Sporting Kansas City‘s 2018 season came to an abrupt end on Thursday night in a devastating season-ending 3-2 loss against the Portland Timbers in leg two of the Western Conference Final at Children’s Mercy Park.
In front of a sold-out, energetic crowd Sporting KC delivered a solid performance filled with chances, goals and controversial calls.
Sporting KC kicked off the match maintaining strong possession that later helped Daniel Salloi earn the chance to claim an early lead for the home side in the 20th minute.
However, things turned sour quickly after the restart when Sebastian Blanco blasted a strike into the top corner, to level the match in the 52nd. Blanco’s strike would stun fans and even fellow captainDiego Valeri – who gained a surge of energy to double the Timbers lead nine minutes later.
Now trailing 2-1, the home side had to rally quick. In the 81st minute, Sporting KC would get a glimpse of hope as Gerso Fernandes scored the equalizer after a brilliant combination from the team. On the cusp, of potentially scoring another goal to advance, the match went into sudden death for the final remainder of the half.
Despite all effort, Sporting KC’s offseason would begin deep into a grueling nine-minute stoppage time after Valeri’s breakaway finish – claiming the Western Conference Champion title and stamping the Timber’s ticket to the MLS Cup.
As fans thanked one another for their dedication, several Sporting KC players took to Twitter to express their disappointment and gratitude:
It's hard to find the words tonight. Work all season for nothing at all. It is a painful feeling. A big thank you to our supporters for the unconditional support all season long. You stay the best for us. A big thank you to my teammates, staff and all the people in the club…
Even Daniel Salloi appeared to have hinted to be returning to the Blue Hell next season following speculation of transfer rumors for Europe:
Such an amazing season and it deserved a better ending. We’ll learn from our mistakes and get back even stronger. Thanks for your unbelievable support, I love everything about this team and proud to wear this jersey 💙 Happy Holidays my friends! ⚽️ #DS20pic.twitter.com/0m7x6l9CoC
Not even 24 hours after the loss, the club dug a little deeper into fans’ wounds by announcing which players have had contract options declined: forward Kharlton Belmar, midfielder Cristian Lobato, defenders Amer Didic, Brad Evans and Colton Storm.
At the end of the day, the contract options didn’t come as a shock to fans, since most of the core group (Matt Belser, Graham Zusi, Seth Sinovic, Roger Espinoza, and Ilie Sanchez) had recently re-signed. And with the addition of long-time veterans like goalkeeper Tim Melia, next season is shaping up to be a promising one.
Sporting Kansas City earns a scoreless draw against Portland Timbers for leg one of the Western Conference Finals at Providence Park on Sunday night. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and the rest of the top-seeded team shutout Portland in front of a sold-out crowd.
Despite ending in a draw, this match had no shortage of drama. Tim Melia was immediately called into action just a few seconds after the whistle blew – arguably setting the tone of the game. Melia would go on to record six saves, a clean sheet, and a first postseason shutout. Including, the final save that would decide the faith of the game.
Is the curse of the post finally broken? Maybe. In the sixth minute, Timber’s defender Jorge Villafana sends a low ball towards the ball only to see his effort bounce off the post that helped Portland win the knock round match in 2015.
Portland was forced to make an early sub in the 18th minute when Bill Tuilmoa replaced Larrys Mabiala. However, the early substitution did not slow Portland down as they continued to press Sporting KC’s defense. Fortunately, with the fast reactions from Melia, Zusi, and Besler, they were able to take Sporting KC into the half scoreless under pressure.
Sporting KC appeared to have adjusted from a choppy first half when Johnny Russell gets a great first touch after the restart. However, he sees his chance fly over the bar. Russell again would create more opportunities throughout the second half but fail to capitalize on his chances.
Russell was not the only one who almost opened the scoring. Ten minutes after Russell’s first attempt, Seth Sinovic struck in a 20-yard volley going straight into Jeff Attinella‘s arms – marking his first save of the night.
Portland came close to taking the lead in the 70th minute after David Guzman was able to get past Melia after Liam Ridgewell’s header came off the post, following a scramble in the box. However, Guzman’s goal was called offsides, giving Sporting KC a sign of relief. Still scoreless with less than 20 minutes of regular time, both sides pursued.
