Sporting KC Outclasses Toronto

SKC regains Eastern Conference lead with win over TFC
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Monday, July 15, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.
At last, Sporting Kansas City has found what it has been searching for this season.

Having trudged halfway up the mountain that is Major League Soccer's regular season, the club peers upward, eyeing the playoffs. Having endured some strife in its Eastern Conference at the hands of a surging New England Revolution, Sporting has regained order, beating Toronto FC 3-0 in extravagant fashion.

Despite some letdowns, Sporting KC is now on an unbeaten streak of 5 games and, most importantly, on top of the Eastern Conference once again.

The face of Sporting Kansas City's resurgence made his name known on Saturday. Lebanese international forward Soony Saad had a career night, scoring 2 goals.

Saad was of course not the only player on the field for Sporting, as Benny Feilhaber recorded an assist off of Claudio Bieler's goal, Kei Kamara played a more reserved role on the wing and made several crucial passes that contributed to SKC's attack and Graham Zusi was able to put on a clinic of his individual skills as well as act as Sporting's orchestrator in the midfield.

Unlike the last few games, Sporting KC's lineup Saturday did not feature 2 defensive midfielders, with only Uri Rosell as the defensive presence. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?

Not necessarily. Having both Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber as attacking midfielders put the focal point of SKC's offense in the middle. Instead of playing the obvious ball outward to onrushing fullbacks, Feilhaber and Zusi were given the freedom to dribble into pockets of space in the center of the field and make passes that put the ball in front of goal. This also exploited Toronto FC's lack of a central holding or defensive midfielder.

Sporting took the lead in the 21st minute when Saad received the ball from Seth Sinovic, took a couple touches inside and found the inside of TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik's near post. The location of the shot suggested the Bendik could have saved it as the ball did not come across him but rather right in front of him.

Saad's strike was hit hard enough to slide past Bendik, the 20-year-old's 2nd goal in his professional career, the 1st of which came on his 19th birthday against Portland in the 2011 season.

Like Chance Myers, Saad's 1st goal of the season came in a package deal with the 2nd one. In the 51st minute, the ball was passed centrally to Zusi, whose shot was saved by Bendik but pushed to the left of the goal where no Toronto FC defender could clear. Saad buried his shot into the opposite corner and was celebrating at the corner flag before Bendik could even turn around and watch the ball hit the net.

Sporting KC held Toronto to very few chances on goal, 4 shots and 2 on target compared to Sporting KC's 24 and 10 tells about as much as one must know. Sporting's defensive issues of the last few games were nonexistent, and SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recorded his 1st shutout since a 1-0 away win against Houston on May 12th.

While all the good parts of Sporting KC's recent form seem to have culminated in something as frenzied as Saturday night, every flash of tactical brilliance accumulated as if in excess and exudate in the 63rd minute.

The play started on the right side of the field for Sporting, as Saad left a defender in his wake and passed to Kamara on the edge of the 18-yard-box. Kamara's one-timed through ball was delivered on a dime to Feilhaber, who had nothing left to do but make the square pass to a wide open Claudio Bieler. Bieler knocked in his 9th goal of the season into the empty goal. A goal that summed up Sporting Kansas City's evening lifted the lead to 3-0.

While Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen was certainly reluctant, he humbly admitted that his team hadn't been up to Kansas City's challenge.

However, Nelsen was much more fiery when asked about Saad's embellishment of the foul that brought Reggie Lambe a red card.

“I presume the MLS [Discipline] Committee will look at that as simulation. ... I never like to see that, I don't tell my players to do that, and I thought it was disgraceful."

As for moving forward, Nelsen acknowledged Toronto FC's initiative in this summer's transfer window, commenting, “We have players coming in and this team will be a different animal.”

Sporting Kansas City's next match is one that can make yet another huge statement, this time against arguably the best team in the league thus far, Real Salt Lake at the Rio Tinto. RSL's last match was a 3-0 trouncing of one of the best teams in the Western Conference, FC Dallas. Sporting's Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin will have their hands full against Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley.

NEXT UP: July 20 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 10 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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