Sporting Let Down at Home Once Again

Sloppy passing and lack of creativity hurt SKC against Di Vaio and Montreal Impact
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, June 03, 2013

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

Big names took the field at Sporting Park as an overcast afternoon bled into night. The home Sporting Kansas City would be pitted against the Montreal Impact.

Both teams boasted league-leading numbers and lineups just the same, with the Impact's center back combination of Italian Serie A veterans Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari matching up with Sporting’s loaded offense equipped with Kei Kamara on the left and Claudio Bieler alongside.

A crowd of 19,470 gathered in hopes that Sporting KC could imitate a performance earlier this season in which Sporting dominated Montreal Impact and won 2-0. But on this night, however, the home team would leave empty-handed, while having so much more to work for, falling 2-1 to the Impact.

While SKC looked to capitalize on the heavy legs of Montreal from a midweek Canadian Championship game, this cup win seemed to have Montreal more motivated than its counterpart had been.

In the 17th minute, the Impact spread out Sporting's backline on a counter attack. Justin Mapp charged up the field and played up to Felipe. After laying the ball off to the MLS's leading scorer Marco Di Vaio, Felipe sped into a wide open penalty box. Di Vaio's chip to Felipe was on a dime, but Felipe's first touch let him down and Jimmy Nielsen made an acrobatic stop.

Later in the 39th minute, Di Vaio and Felipe would combine once again, with the Italian striker spreading Sporting's backline out and leaving SKC for dead by springing Felipe into a scoring position, where his shot smacked the post. Felipe passed square to Di Vaio, but his shot was off the frame of goal. 

Kansas City's defense looked shaky throughout the night, uncharacteristic of the team’s play at home even in games where the result was not a win. Ike Opara had a disappointing night, his blunder caused Felipe's chance to materialize. Opara had been filling in for Matt Besler, who was away on international duty, and while Aurelien Collin had taken control of Di Vaio's chances at scoring, Opara let Sporting down defensively.

On March 30, the 5th game of the 2013 season, Sporting Kansas City ousted Montreal Impact. Benny Feilhaber recorded 2 assists with goals from Graham Zusi and Claudio Bieler. Zusi put on a show in that match, dribbling through and around defenders and orchestrating play in the attacking third.

A large part of the team's inability to repeat this performance on Saturday was Zusi's absence due to international duty. His place on the left wing was taken by Kamara, who often pinched central to take shots. The US international’s absence left Sporting unable to spread the opposition's defense and put Bieler in position to shoot. Because of this, Sporting handled the ball sloppily in the middle of the park, giving it away several times and struggling to perform as a unit.

Montreal exploited Zusi's absence by making the field much more narrow and exploding out of its half on counter attacks. Feilhaber strangely did not start, but entered the match in the 65th minute and was unable to turn around Sporting's deficit.

In first half stoppage time, a rather questionable call on Alessandro Nesta gave Sporting a penalty and the 1-0 lead from Bieler's successful penalty kick. One of the most entertaining matchups in my recent memory of watching games at Sporting Park was between Bieler and Nesta. The two players were in an all-out battle for 74 minutes until Nesta lashed out and headbutted Bieler and was ejected.

Nesta's send-off was not the only ejection in the match, as Montreal manager Marco Schallibaum was asked to leave at halftime for his language toward SKC manager Peter Vermes on the sideline. Schallibaum was also sent off in Montreal's other game against Sporting this season for throwing water on the 4th official.

Montreal would have its revenge on Sporting in the second half. Sanna Nyassi topped off a superb night with his first goal of the season. From a set piece, the ball was headed away by Kansas City, but the team could not get out of the box and in possession of the ball quick enough to stop Nyassi from sending a pinpoint shot into the lower right corner of the goal. This goal brought Montreal back into the game and exacerbated Sporting's troubles with passing in the midfield and creating concise chances in the middle on the attacking third.

Sporting was effectively defeated by Montreal in the 53rd minute, when it was again unable to get the ball clear. Collin botched a clearing header and the ball fell to Justin Mapp, who sent the ball sailing into the 6-yard box only to be headed away by Opara. At the top of the 18-yard box Felipe's amazing and acrobatic overheard kick all while fighting off Uri Rosell cycled the ball back onto the feet of a teammate, Collen Warner. Warner scored his first MLS goal and won Montreal the match 2-1.

Sporting's frustration with getting the ball clear came back to haunt them. Weeks ago at home, Sporting lost its game against the Seattle Sounders when it could not knock the ball away and Djimi Traore notched the winner for Seattle.

SKC heads into a long break from MLS where it will have a sour taste in its mouth. And yet more drama returns to Sporting Park on June 12, when Sporting takes on its affiliates Orlando City, controversially without their cup-tied loanees.

NEXT UP: June 12 – US Open Cup: Sporting KC vs. Orlando City, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kans. 8:30 p.m. EST, TBD.


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.