SKC Remain Resilient on the Road

Sporting best in the league on the road with 15 away points
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, July 08, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.
Having only lost 2 games away from home in 2013, Sporting Kansas City looked to put in yet another hard-fought 90 minutes in unfamiliar territory.

However, Toyota Park and the Chicago Fire are even moreso unfamiliar for SKC, which holds a 4-15-2 record in Chicago. Despite these odds, Sporting Kansas City came away with the win, 2-1.

Unlike most Sporting KC games, this game was won very early in the 1st half. In just the 6th minute, the most unlikely of goal scorers, Benny Feilhaber, smacked the ball onto the post and into the net after the ball bounced around the area and was half-cleared by Chicago from a long throw-in.

Feilhaber's goal and start showed a little faith put into him by the coaching staff, but Feilhaber's impact on the game for the rest of the half was not as emphatic. He showed some visible frustration at being subbed off in the 52nd minute for Soony Saad. Confidence in Feilhaber's role in this team has waned ever since his 2-assist performance against Montreal towards the beginning of the season.

Two minutes after Feilhaber’s goal, Graham Zusi collected the ball on the left wing from Seth Sinovic and picked his head up to cross. Kei Kamara was at the back post ready to knock the ball in, but it wouldn't matter because the wind picked up Zusi's cross as it found its way into the side netting to make the score 2-0.

Throughout the rest of the first half, not many chances materialized for either team, save a great effort from Chris Rolfe that made SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen knock the shot over the bar.

As all soccer fans know, 2-0 is the worst lead to have, and just 3 weeks ago in Dallas, Kansas City gave away the win in the dying moments of the game.

While Chicago’s dynamic goal scorer Mike Magee did net a goal in the 38th minute to pull the Fire to 1 goal down, SKC manager Peter Vermes' strategy of keeping the game his changed from the one in Dallas.

Against FCD, Sporting was content to bunker, did so too early and gave away the win. On Sunday, Vermes made attacking substitutions and urged his team to keep the ball and force it toward goal.

In the 52nd minute was a sub that brought Saad's attacking prowess on the left and moved Zusi into the midfield. This was a brilliant tactical move to make because it allowed Sporting to go ahead and play its normal game, the way it might try to play at home.

Teal Bunbury replaced Claudio Bieler, who was kept quiet on this afternoon, in the 73rd minute and 10 minutes later Dom Dwyer added more to the offense when he took Lawrence Olum off the field.

While it makes sense for attacking substitutes to be maligned, these changes make sense in a game where Sporting KC won the possession battle, completed more passes and had more passing accuracy. Sometimes the best defense, especially in the 4-3-3 formation, is offense, the ability to keep the ball away from the other team and prevent them from posing any offensive threat.

Subsequently, Sporting's defense took care of Magee and Chris Rolfe in this game, but the game was won in the midfield because Chicago was not able to carve out many golden scoring chances.

By and large, 3 points on this weekend was another big stride taken by Sporting. As Kamara remarked in his post-game press conference after a home win over Columbus, this team is peaking at the perfect time, when the MLS regular season funnels into the playoffs.

Sporting's test now will be to use its depth against the congested schedule that challenges it to keep up with the MLS regular season and qualify for the CCL knockout stage.

NEXT UP: July13 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC, 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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