Another game for Sporting Kansas City, another win against opposition with 10 men, and another 3 points. Sporting Kansas City got a win against the very skillful and speedy Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Children’s Mercy Park was rocking as always and there was something extra in the air because it was the first game of the season (The Cauldron and the South Stand Supporters both had incredibly amazing tifos for this game). Here were some of my take aways from this 2-1 win.
Espinoza the Engine
Roger Espinoza is back this season. I don’t think I really realized how much this midfield missed him until watching him play in these last two games. The guy is an absolute gladiator. He set the tone for the team running around contesting every header, wanting to win every tackle, and shedding off opposing defenders like they were flies.
I can remember on several occasions when I thought Espinoza could draw a foul but the defender simply just bounced off of him. Technically he was very sound as well, controlling and moving the point of the attack for SKC, always keeping the ball moving. This guy is simply irreplaceable for this team and I hope he can stay healthy this year.
Beautiful Bit of Possession
Sporting in previous years has been known to play a bit of what I would call “Midwest Soccer.” A very blue-collar style of soccer, in which they don’t care to have possession but will absolutely run all over you and press you as high up the pitch as possible. Several times last night the team would string a sequence of one-touch passing from one side to the other.
I also admired the patience they showed at times to take it all the way to the end line and then bring it back out and restart out of the back rather than try to force in a cross like they might have in previous years. SKC had an outstanding 65% in the first half of the game (for those people who might say that the possession was because of playing against 10 men, Vancouver didn’t go down a man until late in the half). I can honestly say last night might have been the most beautiful soccer I’ve seen Sporting play in a while.
More from Reporting KC
I’ll admit I had my reservations about this guy when he joined the team, but after last night I’m hopping on the Nuno Coelho band wagon. This guy is so calm under pressure. Last night several times he had two or three forwards running at him and he’d find Mustivar or Quintilla’s feet brilliantly.
The possession that I spoke about in the last point all started with him and Matt Besler being very comfortable with their feet. Also Coelho did a tremendous job of winning balls out of the air and dealing with the speedy and creative attacking threats that Vancouver has. I honestly think that SKC might have one of the best and deepest back lines in the league this year and I think this lays a perfect foundation for a successful season.
Hallisey Growing and Learning
Lastly, Connor Hallisey had I think the best game of his career last night. At the beginning of the game he was holding on to the ball too long and trying to do too much overall. After the first 15 minutes, and losing the ball a couple of times, he settled down and began to play simple two touch soccer. He began holding the ball for his outside back to make overlapping runs and finding his center mids’ feet if he had no options.
Hallisey did a great job when the ball was on the opposite side of making diagonal runs crossed the field, pulling the opposing outside back with him. This allowed for Myers or Dia to freely run down the open sideline (hopefully SKC can exploit this in the coming weeks with some long switches). If he continues to do these small things and slowly add more attacking pieces to his game, as the season rolls on, this kid could have a great future.
These are just a couple of things that stuck out to me (didn’t even mention that Dwyer got on the score sheet twice!). This team looks strong and we don’t even have all of our pieces healthy yet. Imagine how good this team could be once Benny is healthy, having Mapp or Davis as starters or options off the bench, or even finally having a striker to come off the bench in new Chilean singing Diego Rubio. This team has gotten 6 points from two of the best teams in the West. I look forward to seeing what else this team can accomplish in the rest of the season.