Timbers think they finally have the break through they need but the goal is called back after a late offside call. pic.twitter.com/Syrjl7ErXq
Manager Peter Vermes made an out-of-character decision to sub in Yohan Croizet for Russell in the last minute of stoppage time. Croizet’s addition did not make much of a difference as they ended the first leg in a scoreless draw.
Sporting KC will now host the Portland Timbers for leg two of the Western Conference Final on Thursday, November 29.
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.
From denying big-name players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Diego Valeri, the buzz surrounding Tim Melia continues to grow with each game. And this upcoming Saturday’s match against Orlando City SC will be no different.
This past weekend, Sporting Kansas City fell to the Seattle Sounders 3-1, but the team will not let the loss deter them from facing Orlando City:
“There’s going to be wins, losses, and ties throughout what we’re trying to build. And coming back home to play against Orlando is just another opportunity to continue to build off of our goal and making sure we’re playing our best soccer coming into the season,” Melia said.
Melia even shared a similar sentiment regarding the team’s mentality with playoffs just around the corner:
“I think we’re all mature enough not to get roped into the game-to-game, these games at the end of the season are so important, especially with how tight the western conference is. And just making sure we’re getting points and keeping ourselves in a position that we want to be in.”
Going into his fourth season with the club, Melia is currently the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and is leading the league with a career-high 11 shutouts. Including, having earned various accolades such as MLS Best XI 2017, an ESPY nomination for Best MLS player, Player of the Week, etc.
“Accolades are great. You always trade them in for an MLS Cup or a Supporters Shield, CONCACAF, Open Cup because the individual rewards are reflective of the team and the effort of the whole group,” Melia continued. “I’m fortunate to be on a team that concentrates first on defense and it builds from the back and looks to really have that anchor in the back – that we’re going to be a good defensive team first.”
It’s tough to believe this Great River native was once traveling across the county visiting various teams working as a League Pool Goalkeeper before landing in Kansas City.
The 32-year-old has paid his dues with Real Salt Lake (2010-2011) and Chivas USA (2012-2014), serving as back-up for MLS All-Stars Nick Rimando and Dan Kennedy.
Aside from creating a high-profile career in KC, Melia has also dabbled in design – and inspired a line of gloves and athletic gear for West Coast Goalkeeping company.
Prior to joining Sporting KC, Melia reached out to West Coast Goalkeeping’s owner, Sean Norris, after being dropped from a previous glove company.
“[Sean] took me in right away [and] offered me the opportunity to design my own glove. I wasn’t even a starter at the time – that’s the type of company they are. They are big believers in developing those kinds of relationships early on.”
Even though, Melia doesn’t have any interest in pursuing design as a postgame career option. I think Melia will have plenty to look forward to in the near future. Earning recognition isn’t the only thing changing in Melia’s life, last year Melia and his wife, welcomed their first child, Rowan.
Most players look to certain family members or a particular goal for motivation, for Melia his daughter is his biggest motivator.
“It gives you more to really want to succeed for you; you’re not doing things just for you or your wife, you’re doing things for your family,” Melia said.
Along with finding new inspiration, parenthood has also taught him the importance of balancing work life:
“Having [a] strong family bond to concentrate on is beneficial in a sense – your mind is not solely focused on soccer. You need to be able to step back from things, give yourself a mental break because if it’s only this all day long [or] all night, it can wear you down.”
When asked if he has plans to train his daughter to become a keeper in the near future, Melia jokingly replied: “Absolutely not.”
While Melia continues to navigate parenthood, his goal for the club remains the same, as the team looks to secure a playoff spot in a tight race for the Western Conference.
After having a perfect August, Sporting Kansas City started the new month off on the wrong foot by falling to the Seattle Sounders 3-1. The win is their eighth straight – the most in a single season in the post-shootout era.
Sporting KC had a perfect start when Diego Rubio scored his eighth goal of the season after knocking in a half-volley to give his team the early lead in the second minute.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long as Raul Ruidiaz found the equalizer in the 12th minute. He snuck in behind Sporting KC’s backline and tapped the ball home from close range.
Just shortly after the restart, Seattle got a lucky break. While the Ruidiaz’s goal gave Seattle life after a tough start, the game turned when the ball caromed off of Graham Zusi at an impossible angle and over Tim Melia into the net. This own-goal would later become the winning goal for the visitors later in the match.
