Soccer Weekly with Brandon Wolak: MERICA Advances to Round of 16; Sporting Back in Action

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation As the entire human population watches the World Cup, one thing is becoming obvious: the United States belongs on this greatest stage in sport. Soccer matters in this country. In order to get to the knock out stages of the tournament, the United States needed to finish first or second in what many analysts considered the most challenging group: Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. Defeating Ghana in the first match of group play was a revelation. When Clint Dempsey scored in the opening minute, one member of our watch party (a new fan to the sport) remarked, “Is soccer always this exciting?” It was hard for me to think of an immediate answer; this is the game I love after all. The best I could come up with—after settling down from all of the screaming and high-fiving from Dempsey’s mammoth goal—was a smile and, “It depends.” As the first match continued to unfold, André Ayew leveled the score at 1-1 in the 82’. At that point, it looked like Ghana were in [Read more...]

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 [Read more...]

Soccer Weekly with Brandon Wolak: Crazy Season Begins

On Friday night, Sporting Kansas City (5-4-3) drew 2-2 against Toronto FC in one of the more entertaining fixtures of the season. League-leading goal poacher Dom Dwyer netted another brace, but it wasn’t enough to earn three points as Toronto scored two short-handed goals in the second half. Dwyer commented after the match, “It wasn't meant to be tonight, that was the only frustration but again it was a good performance and I thought the guys in the back did a fantastic job. We don't have one natural center back playing out there and no one looked a step out of place, so credit to them." Ah yes, about that backline situation… Just when things couldn’t get much worse for Sporting Kansas City’s defense, Toronto’s Jermain Defoe takes out Chance Myers for the rest of the season. If you are scoring at home, that means that Sporting are currently without defenders Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Ike Opara, and now Chance Myers. Despite what my buddy Miles thinks, Myers is not faking an [Read more...]

Zusi and Besler to represent USA

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation The Sporting lost 2-1 to the lowly Philadelphia Union in one of the most uninspired matches I’ve ever witnessed at Sporting Park on Wednesday. The highs and lows of the season are starting to take its toll. Things might just get worse before they get better. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are heading off for US Men’s team duty. Under the very best of circumstances for Sporting, the dynamic duo will return after the June 26 match against Germany (meaning that the US flamed-out during the group stage). But this could even end badly for the Sporting. Under the very worst of circumstances for Sporting, Zusi and Besler play so well in Brazil that they are snatched up by a European club after the World Cup. It’s great for them to represent ‘Merica, but not having Besler and Zusi will hurt the Sporting. Without Zusi anchoring the defense could be disastrous for Sporting, especially since Aurelien Collin, Ike Opara, and Erik Palmer-Brown are all shelved with [Read more...]

Sporting KC back on top in the East

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation All seems so right in the world of Sporting Kansas City (4-2-2) after this weekend: ring ceremony, beautiful weather, goals by Jacob Peterson and Claudio Bieler, Eric Kronberg playing out of his mind between the posts, a 2-0 win against a really good Columbus Crew side, an unbeaten record at home, and first place in the East. Life is good. The big take away from Sunday, for me at least, is the redemption of the three aforementioned players (Peterson, Bieler, and Kronberg). I am a big fan of Jacob Peterson. Dude is rock solid box-to-box, and his Charlie-hustle mentality fits perfectly into the style of soccer that Peter Vermes champions. The big knock against Peterson always seems to be that he isn’t a goal poacher. Fair enough. What he lacks in goal scoring prowess he more than makes up for in defense. I lost track of the number of times that Peterson forced a Crew player to make a bad pass or errant touch. Dare I say that he is proving to be a poor [Read more...]

Sporting down Impact 4-0

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation When it rains it pours. Since the rebrand, Sporting Kansas City have scored four goals in a game only three times in MLS play. On Saturday, Dom Dwyer and Aurelien Collin made it four times – scoring two goals each. Sporting (3-1-2) defeated the Montreal Impact (0-4-3) 4-0 in front of another sold out crowd at Sporting Park – the 40th consecutive - and it felt downright historical and magical. Scoring got underway in the 31st minute after Matt Besler rifled a throw into the box, which eventually ricocheted off of Callum Mallace for an own goal. Aurelien Collin was initially credited for the score, but after seeing several reviews, it was clear that Mallace had the definitive touch. Montreal is a bad team right now, and this goal is an apt metaphor for the club’s current state of affairs. Collin was not to be denied on the night though. He notched a goal (Lawrence Olum with [Read more...]

Sporting Geared up for Championship rematch with Real Salt Lake

Brandon Wolak (@Baron_von_KC), KC SportsNation The confetti has barely settled from December 7, 2013 when Sporting Kansas City hoisted the MLS Cup after defeating Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks. Real Salt Lake’s Lovel Palmer sent his try into the crossbar and history was made. The two teams will meet at Sporting Park at 7:30 tonight for the first time since that frigid December night. The rematch from last year’s championship game should not lack in drama. A lot has happened in the few months since the clubs last met. Heck, a lot has happened in the last few weeks and days. Let’s start with Sporting (2-1-1) The team enters on a bit of a roll. Dom Dwyer’s emphatic game-winning stoppage time golazo against the Colorado Rapids was a real thing of beauty. If you haven’t seen the goal, please do. I’m pretty sure Dwyer needed to register his left foot as a lethal weapon after the match. Sporting showed real moxie coming from behind after conceding two penalty kicks to Colorado, and the [Read more...]

Sporting Kansas City Reaction: Sporting fall 5-1 to Cruz Azul

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation Losing 5-1 (5-2 on aggregate goals) to Cruz Azul during CONCACAF Champion’s League play feels like a watershed moment for Sporting Kansas City. Moments like these have been few and far between for the club in recent memory, but they aren’t without precedent. In 2011 — “the year of the Sporting rebrand”— I remember driving home from work in early June. I was listening to 810 WHB, and Kevin Kietzman and company were taking a good hard look at how miserable Sporting were playing. The team’s first 10 games were on the road as Livestrong was being completed, and they had compiled a 1-6-3 record, and they terrible and they were playing a boring and unappealing brand of soccer.  The synergy around the club could not have been worse. Somewhere around 20 minutes into the thrashing, Robb Heineman called into the program. In my 25 years as a sports fan, I had never heard a team owner call into a sports talk show. I thought, “Well, this will be interesting. The [Read more...]

Another late goal costs Sporting in 1-1 draw to FC Dallas

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 [Read more...]

Sporting lose a 1-0 heartbreaker in Emerald City

Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation Frustrating. Disappointing. Heart breaking. The Seattle Sounders defeated Sporting Kansas City yet again in stoppage time. This same scenario has played out no fewer than five times in less than four years. In the 94th minute of the match, Chad Barrett found the back of the net, and Sporting is now left to pick up the pieces going into the home leg of CONCACAF Champions League play against Cruz Azul on Wednesday. As expected, head coach Peter Vermes went with a starting lineup that allowed several key starters to heal up and rest. Defenders Josh Gardner and Kevin Ellis started in place of Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers respectively, and Lawrence Olum started in the midfield in place of Uri Rosell.  Jacob Peterson also got a starting nod at forward in place of Claudio Bieler. It was clear from the start of the match that Sporting would be content to play for a decision. This would have become a reality if not for the comedy of errors that took place in [Read more...]