Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation
A stoppage time goal thwarted an otherwise beautiful effort by Sporting Kansas City (0-1-1) in the club’s MLS home opener against FC Dallas (1-0-1) as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw.
After controlling much of the possessions during the duration of the match, Sporting took a 1-0 lead on their first goal against an MLS team this season – an Aurelien Collin header (on a corner kick from Benny Feilhaber) in the 81st minute. That glory would be short lived as FC Dallas’s Matt Hedges answered with a goal of his own nine minutes later after replacement referee Abbey Okulaja awarded a controversial foul in favor of David Texeria just outside the box after Texeria went to the ground after minimal contact from Uri Rosell. On the ensuing set piece, Michel directed a perfect ball towards the far post where Hedges found space streaking towards the six yard box. Hedges emphatically headed the ball past SKC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg to tie the game at 1-1.
The disappointment from this result feels all too familiar: Sporting dominated every important facet of the match— possession (65%-35%), shots (18-7), shots on goal (8-1), and corner kicks (12-2)—yet failed to win.
Sporting also took a clean sheet into stoppage time against Seattle one week ago and was unable to close out that game. This early in the season, dramatic late goals can have a negative psychological impact on a team. Manager Peter Vermes was asked about this disconcerting trend during his post-match news conference.
“It’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are. I’m not happy, and the guys know it. It’s not who we are,” said Vermes.
To fix the lapses in concentration and formation, Vermes will undoubtedly continue to adjust lineups and tactics.
Several major contributors were noticeably absent from Saturday’s starting lineup. Forward Claudio Bieler did not start, but he did see action after he entered the match in the 77th minute. Graham Zusi and Chance Meyers were not on a part of the match-day 18-man roster. With Wednesday’s Champion’s League match against Cruz Azul taking prime billing in the early stages of the season, keeping key starters rested and healthy has trumped the club’s MLS ambitions.
Even with a significant portion of the lineup being held out due to injury or Champion’s League concerns, several players stepped up in the fixture against FC Dallas.
For the second game in a row, Dom Dwyer constantly found space in the attacking third. His pace has proven to be a lot for MLS defenders to handle. Stacking Dwyer with Bieler (similar to what Sporting did in the pre-season) would really put defenses in a bind. Look for this tactic to be employed as Vermes continues to search for a goal-producing lineup.
Benny Fielhaber looked more than competent in set-piece opportunities. Fielhaber continually provided dangerous service, which ultimately lead to Sporting’s only goal. In the first game against Seattle (and the following game against Cruz Azul), Graham Zusi handled most set pieces. It will be interesting to see who receives this duty when Zusi and Fielhaber are on the pitch at the same time. Zusi has earned every right to handle set pieces, but Fielhaber seemingly has the hot boot so-to-speak.
Not much can be derived from the performance of Eric Kronberg in his second MLS start of the season. He was challenged once and conceded a goal, but there was very little that he could have done to prevent the Hedges header. For the most part, Kronberg did a great job of organizing his backline. With that being said, he was largely a non-factor (through no fault of his own) against FC Dallas.
Man of the Match for Sporting would have to go to Aurelien Collin. Simply put, the Frenchman finds the back of the net when no one else can. He is brilliant at finding space on set pieces, and his aerial work is a thing of beauty. At times, Collin is found out of position because of his attacking ways. His critics will argue that his aggressive nature hurts the squad more than it helps, but he continues to prove that he is a proficient scorer with a knack for dramatic (and timely) goals. It would be nice to not have to rely on an out-of-position defender to score, but at this point Collin’s best defense has been his offense.
Sporting will travel to Mexico City for the second leg of CONCACAF Champion’s League action against Cruz Azul (9:00 PM Central start). Sporting hold a 1-0 aggregate lead heading into the match.
Sporting’s next home match will be March 22 at 7:30 against San Jose.