Moments later, Seattle continued to pressure as Brad Smith’s cross ricocheted off of Ike Opara‘s upper arm from point-blank range, and Toledo awarded Seattle the penalty. Nicolas Lodeiro stepped up and tucked the ball into the corner, increasing the score 3-1.
Sporting KC received a chance to redeem themselves in the 80th minute after a straight red card was issued to Chad Marshall for a foul on Johnny Russell. Initially missed by Toledo, VAR confirmed the foul and Russell gave Nemeth the ball, but his chance quickly diminished as the attempt went straight to Frei.
The loss pushed Seattle above the line into fifth place and moved Sporting KC down to third place – just below LAFC and above Real Salt Lake by one point.
Sporting KC returns home to host Orlando City SC at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, Sept. 8. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.
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.
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.
Soooo…what'd I miss? 😉
Big thanks to the EMTs, KU med, trainers, doctors. Thank you to all for the love and support. Always means (1/2)
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!
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.
Here we are with another short week for Sporting KC. A game against Orlando City FC on Saturday, and then one against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night. So that leaves us with some quick fire articles.
On Saturday my husband and I were driving to the watch party for the game only to get stuck in a traffic jam where the main highway into downtown KC was closed for construction. Then we had to navigate the patrons for the Garth Brooks concert at the Sprint Center, and after that we got to walk through a country concert at KC Live in Power and Light. Quick note: We are not country people. We walked through this concert wearing Vans and Sambas so that we could get to No Other Pub. There were soooo many pairs of boots.
After the saga of getting to the watch party, we finally made it around the 11th minute. By that time, Latif Blessing had already scored his first goal! Ilie fed a ball up to Gerso who looked like he was going to shoot it, but he sent in a cross that tipped off a sliding Matt Besler and Latif tapped it in. The goal came off of a cleared setpiece hence Besler still being up front. Not going to lie, but I’m lucky that this game was the MLS Condensed Game of the Week or I would have just been confused… If the darn highlights started just a smidge earlier. Also, darn you Garth Brooks!
Orlando came back pretty quickly when Cyle Larin snuck onside and past our defense to score their first goal. There was a slight uproar in twitter land about Larin being unmarked, and that seems founded. The defenders did seem mighty occupied with the cross. Ten minutes later there was an Orlando City breakaway, and Kaka found the back of the net. It was a beautifully handled ball, so I’ll say I can’t be too mad. That’s a lie. I hate losing, but it was a pretty play.
Until Latif’s second goal, we’ll get to that in a second, all I could think was, “We have to get a goal. Our offense looks too solid and too organized to not get one.” But all we were getting were good runs into the attacking third and lots of possession time. It seemed that Sporting was utilizing their strong passing game almost to a fault. We’d pass the ball around and let Orlando City flood the box with defenders. There was finally a crack in the defense when Gerso got the ball to Benny Feilhaber who played an on target shot that was deflected by Joe Bendik straight to Latif who tapped another short goal. There was definitely an undercurrent of “Finally!” to the celebrations at No Other Pub!
Let’s talk about Bendik right quick. Here in KC we have one of the best keepers in the league. Maybe the best this season. His name is Tim Melia. He is a unicorn, a hero, and a class act. I have not seen Tim Melia lean over a player from the opposing team and scream in his face no matter the circumstance. Joe Bendik leaned over Latif Blessing twice and screamed in his face. I understand that Latif dove a few times, and one or two were blatant. Knowing Peter Vermes, I also doubt that Latif will be doing that anymore. Joe Bendik needs to back off. Did it hurt him, no. Maybe he should have stopped those goals.
Oh hey everyone! I’m back! I apologize for my hiatus. School was kicking my butt, but I’m done with the grading and the tests and the papers!
Sporting KC played three games in eight days! RSL, NYRB, and MNU. It was crazy! Luckily the first two games in the stretch were at home, because SKC has been straight fire at home since the home opener (and we do not speak of those: See a few articles ago).
Sporting started off the run on Saturday, April 29th at Children’s Mercy Park to take on one of our big rivals, Real Salt Lake. I’m not going to lie…I don’t like RSL, and it’s all Kyle Beckerman‘s fault. When I mentioned players I didn’t like I completely forgot Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman is the worst, but he didn’t play…so I’ll move on.
