Soccer Weekly with Brandon Wolak: Sporting Winless in Last Five; Team USA Prepares for Brazil

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation

What is it with May and Kansas City sports? Between the Royals and Sporting Kansas City, this is a dreadful month; I will leave the haranguing about the Royals to Brian, though.

Sporting’s schedule has been difficult as of late. Four games in two weeks (with a lineup decimated by World Cup call-ups and injuries) is a tall order. Sporting are now 5-5-4 after drawing with New York Red Bulls 1-1 and falling to Handball United 1-0.

Luckily, the Eastern Conference has been kind to Sporting – they remain in third place (behind New England and Handball United). Unfortunately, both teams ahead of Sporting have a game in hand.

After being inundated with SKC the last two weeks, a clear trend is beginning to emerge: Sporting dominates the match yet loses points because of mental lapses, breakdowns in form, and silly mistakes. The first half against the New York Red Bulls is a prime example. Sporting looked like freakin’ Bayern Munich in the first half, yet looked at times in the second half like a VFW pub team (or the Montreal Impact). A 1-1 draw against the Red Bulls is not the worst thing that has happened to Sporting this season, and I am not even mad that Thiery Henry played a marvelous ball through to Bradley Wright-Phillips. Having Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Peter Vermes, and Sporting Jesus anchoring the backline couldn’t stop Thiery from being Theiry in that case. The man is/was an institution, and he got his. I am disappointed that Sporting could muster only one goal after having a smorgasbord of opportunities. The final of this match should have been 5-1 in favor of Sporting. Credit to someone other than Dom Dwyer scoring a goal though – Toni Dovale’s strike in the 9th minute was a thing of beauty.

The match against Handball United was…um…interesting, I guess? United tried to turn the match into a UFC fight, but that tactic is commonplace for most teams in MLS playing Sporting. Like most of those matches, Sporting dominated shots (16-7), shots on goal (5-2), and possession (61%-39%). Count me as someone that considers most stats to be useless – especially possession – but at some point we need to make teams pay for allowing us to live on their half of the pitch. I have seen more dangerous shots on goal during halftime challenges than what I saw from SKC during this match. Bill Hamid hardly broke a sweat. The same cannot be said for Eric Kronberg. He was repeatedly tested throughout the match. Ironically, United’s lone goal came on a weak cross from Fabian Espindola. Kronberg played double-dutch in the six-yard box before flailing ass-over-teakettle into the net as the ball floated calmly past him. 1-0 in favor of Handball United is your final.

The best thing to remember about this game happened between Peter Vermes and an unnamed Handball United flunky.

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Eat it kid.

I am not going to get all teary-eyed based on the poor run of form as of late. The best soccer is still ahead for this team as far as I am concerned. It is true that I see this team through Sporting-blue-colored lenses, but hear me out. When this team gets healthy and fully equipped, they will be on the short list of teams to beat. The Supporters Shield is probably not going to happen at this point, but repeating as champions will always supersede that anyway. I like my chances with a highly motivated Graham Zusi and Matt Besler leading this squad as summer turns to fall. Having a healthy Uri and Collin will also make a world of difference.

Sporting’s next match is on the road this Friday at 7:30 against the-Orange-Team-from-Texas-that-will-not-be-named. Watch the match on KMCI-TV and follow me @Baron_von_KC for loads of analysis, insight, soccer puns, and updates.

***

USA, USA, USA!

The sendoff tour is now two games in, and here is what I know: Azerbaijan is a real country (and not a villain in Harry Potter), Turkey was only marginally better at soccer than the aforementioned Azerbaijan, and the USA better get consistent pretty quickly if they intend to have favorable results against ze Germans, CR7, or Ghana.

At times, watching the US is a bit like watching Sporting. When things are good, they are really good. Michael Bradley’s assist against Turkey was truly world class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KRnULmVPiA

For most of the second half though, Turkey squirted through the backline of the US defense with impunity. (I feel like there is a bad Thanksgiving/bowel movement joke somewhere in there, but I’ll take the high road.)

I will delve into a proper World Cup preview at some point soon. Until then, enjoy the last sendoff match against Nigeria on June 7. Things get real on June 16 when group play starts against Ghana.

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