Sporting Sputters in Dallas

Kansas City gave away its gifted lead as quickly as it had found it
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, June 24, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.
In Dallas on Saturday night, Sporting Kansas City again reached for some hope and return to its regular league-best form, blindly. But while it wasn’t dominant, SKC escaped with a 1-1 draw with Western powerhouses, FC Dallas.

But Sporting was the more fortunate team despite being away from home. It was a game in which Sporting did not particularly play well at all, but scored from a questionable penalty call and a freak own-goal.

Early on, it was FC Dallas that looked more like scoring than SKC. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was tested, tapping the ball over the cross bar from a free kick and making an excellent back post save of a Kenny Cooper header that Nielsen tipped away from the inside of the post.

Sporting was awarded a controversial penalty kick in the 43rd minute conceded by Andrew Jacobson. Initially it was called a penalty due to a Zach Loyd handball, but the replay clearly shows that the ball struck his head. The call changed officially to be a shirt tug by Jacobson on Aurelien Collin. Kei Kamara converted from the spot to put SKC up 1-0.

Sporting's lead was extended in the 57th minute when Graham Zusi drove a cross into the middle of the 18-yard box that struck the chest of Je-Vaughn Watson and nestled in the back of the net. Zusi was credited with the assist, his 5th of the season, which ties him for 3rd in the league.

Zusi was back in the middle of the pitch for this game, for the rest of the year he has been featured as a winger. I thought having Zusi back would help Sporting because the dimension that he brings is one that makes the field wider and enables the team to combine on the sides of the field to work that ball in the middle.

The move to the midfield did, however, make sense in terms of fixing Sporting's troubles in the middle of the park and giving Kei Kamara the chance on the right. To attempt this shows some promising open-mindedness from SKC manager Peter Vermes, but a distributing player on the left may be needed if Kamara is to start on the right. That player is Jacob Peterson, not CJ Sapong. Peterson did enter the match in the 88th minute for Oriol Rosell.

From that point on, SKC was content to sit back and defend, which would be proven much too simple a strategy for preserving an away lead. With Zusi having returned from international duty, I had expected Sporting to be able to bring the game to Dallas, and even after getting two lucky goals Sporting bunkered much too early, which in turn challenged FCD to salvage a draw.

FC Dallas really saw the green light to get a result from this match in the 68th minute when yet another controversial decision from Mark Geiger turned this game on its head. The referee Geiger had called for a free kick after CJ Sapong fouled Andrew Jacobson. Zusi had kicked the ball back to where the free kick would be taken, and as Sapong was jogging back, he tapped the ball and struck Andrew Jacobson's face. It is very hard to tell if Sapong had the intent to strike Jacobson.

Nonetheless, Sapong was sent off. Sporting still should have taken an honest approach to these last 22 minutes of the game and kept the ball in the opponent's half, whether trying to score or simply keep possession. Instead, it was all out defense, SKC begged Dallas to get something from this game.

Inevitably, in the 88th minute, Andrew Jacobson's near post header beat Nielsen and gave FC Dallas hope to go on and score. Karma struck Sporting KC on this night. A gift of a penalty and a bad-own goal would be made up for by Walker Zimmerman and FC Dallas.

In the last minute of 90, Sporting had Teal Bunbury as the only player on the pitch that made any attempt to go forward, albeit by design. Walker Zimmerman's in-swinging header from a corner kick tied the match at 2-2.

At the end of the day, a point on the road is not something to look down at, not to mention against a team toward the top of the Western Conference table.

Sporting returns to Sporting Park next Saturday for a perfectly winnable game against the Columbus Crew. It will be telling for Sporting's backline of Matt Besler and Collin as they match up against Dominic Oduro and Frederico Higuain.

NEXT UP: June 29 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Columbus Crew, 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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