So I don’t know how many of you have been to Kansas City in April, but it tends to be rainy. It does not tend to be this freaking cold! This is not Toronto, it should not be freezing! We were all worried that the game would be delayed due to weather because it had been storming off and on all day, but luck was on our side and the game went off without a hitch. Also, the Cauldron‘s tifo went…up with just a tiny hitch, but it was fine.
RSL was coming in with new head coach Mike Petke (whom Ambrosia is very excited about), but unfortunately for Petke RSL has been plagued with injuries. This includes his two USMNT mainstays goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and the aforementioned Kyle Beckerman. Petke had spent some time during the week saying that RSL didn’t need any “bulletin board fodder” to pump his team up for SKC. A slight dig at Sporting perhaps?
Some of our guys (Dom…Benny) do like to get a little chippy. I like it to call it friendly banter… With how the scoreline ended up though maybe RSL could have used something more to pump them up. Benny Feilhaber got the scoring started in the 17th minute off a pass from Graham Zusi that led to a strike from just outside the penalty area. *Sidenote: I love when Benny scores. Not just because we get a goal, but our head broadcaster, Nate Bukaty, always yells FEILHABER really loudly and I think it’s the best thing.
There were some scares for SKC in between 20-30 minutes. Mulholland hit a shot wide, and then Plata had a ball bounce off his back and into the net. He was blatantly offside so it didn’t matter, but it was scary nonetheless. We also got to see some great shots from Gerso in the first half. Neither of them connected, but they showed the power he can get from about 20 yards out. In the 50th minute, Matt Besler fed a long ball up to Dom Dwyer who juked a defender and put the ball in the back of the net. After his goal Dom ran over to celebrate his first right-footed goal of the season with head trainer Kenny Ishii who helped him rehab after his ankle surgery in the offseason. The game ended on a garbage time goal by Gerso, and Blue Hell was sufficiently given.
Sporting’s next game was on the Wednesday immediately following the RSL game. SKC took on the Fighting Energy Drinks from New York. This game was a good bit warmer, and way drier than the last game.
Please note the lack of raincoats and the regular attire.
The first half of this game was a little worrisome, but mostly almost exciting. There were shots that were so close! But the proverbial cigar…no dice. Supposedly over the half time break Dom was telling his teammates that he was going to score a goal, and boy did he deliver. He didn’t waste any time with a follow up on a shot by Benny from point-blank range in the 46th minute.
Benny had another great run about 15 minutes later that was deflected by Robles at the last second. It was pretty fun to watch actually. If you’ve ever played FIFA or watched someone play FIFA then you’d know about how when your player is making a solo run the camera blurs and all you can focus on is that one player. Maybe…or not. But it was totally like that. Take my word for it. Dom scored again in the 68th minute with a ball that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. T’was lit, my dudes!
I have to do a quick shout out to the defense by the way. Zusi, Bes, Ike, Seth, and I’m throwing in Ilie are really killing it. In the game against New York Red Bulls they were on complete lockdown! It was like a clinic watching them out there. Note to any and everyone…don’t change the backline. Things happen that we don’t want to happen (See below…or just ignore because hopefully it will never happen again.) Oh, and Tim Melia is the best goalkeeper in the land. The Cauldron chanted it, so it must be true! @DaynaOG also agreed with my sentiment of how Tim is the hero this country needs. ‘Nuff said.
With the win on May 3rd Sporting was on the top of the table with 18 points! Then…
Sporting played a game last Sunday…and some stuff happened…and that’s about it.
Now we’re tied…not really…but we have the same amount of points as FC Dallas. Dang goal differential.
Mo Johnston is this year’s honoree for the Sporting Legends Hall of Honor! Johnston played for the Wizards from 1996-2001, scored 32 goals, and had 31 assists in his 170 caps.
This past weekend, Sporting Kansas City traveled to the great, colder than here, north-ish. Portland! It was weird watching the broadcast and seeing people wrapped up in blankets and wearing parkas because it has been between 65 and 80 degrees here for the past two games. I forgot that cold is still happening in other parts of this country.
