(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Post Game Coverage
Sporting Kansas City- Nielsen, Harrington, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Cesar, Espinoza, Zusi, Kamara, Bravo, BunBury
Subs- Jeferson, Arnaud, Sapong
Real Salt Lake- Rimando, Schuler, Borchers, Olave, Russell, Beckerman, Johnson, Williams, Gil, Espindola, Saborio
Subs- Grabavoy, Alexandre
Well, we pretty much got the match we were expecting yesterday; a match that saw Real Salt Lake capture three points after they scored on Nat Borchers' header in the 54th minute which put RSL up 1-0. It was a lead they wouldn't relinquish, as Sporting Kansas City lost their first road game in over two months.
When I say we got the match we expected I'm referring to the complete physical nature of the game. Multiple times there were players blatantly shoving opposing players to the ground. Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave punished Teal Bunbury on numerous occasions throughout the night. Things definitely got a little.. chippy, I suppose you could say. It was everything you would have expected in a match that both teams felt they absolutely needed to win to keep pace in their respective conferences.
At the end of the day this game could have probably went either way. A draw could be seen as a justified outcome. But as we all know, that's not usually the way these things work, and last night was no different. Real Salt Lake played tough, and gutted out a win. I don't have any complaints about the final score.
Sporting Kansas City had their fair share of chances, as they totaled 11 shots on goal, compared to Real Salt Lake's five. But as I wrote about in my preview leading up to this game, it's not a matter of how many shots on goal you have, it's about converting those chances when you have them. And again, Kansas City fell short in that area last night.
To be honest, I was not the happiest person when I realized that Ricardo Salazar was head referee for the match. If you remember, Salazar was the referee that officiated the Sporting Kansas City/LA Galaxy game on Labor Day. That game was marred by questionable, and inconsistent calls all game. Last night would prove to be more of the same.
I hate to get on a Salazar tangent again, because I went on a little one after the Galaxy game. Not really for the disallowed Collin goal (could have went either way), but more for the inconsistency of the calls during that game. I felt like I was Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day during last night's match, as Salazar's decisions on fouls were wildly inconsistent. On top of that, as some points of the game I actually had a difficult time watching, because Salazar was blowing his whistle every two seconds, and no one really knew what was going on half of the time.It appears that it was hard for either team to really establish any kind of rhythm during the course of the game due to Salazar. Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman was quoted after the game as saying the game was "the most boring game I've ever played in my entire life."
Overall,Beckerman's quote pretty much sums it up for me, although there was a good patch of fluid play in the first half, and things did get rather interesting late in the match when Sporting Kansas City was desperate for an equalizing goal.
I suppose I was just confused that Salazar spent so much time during the game calling the ticky- tack fouls, but at the same time would allow players from both teams to push each other to the ground. From a MLS fan perspective one of the biggest problems the league has to fix is the quality of officiating. Many times, it's completely horrible. Salazar is the epitome of questionable referring.
A perfect example of this was the Seth Sinovic/ Nick Rimando call. I've watched the play numerous times, and I'm still confused as to why Salazar insisted that Sinovic had anything to do with the ball leaving Rimando's possession.
Peter Vermes starting line up was interesting, as he did a bit more shuffling than I would have anticipated going into the game. Michael Harrington started at the right back position in place of Chance Myers. Aurelien Collin started alongside Matt Besler at centerback, and Julio Cesar moved up to the defensive mid field position (Good call by Sporting Kansas City beat writer Andrew Wiebe for correctly predicting that Vermes would move Cesar to defensive mid). Cesar playing in Roger Espinoza's normal slot meant that Roger played higher up in the mid field with Graham Zusi.
I definitely understand the logic of such a move, as Vermes wanted to shore up the defense for the game, but I think I would have stuck with what had been working for the team so well as of late. I would have kept Collin on the bench, and went with Cesar teaming up with Besler in the middle. I would have left Roger playing defensive mid, and would have probably played Jeferson or Davy Arnaud in the other midfield slot. I know, I know.. I have the luxury of looking back at a game that has already played out, but in my match preview I mentioned that I wouldn't have tinkered with the lineups if I were Vermes. As Calvin Lasister (@TheSmokingPun) tweeted me last night, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I do have to say that Michael Harrington played extremely well on the right side. He basically gave Sporting Kansas City what they normally get from Chance Myers. He did a very good job of pushing play up the right side of the pitch, and on numerous occasions made threatening crosses into the box.
As for the Bunbury/ Sapong debate; it's still in question. Bunbury didn't really do much to justify starting over CJ come next Friday when Sporting play the Philadelphia Union. Teal has been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all season long. Saturday Teal was just a little more Hyde than Jekyll. I'm pressed to believe that Sapong will be in the starting lineup on Friday.
It was a lot to ask of Sporting Kansas City to come away with the three points going into Rio Tinto. Real Salt Lake have played so well there this season. After yesterday's match Real Salt Lake proved that they truly are a top team in MLS this season, and will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
So what does this mean for Sporting Kansas City?
Well, I think it means that there is virtually no margin for error the rest of the way. Sporting, sitting at 40 points in the Eastern Conference, currently trails Columbus by one point. But more importantly, both Philadelphia and Houston sit at 39. Yup, things have gotten a whole lot tighter in the East after the past week.
Luckily for Sporting Kansas City, there schedule plays very favorable, as they still host Philadelphia, Columbus, and New York, and travel to D.C, and San Jose. If Sporting can take advantage of the friendly confines of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, they will in all likely hood punch their ticket to the playoffs.
Man of the Match; Nick Rimando- Rimando was a complete monster in the game, making numerous key saves throughout the course of the match; none more impressive than when he blocked Julio Cesar's lazer in the second half of play. Sporting Kansas City had plenty of chances, but Rimando was at the top of his game and never conceded the goal that Sporting so desperately needed to equalize.
Jimmy Nielsen was a close second. Some great saves from One Eyed Jimmy last night.
Sometimes I find myself taking Jimmy for granted. I was listening to the latest Talkin' Touches podcast the other day. Andy Edwards, and Andrew Wiebe were debating who they thought was Sporting Kansas City's MVP. I think it was Wiebe who said Jimmy Nielsen. Somehow in my mind, I had never thought about Jimmy as the team MVP this season. Crazy, because when I think about it, he has to be in that conversation. Last night was just another example of why.