What Makes Sporting So Prone to Late Goals?

Sporting KC have given up 3 points in 2 games due to conceding late goals
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, March 17, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

So far in the 2014 season, Sporting have gotten off to a dismal start by allowing a stoppage-time goal in each of their 2 games. The first in Seattle was during the run of play and involved an egregious lack of defensive communication and initiative to close out a match on the road.

The second, on Saturday night at Sporting Park’s season opener, was a 90th minute header from Matt Hedges that levelled the 2 teams.

Add this to several late goals given up to Seattle over the last 5 years and a disparaging 2-2 draw with FC Dallas in 2013 and it is rather evident the Sporting has an issue closing games out whether at home or away.

These sorts of struggles may help Sporting in the long run when complacency cannot be an excuse with the season just kicking off. Given Sporting’s incredible defensive organization against a Cruz Azul team much more clinical than they during the week of the home opener, it is strange to understand why Sporting is so disappointing late in games. Part of what explains Sporting’s troubles on Saturday, however, was Graham Zusi, Chance Myers, and Claudio Bieler being rested for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League.

There are a few factors that go into the team’s failures around 90 minutes. One is the ability to keep the ball in the opponent’s attacking third for half of the game, or two-thirds of the game, or all of it. In Seattle, Sporting controlled the game for about 60 minutes, a narrative that most games go by. Seattle gained possession by playing slightly defensively until they were able to gain some composure.

Dom Dwyer’s style of play as a target forward made Sporting’s predicament a bit tough because when getting the ball Dwyer will put his head down and try to run toward goal, only looking to make forward passes and not checking back quite as much as his counterpart, Claudio Bieler. Bieler’s ability to drop into the midfield, especially when Zusi plays on the wing, is invaluable to Sporting’s tendency to keep possession.

Another aspect to Sporting’s ability to close out a match is entirely arbitrary, the officiating. SKC manager Peter Vermes has made his feelings very clear about how his team’s style of play is impacted by referees who do not punish excessively physical play or time-wasting. Last year in a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia, an animated Vermes voiced his frustration with the referee interfering with his team’s style of play.

On Saturday after SKC’s match against FC Dallas, Vermes expressed frustration with the tendency for away teams to bunker and play anti-soccer, saying,” That’s what everybody does here. They just counter, that’s it.”

Sporting’s tendency to come fast out of the gate and cool down later in games have cost them, but Bieler may be able to help. The Argentine DP is much more fit this year than last and was an important part of the team’s win against Cruz Azul, recording the assist of the only goal. Sporting will play the decisive away leg of that tie on Wednesday in Mexico City, which you can watch on Fox Sports 2 at 10 p.m. EST.

NEXT UP: March 12 – Cruz Azul vs. Sporting Kansas City, Estadio Azul, Mexico City, Mex. 10 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 2.


Univ. of Kansas
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
AC Milan
A student at the University of Kansas. He writes for the Sporting Kansas City club column for Soccer Newsday and is a regular at Sporting Park. His passion for soccer can best be described as unhealthy.