Sporting KC Tackles 2 Coasts

A grueling road trip brings Sporting home with 3 out of a possible 6 points
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, April 22, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.
Four days, 8 hours on a plane, 4 time zones.

Besides the likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, that's what Sporting Kansas City had to battle over the last week.

Within these 4 days, it's been a tale of 2 coasts for Kansas City; an outclassing of the New York Red Bulls that should have been much more than a 1-goal margin, and an even game in Los Angeles that Sporting was finally exposed in the defensive third and could not find any golden scoring opportunities.

In the Big Apple, Sporting frustrated the Red Bulls for 90 minutes, forcing them to make bad tackles out of spite. During the first half, passes were strung together with ease as Sporting cut through the Red Bulls midfield.

By the 70th minute, the match turned from a team display of tactical brilliance to a scrappy fight between a superior team and its desperate counterpart. All this culminated in Juninho firing the ball at SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen before a goal kick.

A great deal of controversy surrounded Nielsen's embellishment when being hit by the ball. When Juninho kicked the ball, it struck Nielsen on the shoulder, not his face. Nielsen sold it by going down especially theatrically. Yes Juninho meant to kick the ball at his opponent; he definitely deserved the red card, but most thought Nielsen should receive a suspension or fine for diving.

While the SKC goalkeeper did embellish, Juninho initiated the situation by hitting the goalkeeper with the ball out of frustration. Since the Red Bulls player made the mistake of lashing out at Nielsen, the latter was right to capitalize on it by ensuring that his opponent would get the red card he deserved.

Scoring silence ends

On the other side of the country, Sporting's clean sheet run was finally put to a halt at 545 minutes, accounting for the 5th-longest streak in league history.

And when it rained on Saturday night, it poured.

A high defensive line was finally exploited by Keane and Donovan. The US international, said to be at only 80% before playing, assisted Marcelo Sarvas' 27th minute goal. Yet another controversial moment arose as Sarvas clearly knocked the ball down with his hand at midfield having collected the ball from a clearance of Graham Zusi's free kick and beating Oriol Rosell down the field.

In the 74th minute, Los Angeles distributed upfield to Keane, who wouldn't be caught up with for 30 yards, and again left most Sporting players in the dust on the opposite end of the field.

Keane laid the ball off to Donovan and the 31-year-old put the game out of reach for KC, his name on the score sheet for the first time in 2013. It seems as though LA is heating up early this year, uncharacteristic of the star-studded lineups of the last 2 seasons. Sporting had trouble stepping on the throat of LA's midfield like it had been doing with almost all opposition this year.

On April 27, Kansas City heads back to Sporting Park, but takes on another Western Conference opponent in the Portland Timbers. Sitting toward the top of the West table, this will be another telling game for Sporting in terms of gauging its ability against a team that will probably make the playoffs.

NEXT UP: April 27 – Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kans. 8:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Skylar ROLSTAD

Nationality:
USA
College:
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.
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