I don’t know a ton about Portland as a place. I know about Portlandia, but I don’t know if that is an accurate representation of Portlandians…Portlandites…Portlanders…? I also know that Nat Borchers used to play there, and he is my least favorite MLS player ever. Don’t ask why. I just can’t stand him. I also don’t like post 2010 Landon Donovan, but that is another story for another article.
Now that I’m finished with my weekly tangent I’ll get on with the game.
Sporting entered the game as the number one defense in the league, and Portland Timbers boasted the number one offense, so it was bound to be a good game. The first test of the game for Sporting was a shot by Fanendo Adi in the 33rd minute. Unfortunately for Adi, and luckily for us, it was a terrible touch. He was right outside the six yard box, just him and Tim Melia, and he skied the heck out of that ball. Sorry man, but it was not good. We had the same sort of situation in the second half when Dom Dwyer played a beautiful ball back to Benny Feilhaber who couldn’t get a solid connection, and it rolled way wide.
There were strong chances for both teams though. One for Sporting in the first half off of a corner where Benny got the ball into Ilie who headed it just over the bar. It was great to see Ilie with a big move off of a set piece, and hopefully we can see some goals from him this year. One for Portland came late in the second half when Darlington Nagbe received a short pass in the attacking third, and Sporting’s outside defense decided to take a break. Nagbe had time to control the ball, basically unchallenged, and launch it toward the upper part of the net. It was a glorious shot. Too bad for Nagbe that Tim Melia is the hero this country needs. Tim got his fingertips on the ball, and managed to get it to bounce off the crossbar. *Side note: My husband loves Nagbe. He has Nagbe’s USA jersey, and calls him “My Darlington”. It’s weird when he does it in public.
The shining moment of the game happened in the 53rd minute when Sporting strung together a beautiful pass sequence that led to a Dom Dwyer header. Benny started off dribbling around three defenders, passed the ball wide to Jimmy Medranda, and Jimmy crossed a laser to Dom who put Sporting a-head (sorry) by one.
It was such a good feeling to get out of Portland with 3 points! The Timbers have only lost 12 regular season matches at Providence Park, so it was a pretty big accomplishment. It was also the first shutout against the Timbers this season.
A few notes: At the watch party we were having a small discussion about the fairness of some teams having turf fields and some having grass. It didn’t seem wet from the TV broadcast, but quite a few Sporting players were slipping on the turf. Turf is an okay choice for teams that play in wetter locations, but it’s crummy to play soccer on period.
There was a little contention about the refs. I read quite a few Timber fan tweets about how the refs may have contributed to them losing. Sporting got two yellows, and Portland didn’t get any. I’m not complaining, but I’m a smidgen perturbed on one. Seth Sinovic basically assaulted a guy, so that one was deserved. The yellow on Ike Opara could have just been a warning instead of a yellow, but Ike is also a hothead sometimes. It may have just been his time.
The game was chippy, but there were fouls missed and called on both sides. There was also a Timbers’ handball inside their box that should have been a PK for Sporting, but that’s neither here nor there. We have to remember that though we don’t like it, refs are people too. It’s probably not easy to watch 20 guys running around a field (22 depending on what the goalkeepers are doing, but I doubt they’re running about), and they have to make judgement calls on what warrants stopping the flow of the game. We can’t complain about the flow of the game, but then turn around and complain about a bunch of perceived missed fouls.
I have to give major props to Sporting’s defensive line. Those four guys are playing some of the best defensive soccer I have seen in the MLS in a long time. Matt Besler seems like he is back to All-Star form (please pay attention Bruce Arena), and Ike Opara is becoming a weekly feature on MLS Teams of the Week. In the midfield we saw the return of a healthy Benny for 80 minutes, and he looked pretty good. Oh, and Ilie Sanchez is a wizard. He has to be! His ball handling is magical!
This week’s fun facts!
This game was Peter Vermes‘ 300th game in any competition as Sporting KC’s head coach! It was also Matt Besler’s 200th start, and Graham Zusi‘s 200th appearance!
300 games in charge ✅ 200 starts ✅ 200 appearances ✅
Sporting KC, the Swope Park Rangers, FCKC, and the Royals all played this weekend, and all of them won. This wasn’t just one baseball game either. The Royals swept the Angels at home. KC Total Domination! Oh, and Sydney Leroux Dwyer scored in her first game back to competitive soccer since the birth of Cassius. That’s pretty dang awesome.
