70%) have played less than half the minutes up a man that KC has (72 and 59 minutes respectively), while third, NYCFC (73%) has played less than a third of the time up a man (43 minutes). So when KC gets the opportunity to be up a man they do quite well at keeping the ball and denying the other team chances. In that vein, they are one of seven teams to have allowed a goal while up a man though, but obviously as you have more time up a man the potential for a team to counter and score does go up, especially with the amount of possession that KC has had.
Before people throw out the fact that KC has played half of their games up a man away, so have the likes of LA, NYCFC, and Orlando, getting two draws and a loss from those three games away from home. Only Philadelphia and Colorado have played both games they've had up a man at home and were 3-0-1, with the home team having the lead in three of the four before the red card occurred. Meanwhile, Kansas City has gone 2-0-2 in their four games up a man, 1-0-1 both at home and on the road. KC is the only team to play multiple games so far this year on the road up a man. They are also the only road team to take advantage of the man advantage to turn a draw or loss into a win (Dallas, the only other team to win on the road was up 3-0 when the red card occurred).
In the end after reviewing all the numbers, did Kansas City end up doing as poorly as I thought? Yes they aren't getting many goals, or even shots on goal, but that's an area that KC has struggled when a team isn't playing 10 men behind the ball bunker. Sporting has shown a lack of ability to break down bunkering teams even when it's an all-out one, so being surprised by the lack of production a man up shouldn't be incredibly surprising. That said, there really does need to be improvement in that area sometimes over the past two games especially I've felt that KC passed up a decent chance looking for a better one and that better one never came as Kansas City would cycle the ball from one sideline to the other in a half circle around the box.
On the plus side, based on KC's possession they are taking the game to teams when they are up a man, they're just not doing enough with it when it happens. Not enough shots, not enough on goal, and not enough ending up in the net. In the end, Kansas City probably isn't the worst when they're up a man, after reviewing the stats so far, I'd have to say that Orlando has been the poorest so far when they've had an advantage, but Kansas City is not very far behind them at all, and have had double the opportunities as well. It's an area that KC really needs to improve on, teams should be able to punish opponents that are undermanned on the field.