Tag Archives: Ike Opara

Sporting KC splits points with Real Salt Lake in 1-1 draw

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The race for the playoffs continues as Sporting Kansas City remains in second place in the Western Conference as they settle for a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. The dramatic match saw goals from Ike Opara and rookie forward Corey Baird.

Sporting KC kicked off the match by coming close to scoring early after the whistle blew when Felipe Gutierrez finds the ball. Then Sporting KC earned a great set piece, thanks to a foul by Nick Besler – Matt Besler’s little brother – on Kristian Nemeth. However, Zusi’s curler goes over the crossbar.

Then the tide turned as Damir Kreilach ran the ball down but was stopped by Gerso Fernandes and Opara twice during the 7th minute.

A minute later, Jefferson Savarino runs the ball straight through Sporting KC’s defense to Baird, who then takes the early goal for the visitors giving RSL a 1-0 lead.

Sporting KC was quick to respond by creating a few opportunities but fell flat. RSL came close to doubling their lead, however, Tim Melia was able to misdirect RSL to the right of the goal post.

Trailing by one, Sporting KC consistently pressured RSL’s defense searching for the equalizer. But the home side would see most opportunities get deflected by goalkeeper Nick Rimando – who came up huge having recorded six saves.

The home side would have a chance to level just three minutes after the restart when Gutierrez found Graham Zusi with a diagonal ball, and Zusi sent in a low cross from the right side, but Rimando deflected the ball over the bar in a full stretch.

Opara sparked life back into the game by leveling the match with a perfect header over Rimando off a corner during the 52nd minute.

With the match leveled, the action escalated. Fast.

Opara’s equalizer sparked life into the match, as Sporting KC got their momentum back. But RSL almost saw a chance go begging in the 58th minute when Melia turned away Savarino’s long-distance sledgehammer.

The visitors would go much closer in the 73rd minute, however, when Baird culminated another devastating counter with a chip shot over Melia that caromed off the crossbar.

Sporting KC threatened twice, only for Rimando to intervene on both occasions. Second-half substitute Diego Rubio slipped a lovely pass in behind the RSL defense for Gerso Fernandes in the 81st minute, but the winger’s first touch allowed the RSL goalkeeper to race off his line and extinguish the danger.

Six minutes later, Zusi found Rubio near the penalty spot, but the Chilean’s side-footed attempt through traffic was blocked by Rimando’s extended left foot.

Sporting KC scrambled for the final moments of the match looking to increase their goal but despite all efforts had to split points with the Western Conference foe.

Now Sporting KC will aim at a chance for the playoffs when they host LA Galaxy on Saturday, October 6.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Who Are We Penalizing?: The players, the fans, or both?

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

US Open Cup match

Tuesday, July 11: 3-0 Win

Would you call this a penalty?

I’m not one for complaining about refs. It makes us (the royal us) sound like a bunch of whiny homers, but today I will represent whiny homers everywhere!

This season we have all been PROed! I don’t think this is a controversial statement. The MLS even has a whole youtube video series about missed/questionable calls!

This season has been fraught with PKs both warranted and unwarranted. There have been 68 PKs attempted so far, and of those 68, 53 have been made (Tim Melia has blocked 1/5 of the missed PKs btw. That’s pretty cool.)

A few PK stats: Teams with the most PKs attempted are Toronto FC and Portland Timbers (see the dive above) with 7. Teams with the fewest PKs attempted are Sporting KC and San Jose Earthquakes with 0, because you can’t attempt less than zero. Though if the refs found a way to give Sporting a negative PK then they would have. Sorry. That may have been a bit too on the whiny homer side.

Though there have been 68 PK attempts I bet we can all think of multiple times this season where our teams have deserved a PK that they weren’t awarded. One that really stands out to me was from Sporting’s game against the Timbers when Gerso was pulled down from behind when a Timber’s defender grabbed him by the shoulder.

Watching the play from the (extremely biased) Cauldron one could see that Gerso immediately puts his uninjured arm up to call for help. The referee though looked straight at him and waggled his finger no and ran off. The non-foul was so harsh that it dislocated Gerso’s shoulder. My sister, a certified athletic trainer, said that the hardest way to dislocate a shoulder is for it to be pulled out backwards. That is the direction Gerso’s shoulder went. He left the game, and didn’t start the next one.

Later that game though, Tim Melia was called for a penalty when he used his wizard powers to make Fanendo Adi trip. He must have used magic, because he sure didn’t touch him. Luckily, Timmy blocked the PK for his third PK save this season. It was a nice karma moment. If you believe in that sort of thing.

Now, I’m not saying that all the PKs given against Sporting are wrong. The call against Benny for his foul on Philly’s CJ Sapong was completely warranted. The call against Bes when he “pushed” Vancouver Whitecap‘s Fredy Montero was not. Tim Melia going studs up against DC United‘s Julian Buescher was also warranted. Tim saved those last two penalties as well, btw. Please feel free to share your opinions, thoughts, and commentary below.

Hot Takes:

Sporting defender, Ike Opara, was kicked in the side of the head by FC Dallas forward Max Urruti. We thought Ike was finally going to have a full healthy season after being plagued with injuries throughout his career, but that is obviously not the case. When you watch the play you can see Ike immediately go limp in the air, and fall to the ground.

We received some information that the kick was so severe that Ike may have been seizing on the pitch before he was stabilized. After being strapped to a stretcher, he was able to give a quick thumbs up while he was taken off the pitch. Urruti went to the SKC locker room post game to check up on Ike’s condition which was a pretty classy move.

Ike was released from the hospital on Wednesday morning, and he had his sense of humor back per his tweets. He was diagnosed with a grade 3 concussion, and the team trainers don’t expect him back for at least a month.

