Sporting KC: Don’t get too excited about a win over a depleted Columbus team

Sporting KC and Columbus
COLUMBUS, OHIO — JUNE 23: Gerso Fernandes #12 of the Sporting Kansas City controls the ball against Waylon Francis #14 of the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium on June 23, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images).

Editorial (June 24, 2019) — Sporting Kansas City may have finally won a road game on Saturday against Columbus, but it wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t an elite defensive performance with attacking, fluid football against a high-flying team at the top of the table. It wasn’t YouTube or highlight reel material that you show your coworkers who don’t even care the next morning. However, it was a sloppy, forgettable game against a team that’s won one of its last 11 teams and was missing several of its key players.

Right off the bat the Crew was without Federico Higuain and Milton Valenzuela —who admittedly has been out all season — through injury. Meanwhile,  stars Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Zack Steffan and Jonathan Mensah are on international duty. With goalkeeper Steffan not an option, Columbus had to opt for Kansas City native Jon Kempin.

Kempin made his second appearance of the season. To rub salt in the wound, main attacking threat David Accam had to make way just 15 minutes into the game with a pulled hamstring.

Additionally, Harrison Afful’s 74th minute red card made it a little easier for Sporting KC to avoid another last minute collapse that we’ve seen far too many times this season.

Don’t let the injuries fool you

That’s not to take away credit from the fact that Sporting KC picked up the win on the road. However, it was a complete role reversal to what we’ve seen so far this season. Many times this season Sporting has been the dominant team, deserving all three points or at least a draw and have instead walked away empty-handed.

However, against Columbus, Peter Vermes’ side put in a lackluster performance deserving of nothing — yet left the field with all three points.

The 11-day break didn’t do much for the defensive cohesion either. Several misplaced passes in the defensive third led to multiple Columbus attacks. Meanwhile, poor defending on a corner gave Patrick Mullins an open goal from four yards out. Mullins showed exactly why he has only one goal this season by firing the ball over the bar.

Even man of the match candidate Tim Melia lost the ball in his own box at one point. He also misplaced a pass so bad it almost went straight out for a corner before Matt Besler eventually had to concede the corner regardless.

Offense certainly helped

On the offensive end, Sporting had just two shots on target the whole game — the goal in the 48th minute and a shot through traffic in the dying embers of second half stoppage time.

Gerso was excellent throughout the game — if not a little selfish on one shot in the first half — causing the Crew’s backline trouble on the counter attack. However, I’m not sure Krisztian Nemeth even finished his dinner after the game — never mind the four shots he had on goal — while Daniel Salloi was mostly neutralized aside from one excellent through ball to Gerso that led to Afful’s red card.

In the middle of the park, I barely heard Benny Feilhaber’s name outside of short or backward passes. Meanwhile, Felipe Gutierrez was fairly quiet too outside of his goal. That may not be mostly their fault as Sporting sat back most of the night before attacking the open spaces straight from defense to attack as Columbus pushed forward. However, the pair still put in forgettable performances.

Can Sporting gain a solid victory over RSL?

Salt Lake City are going to provide a much sterner challenge next Saturday.

Despite a recent downturn in form, Real Salt Lake possess immense talent in Albert Rusnak and Sam Johnson. Never forget that they have the ever-trustworthy Nick Rimando is between the sticks. Nick Besler, Matt’s younger brother, has put in solid minutes as the anchor of the Salt Lake midfield.

With such a tight Western Conference — four points separate the final playoff spot from last-placed Colorado — about halfway through the season, Sunday night’s victory could be the start of a playoff push for Sporting KC. However, it’s going to have to put in much more clinical performances if that’s going to come to fruition.

 

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