That is how a game should be! They were almosts no more! We have goals, and none of them were goalie gaffs!
Sporting KC played the Colorado Rapids at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night, and it was finally the game we had been looking for. The defense continued to be phenomenal, Tim Melia is most likely a unicorn, and the offense was finishing against one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the United States.
Speaking of the aforementioned goalkeeper, I was within 10 feet of him, and that was pretty dang cool. Also, Tim Howard, I would like to apologize for how mean The Cauldron was to you. Well, not really. We still love you though…but only when you play for the United States. Otherwise, it’s all your fault.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
This game was the most fun that I’ve had so far this season. Sporting started the game off with a bang when they scored in the first few minutes. Defender Seth Sinovic had a career first when he scored his very first regular season goal in the 6th minute. Gerso’s shot was deflected by Tim Howard, and Seth caught the deflection with his left foot and slammed it into the goal. He is also only the 4th defender since 2015 to score a goal and have a primary assist in the same game.
The other big moment of the first half was a huge goal line save by Tim Melia that isn’t up for Save of the Week because some people at the MLS offices must be blind.
The first half ended with Sporting up 1 – 0, and then the teams switched sides as per usual. That meant The Cauldron finally got the Good Tim on our side! This Tim we love, and we would never yell at him because he is wonderful. This Tim also definitely won the Battle of the Tims by a landslide. (I have typed the name Tim so many times in this article…so many times)
The second half was twice as exciting as the first, and that’s because we scored twice…math!
Gerso Fernandes scored his first ever MLS goal in the 58th minute! He was set up beautifully by his teammates too. Dom Dwyer played a great ball to Roger Espinoza who held back just enough to stay onside. The defender was so preoccupied with Roger that he missed Gerso running up the middle to receive the assist until it was too late. Gerso is also so dang fast that no one could catch him.
In one final first for the game, Sporting KC’s fourth Homegrown player to play in a competitive match, Daniel Salloi subbed in for Soony Saad in the 83rd minute. *Sporting’s other Homegrown players to feature in matches are Kevin Ellis, Erik Palmer-Brown, and our first ever Homegrown player, Jon Kempin (who now plays for the LA Galaxy).
The third goal of the game was scored by our mainstay of the front line, Dom Dwyer. Soni Mustivar played a ball out to Seth Sinovic on the wing, and Seth made a beautiful delivery to Dom right in front of the goal. Dom blasted the ball over a diving Tim Howard, and Sporting was up 3 – 0.
Now the Rapids did “score” a goal. In a penalty that could have gone either way, Soni Mustivar tripped up/was tripped up by Kevin Doyle. The referee awarded Doyle a PK, and he got the ball past Tim Melia for the Rapids’ only goal of the game.
Sporting’s defense continues to be spot-on this season. Together with Tim Melia, the back line is tied with FC Dallas in goals against this season only allowing two goals in five games (FC Dallas has only played four games though). Good thing Ike Opara decided that coming back to soccer after a few years of injuries was worth the work and the risk. He is really killing it right now. I would like to make another shout out / apology to Ilie Sanchez. In first article I called out Ilie for his passing, and this week he proved me wrong again by completing 51 of his 52 passes. Lesson learned! I am an Ilie fan for life!
Week 5 fun facts
Four Sporting players earned their way onto Teams of the Week! Defender Seth Sinovic and forward Dom Dwyer made the Goal USA Team of the Week. While defender Ike Opara and midfielder Roger Espinoza were named to the MLS Team of the Week.
Sporting has been having a little fun with photo frames through their app for every game. This week’s frame happened to be of my favorite player, Matt Besler. So I can now say I have a picture with Bes…more or less. Actually just less, but it was pretty cool.
This is something I have never seen before, Sporting had a theme night, but the theme night was not for the fans it was for the players! The players had a Russell Westbrook night, and it was great for some laughs!
I mean Saad Abdul-Salaam with the Tune Squad jersey…Graham’s huge chain…Kevin Ellis‘ poncho…Bes and the sleeveless turtleneck…fresh to death.
Sporting takes on first place Portland in the late game on Saturday. If you’re in KC we’ll see you at No Other Pub in the Power and Light District for the watch party at 9:00 pm!