Sporting Kansas City's Omar Bravo takes the game tying penalty kick late in their match vs. the Galaxy.
Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Star
Sporting Kansas City 2, L.A. Galaxy 2
Date- September 5, 2011
Goals- (LA) Franklin '25, '74 (SKC) Cesar '72, Bravo (PK)
Announced attendance- 20, 512
Sporting Kansas City- Nielsen, Collin, Cesar, Besler, Sinovic, Zusi, Jeferson, Espinoza, Myers, Bravo, Sapong
LA Galaxy- Saunders, Hejduk, Delagarza, Gonzalez, Dunivant, Franklin, Beckham, Juninho, MaGee, Barrett, Cristman
My apologies for not getting this up sooner, but after leaving the match last night, I felt like I needed to re-watch it in the comfort of my home to really give an unbiased opinion on how things unfolded. Everyone knows how it goes in sports; the home team can do no wrong, and the referees can do no right (unless it's a call favoring the home side of course). After the match the hot topic was the linesman calling Sporting Kansas City defender Aurellien Collin offside when he headed a Graham Zusi free kick into the net, appearing at the time to tie the game 2-2 in the 84th minute of action.The crowd was furious, probably more so because earlier in the match the Galaxy's Sean Franklin scored a goal on a questinable no call (Jimmy Nielsen was furious that offsides wasn't called) that put LA up 1-0 in the 25th minute.
So Collin's goal was disallowed, while Franklin's strike counted. I knew I had to see it again when I got home. At the time I felt like Sporting was getting screwed, but I had to make sure before I wrote a match review ripping the refs and how they cost KC 3 points against one of the best teams in MLS. The referees took a verbal beating from the fans all night long, but the Collin disallowed goal was by far the worst it ever got for head referee Ricardo Salazar, and his crew.
After the match I went home and started watching the match. I watched it in it's entirety, but I was obviously most interested in the two calls. I watched those two plays numerous times last night. Kept rewinding, and watching in slow motion to see if the calls were right. And here's the conclusion that I came to; I can't really fault the linesman for his calls. I suppose I should say, I can't be angry at the linesman for his calls on those two plays. I hated admitting it, but the proof was right there in front of me. Franklin was onside, I have no doubt about that. The line judge made a very good call. On the Collin play, I honestly felt like it could have went either way. It was so hard to tell. In my own mind, I feel like the linesman should have let the Collin goal stand. It was so close of a call, and he's supposed to rule in favor of the offensive player in a situation like that.
At the end of the day, that's just how these things go sometimes. The linesman could have went either way on the Collin call, and he went the way of offside.
Moving on, the crowd yesterday was unbelievable. Livestrong Sporting Park was packed. It was a beautiful site. I remember looking at this completely full stadium and thinking that it's only a matter of time before every Sporting Kansas City game looks like that. I understand the Galaxy had a lot to do with the sold out crowd, but Sporting management is building something amazing here in Kansas City, and I do feel like the interest in the Sporting KC team is legitimate. This is two matches in a row where the stadium was sold out. I think it's safe to say that soccer has a very solid foundation here, and it's only going to get better.
The game itself was a mixed bag. A lot of it was sloppy, which probably had to do with the fact that the turf was in shambles. I honestly couldn't believe the size of some of the divots on the field. You could literally see a couple of times where a player would pass the ball to his teammate, only for the ball to hit one of the divots, and dramatically change course. The weather and the concerts being held at LSP have taken their toll on the field.
When the starting lineups were announced I noticed that Sporting coach Peter Vermes had done a little tinkering with his lineup. He started Collin in the right back spot, and moved Chance Myers higher up in a winger position. It seemed like a strange call to me, but with Kei Kamara out (due to international duty), perhaps Vermes was looking for speed, and aggressiveness on the right side. Myers made a couple of good plays in the game, but the one that stood out to me most was a nice cross into the box that CJ Sapong almost put into the net with a nice header.
Speaking of CJ, he looked very good yesterday. He seems to play much better as a striker than on the wings where Vermes has played him recently. Sapong looked comfortable, and was a threat for a lot of the game. He used his strength extremely well, keeping the ball at his feet and consistently put pressure on the Galaxy defense.