Sporting KC has a starter in the All Star Game! Defender Graham Zusi was selected by the fans to the All Star Starting XI. His defensive compatriots, aka one of the best centerback duos in the league, Ike and Matt Besler, were not selected, but could still be named to the full roster along with Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer, Gerso, and Tim Melia. Can we all agree that Tim Howard being in the Starting XI over Tim Melia is absurd? If you check out this article right here, you can see that everyone loves the good Tim. The right Tim. The Tim you could take home to your mother.

American Citizen Dominic Dwyer has scored two goals for the USMNT in two games. He is basically killing it. Dom, Zus, and Bes all started the first two games of the friendly + Gold Cup schedule, and were effective. There were some defensive blunders in the Panama game, but it was insanely hot in Nashville. Hopefully, the guys get back in for the game against Nicaragua. But since none of them played on Wednesday no one can blame them for the mediocre showing the US had against “international soccer powerhouse” Martinique.

Adorable Hot Take:

Watch this Instagram slideshow of Latif Blessing hugging people! It’s adorable!

View this post on Instagram

Does someone need a hug?

A post shared by Sporting Kansas City (@sportingkc) on

Literal Hot Take:

I have officially moved to Orlando, Florida. It is so hot and humid here! If it wasn’t for the rain (every damn day) the temperature would be unbearable. Luckily, the rain cools it down…at least until the sun comes back out and makes it all steamy again.

Sporting KC doesn’t play again until July 22nd when they take on Real Salt Lake in Utah, so the guys have been getting a much needed rest.

Enjoy the international break! Go USMNT!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

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Well, that was frustrating.

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Saturday, May 27: 1-0 Loss

73% possession, 24 shots, 8 corner kicks, no yellow cards

Normally this combination of stats would lead to a win, but not this time.

Sporting KC went to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last Saturday to take on the Colorado Rapids, and frankly they dominated the game. It seemed like they could score at any time! They just didn’t.

The game changing moment was when Ike Opara “fouled” Dominique Badji. I would like to note the quotation marks. Many soccer analysts have stated that it should not have been a foul. This is not just an angry fan moment. Ike was going for the ball. Sorry you fell down. But the “foul” led to a free kick that was taken by Shkelzen Gashi. Gashi’s cross found the head of Kortne Ford for his very first MLS goal.

Now, regardless of the validity of the foul, Sporting should have defended better. There were lots of eyes on that cross, and not enough on where it could have been going. Defending crosses is one of our weaknesses, and going into the time when we’ll be down two defenders due to being called up to USMNT it will be even more crucial to remedy this problem.

The rest of the game was really frustrating. Our little Memorial Day family gathering kept getting our hopes up for a goal, but it just wasn’t happening. Our shots were a little too high or a little too wide. We are really missing Dom Dwyer. I’m hoping that he can get back onto the field soon. He started light practice this week, and Peter Vermes thinks that he may be a game time decision on Saturday against Minnesota United.

Bobby Burling did receive a suspension for a hit on Benny Feilhaber in the 23rd minute. He got a yellow for it in the game. This marks the third time this season that an opponent has gotten a suspension after the fact as opposed to in game. Someone did the math, and if those players had gotten red cards when they should have Sporting would have played a total of 216 minutes against 10 men teams.

Some good news from this week is that the Fan Vote for the MLS All Star Fan XI opened up. Sporting KC got eight players onto the ballot:

Goalkeeper: Tim Melia
Defenders: Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Graham Zusi
Midfielders: Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber
Forwards: Dom Dwyer, Gerso

You may notice that Ilie is not on the list. This is a travesty! He’s so good! His presence in the midfield has been so strong this season, and if you’ve watched Sporting games in the past you should be able to see the difference he makes.

This season I have been a huge proponent of our defensive line, and seeing that three of them made it into the voting made me quite pleased. It’s easy to see why Ike is on there. In the games where Ike doesn’t play we are not as likely to win. His strength and height put him up with the top defenders in the league.

Matt Besler made it! I knew he was in all star form! His ability to see how plays unfold, and to put not only himself but the rest of his line in the right places is amazing. If he doesn’t eventually end up as a coach then there is something wrong with this world. He is so smart (soccer and book wise…he graduated pre-med!)

Graham Zusi has been getting a lot of flack this season because of his move to defense. With Sporting’s formation they play their two outside defenders up as almost midfielders, and they play the center midfielder in more of a defensive position. This suits Zusi well since he can still be a scoring threat and make assists. Zusi became just the second player since 2010 to complete 100% of his passes and create at least 5 chances in the same game when Sporting played the Vancouver Whitecaps. Take that, haters.

Fun facts

Four members of the Sporting KC roster have been called up for their respective national teams. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi for the USMNT, Roger Espinoza for Honduras, and Tyler Pasher for Canada.

Erik Palmer-Brown has captained the US U-20 squad into the knockout round of the U-20 World Cup! They will take on New Zealand on Thursday morning (after I finish writing, but before posting)…fingers crossed for a good result!

Graham Zusi threw out the first pitch at the Colorado Rockies game on Tuesday, and a few of his USMNT teammates, including Bes, were there to cheer him on!

On Wednesday night my husband and I, and two other Cauldron members, played sports trivia in a fundraiser for the Victory Project against some SKC players. Benny, Ike, and Seth Sinovic made up Team Cavs in 7. We were team Children’s No Mercy Park. We didn’t win, but we had a good time!

This Satuday, June 3, Sporting KC takes on Minnesota at Children’s Mercy Park. The Cauldron will be celebrating Pride Day with special t-shirts and scarves to support the LGBTQIA community!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017