Sporting KC Defeat the San Jose Earthquakes: Three Takeaways From the Match

Sporting KC vs. Atlanta United
KANSAS CITY, KS - MARCH 18: Benny Feilhaber #10 of Sporting Kansas City celebration with Graham Zusi #8 and Llie Sanchez #6 of Sporting Kansas City after Feilhaber scored a goal outside the penalty box on the San Jose Earthquakes at the 37th minute in the first half at Children's Mercy Park on March 18, 2017 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images).

KANSAS CITY, KS (March 18, 2017) – Sporting KC came into tonight’s game looking for their first goal of the season. That goal came in the 37th minute, off the brilliant foot of Benny Feilhaber. They outlasted the San Jose Quakes from that point on, and ended up with a solid 2-1 victory over Sporting KC.

Sporting KC Defeat the San Jose Earthquakes: Three Takeaways From the Match

The San Jose Earthquakes came in to Kansas City on a high note after winning their first two matches of the year, thanks to brilliant goals from Anibal Godoy. They could not get anything going against Sporting’s midfield and never really generated a clear cut chance. They still went for it plenty of times though. That allowed for Sporting to go on the counter and attack them with ease.

For all the chances they created in the first half, Sporting KC could not capitalize on the counter. Then, Feilhaber’s moment of magic struck.

“I just wanted to hit a good one,” said Feilhaber. “So as soon as I hit it, I saw Bingham moving to the near post, I’m not exactly sure why as well. But I knew if it just dipped a bit, it was good.” He added, “You got to shoot to score, right?”

Bingham’s issues got even worse in the second half, as he muffed a couple of clear chances. One of them ended up in the back of the net to complete his nightmare of a match. Sooney Saad took the shot, and apparently it was too much to handle for Bingham.

As Sporting KC went up 2-0, San Jose got one back off a weird play that Florian Jungwirth capitalized on for his first goal in MLS. If not for David Bingham, San Jose might have escaped with a 1-1 draw. But as much as Bingham’s mistakes affected the final scoreline, so did Tim Melia.

Melia made a brilliant diving stop on a Simon Dawkins volley that was destined for the back of the net. Melia said, “I saw him wind up, and the ball kinda got lost. So I had to hold my ground and react the best I could, and fortunately I was able to.”

Sporting withered the ensuing corner kick and were able to celebrate at the final whistle with their first three points of 2017 in the bag. Here are three things that stood out to me:

How Much Room Sporting KC Had To Create Chances

Sporting was quite vocal in their frustrations with previous opponents sitting in and mucking up the game. The Earthquakes don’t like to do that. They employ a high press and look to win the ball and get odd numbered situations back. That completely opened up their chances to score on the counter. If they had finished off their chances, the scoreline might would not have been as close. Another thing with this space was Dom Dwyer finding the pockets he normally get’s in. Jungwirth and Bernardez were playing really far apart at times, which led to perfect gaps where Feilhaber could’ve slipped the ball in a few times.

Their Ability To Quell the Quakes Overlapping

A lot of talk about the Quakes first couple games surrounded the incredible performances of rookie, and Home-Grown player, Nick Lima. Lima had previously shut down Piatti and a few others. Sporting KC lined up Jimmy Medranda on his side, and boy did Medranda shut him down. Medranda’s off the ball work was incredible as he kept up with Lima, stride for stride. He largely shut him down on the counterattack, and didn’t allow him to have any type of influence on the offensive side of things.

The Earthquakes Could Not Get Things Going

Sporting KC had a total of two negative defensive plays, out of every single defensive play they made tonight. Don’t believe me? Check the boxscore. They completely shut down Jahmir Hyka, who many thought would be the main playmaker. They took away the overlapping from Lima, who is a much better offensive threat than Shaun Francis. They let Shaun Francis get his movement forward, and then countered through Gerso Fernandes, who played on his side. Francis had only four crosses attempted tonight, and couldn’t complete one of them. Lima only had one cross attempted tonight, and couldn’t complete that one either.

The lack of ability the Quakes had to do anything that is crucial to their style, was largely in part to their inability to unlock Sporting KC’s press, and tireless defensive work. Truthfully, this is just a bad matchup for the Earthquakes. A team that is well disciplined, knows how to break up attacking moves forward, and spring correctly on the counter is a nightmare for a team like San Jose.

Notes and Tidbits:

San Jose is now up to 4 goals against, and 2 scored in 11 vs. 11 play. This was the first time an opponent hadn’t received a red card in the game… San Jose Earthquakes actually completed more passes than Sporting KC, but couldn’t complete almost any balls through into the final third… Dom Dwyer played his first game as a U.S. Citizen… as a team, the Earthquakes were 0/10 on crosses into the area… San Jose will face NYCFC in their second road match of the year, on April 1st… Sporting KC will take on Toronto FC on March 31st.