Which brings me to a potential problem for Vermes. It appears Sapong is at his best playing up top, which happens to be the same position that Teal Bunbury plays, which is why Sapong has been starting on the wing when both him and Teal are on the pitch at the same time. I think at this point in time Vermes has to start Sapong over Bunbury. He just has to. I understand Teal is a fan favorite, but starting him over Sapong is crazy to me. Bunbury should be coming off of the bench. I just think CJ's outplayed him this year. I also think he does the little things better than Teal does. Sapong is a workhorse. He's always working hard, never giving up on a play. I don't see that same kind of fire with Teal right now. If I'm Vermes I have CJ in the starting lineup against Houston on Saturday. We'll see how that plays out when the lineups are announced for the Dynamo match.
One player that stood out to me yesterday ; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi. I realize now that Zusi is the catalyst for this team. After watching the game yesterday, it's undeniable. This team runs so many plays through the guy. He's the center of almost everything Sporting does, and he was Kansas City's best player yesterday. Infact, as I was watching the replay of the game, I was slightly surprised that so much of our play goes through Zusi, instead of a player like Jeferson, who's seen as a play maker. It's a testament to just how much progression we've seen from Zusi as a player over the past year. He has a relentless work ethic on both sides of the ball, and almost always makes good decisions. He almost scored a couple of goals yesterday off of what is quickly becoming his signature shot. The lazer from long distance. One in the 15th minute, and one in the 37th minute. Both shots were close, but the first was only inches above the crossbar. If you were to ask me who's one player Sporting Kansas City can't live without I'm going with Graham Zusi.
Yesterday marked the return of Sporting Kansas City midfielder Davy Arnaud, who came in for Roger Espinoza in the 64th minute. It was a great moment, as Arnaud is a clear fan favorite, and a player that has meant a great deal to the organization over the years.
Espinoza was given a yellow card early in the match for a wreck less sliding tackle on Juninho. I'm torn about Roger. While I admire his work ethic, his non stop motor, his aggressiveness, I still think he has a lot of maturing to do on the soccer field. He was actually lucky not to get sent off later in the match when he dove to the ground after minimal contact from Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez. Salazar, feeling that Roger embellished the contact, seemed to think about giving Espinoza his second yellow which would have sent him off. Luckily, Salazar decided against it. I love Roger's tenacity, but he needs to become a smarter player.
We didn't see Landon Donovan until he came into the game for Barrett in the 59th minute of the game. It didn't take long for Donovan to make an impact as he almost scored after he out muscled (some would say fouled ) Myers as they were both chasing the ball down the right side. At that point, it was basically Donovan one on one with Nielsen. Donovan would have netted his 12th goal of the season if not for a very good save from Jimmy.
David Beckham was his typical self in the match, making some great passes throughout the course of the game. He consistently put the ball in threatening positions off of set pieces, and lob passes. Beckham notched his 12th assist of the season with a nice pass to Sean Franklin who was in the right side of the box and was ridiculously wide open. Franklin easily scored his second goal of the game. I have no idea where the Sporting defense was on that play, although it looked as if Cesar was the most likely culprit. The brief mental lapses that have plagued Sporting Kansas City showed up again on that play.
Things were no doubt looking dire as time was dwindling down late in the game and Sporting Kansas City were down 2-1. Luckily for Sporting, Galaxy defender Frankie Hejduk was called for a hand ball inside the Galaxy box in the 90th minute of play, which resulted in a penalty kick for Omar Bravo. Bravo seamlessly put the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, faking out LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders, and tying the game 2-2.
I think Sporting has to feel this was a fair result. Coming away with 1 point feels a lot better than none. I understand the fans frustration with some of the calls. I did feel like Salazar was very inconsistent on his foul calling. Sometimes he would call a foul on a play where there was minimal contact. Sometimes he would let play resume despite heavy contact (Donovan/Myers). The one thing I would say about the calls is that I think the referees need to do a better job of being consistent. If you want to call every ticky tack foul, that's fine. If you want to let the players play a more physical game, that's fine, too. But you have to choose which game you want to call, and stick to it.
Next up for Sporting; a huge game against the Houston Dynamo this Saturday. The Dynamo are only 2 points behind Sporting for the second spot in the Eastern Conference.