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Wasteful Sporting Kansas City bombs out of MLS playoffs

Nov 7, 2012, 11:29 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

Sometimes it certainly is possible to set a tempo a little too high. Sporting Kansas City showed us how it can happen.

The Eastern Conference champions, definitely the better team Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park, gave the Houston Dynamo all the helter-skelter, hell-bent, high-pressure soccer the visitors could handle in the back half of their conference semifinal.

SKC had everything in the performance – except, that is, a little composure near goal.

They needed two in order to match Houston’s pair of goals from Sunday’s opener in the series. They got just one – but, oh, did they miss a bundle.

Kansas City won, 1-0, but fell to the Dynamo on total goal aggregate over the two-game series, 2-1.

Considering the amount of possession and the number of quality chances created (the home team out-shot Houston 20-3), it’s fair to say that SKC’s season is ending prematurely because of some terribly wasteful finishing.

It looked like one of those games from the earliest minutes. Let’s go through the list that will haunt SKC fans

  • In the early minutes, striker C.J. Sapong broke free just to the right of goal but shot directly at Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall from 18 yards.
  • Not long after, Kei Kamara arranged a nice little something for Graham Zusi from the right, but the U.S. international got under the ball and left his shot from about 12 yards well high.
  • A few minutes after that, Kamara was in the middle for a shot with lots of potential, but saw that one that blocked from about 14 yards.
  • On a quality, headed layoff from Kamara, Sapong failed to connect solidly from point blank range, just outside the six-yard box. The “shot” rolled harmlessly to Hall. (You’re going to keep seeing Sapong’s name on this list.)
  • Sapong got loose for a first-half stoppage time header off a sharp corner kick delivery from Zusi, but that effort went well wide. Zusi, by the way, was all over the place, doing his part and then some to help his team dominate possession and create some of these chances.
  • None of that, by the way, is even considering Kamara’s snapped header, down low toward the far post, on another of Zusi’s precision free kick deliveries. That one went wide, too. Kamara was called offside, but the point is all the same. It was more haphazard finishing.
  • In the second half, Sapong, on a cross from Myers, got over Houston center back Andrew Hainault but watched his header fly well high.
  • Peterson Joseph shook free and, with time and the ball on his favored right foot, went way wide from about 15 yards wide.
  • Sapong had a chance to redirect a Kamara shot but failed to push it toward goal from 12 yards in the 66th minute.
  • Shortly after that, Sapong squeezed in between Houston’s two center backs and Hall, but squandered another one, blowing his shot from 12 yards into the stands, high of goal.
  • Oriol Rosell had time to line up a long-range effort but sprayed his effort from 22 yards harmlessly wide to the left.
  • Finally, center back Matt Besler – in fairness, he isn’t paid to score goals – lifted his right leg high and twisted somewhat awkwardly to volley over goal from close range.

There were a couple of others that were crisply hit, but right toward Hall.

In fact, what you’ll see there, or more accurately will not see there, are a bunch of stretching, diving, heroic saves from Hall. Houston’s No. 1 had another solid match, getting off his line quickly and confidently to snatch the balls that needed snatching.

But SKC will rue all those chances to test the visiting goalkeeper, at very least.

  1. orbmech - Nov 7, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Sometimes you have to have nerves of steel to be a Dynamo fan (and lots of Maalox). The jinx on SKC continues.

  2. footballer4ever - Nov 7, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    Houston Dynamo, Meh!!!!

  3. east96st - Nov 8, 2012 at 8:18 AM


    Since you & I had a civil debate on the subject (thank you for that, btw), I have to ask – with the blessing of 20/20 hindsight, does this result mitigate your feelings towards MLS scheduling even a tiny bit? Certainly seems SKC drew no advantage from the additional time off.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 8, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      Probably a little, and fair enough. But the bigger point (as I keep saying) is that MLS has to push beyond its comfort zone in scheduling, stop accepting the status quo as “OK” and “good enough,” and make more effort to arrange schedules that make more sense. Just because this wasn’t a factor in Hou-KC case doesn’t mean it won’t be the next time a similar situation comes around.

      • east96st - Nov 8, 2012 at 9:31 AM

        I have to believe that if there was even a slight advantage to how the schedule was set up, we would have heard about it by now. Maybe, I’m showing the various front offices and coaches too much respect. But as a guy who excelled in his statistics classes in college, I see a perfect situation where there is useful data to be mined. Teams like NY and LA with their financial resources certainly could have had a whole team of statisticians crunch the numbers. If playing the early game, or even the Wednesday game, gave a team a statistically significant advantage, coaches and GMs with the late games would be screaming murder. Can you imagine if playing the early game gave a team even a 5% advantage what kind of press conference Sigi Schmid would give? Sigi – man, do we miss him in Columbus – would make it seem as if his team had to play a playoff game against the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse! I’ll perfectly honest and admit that I’m too lazy to go over every single MLS season to compile the data. I’m not getting paid for that and it would be boring and time consuming. But there are guys on the payroll for the various MLS teams that DO get paid for exactly that type of number crunching. Maybe I’m naive, but I have to think they have all crunched those numbers and found out that it really didn’t matter. Because if it DID matter, who would ever agree to play the late game?

      • aboutlastnight7 - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

        And I think it’s hard to say that the scheduling wasn’t a factor in this series. While I think play on the field was 99.9% of the results here are my thoughts on two scheduling related matters. First, the long layoff for KC certainly has to be seen as a contributing factor in their ability to run like madmen for 90+ last night. While in the end they ended up falling short it’s worth noting.

        The other is that as the first seed, one of the advantages that you would normally count on is the fatigue of the lower seed. Just from a fixture standpoint by the home game of this round the lower seeded team has played four games in a week and a half to you 2-3. However, that wasn’t the case here. Houston got the benefit of the unbalanced schedule and got to rest their starters. The result is a full game less fatigue for key members, a full game less chance to accrue cards (one of the oft mentioned reasons to avoid the play-in game) and one less game to possibly get injured.

        Maybe the advantages are slight, and they didn’t show this time. But that’s no excuse to leave the door open going forward.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    In regard to scheduling, wouldn’t it make sense for the higher seeded team to get their home match on the weekend? It doesn’t matter in some places (KC, Seattle, etc), but for teams that struggle with attendance, you would think a weekend fixture would help out the higher seed.

  5. bobinkc - Nov 8, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Steve, as much as I love my boys in blue, they were up to their usual fine form last night. They laid back during the first half and let Houston control the pace. When they came out for the second half, they immediately “took it to” the Dynamo and doubled the tempo of the game. This would usually lead to a SKC win, but last night they could not put together enough good stuff to get two more past Tally.

    As usual SKC had way more shots than the opposition, but could not complete enough to make it worthwhile. What’s the old saw, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride?” I still think Peter needs to take my suggestion of putting all the goalies in different goals at the practice facility and then making the team shoot until they each get one shot past each goalie. Then they can go on to the rest of the practice.

  6. wfjackson3 - Nov 9, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    I have to say the lack of finishing really stings, but I also have a question. Can someone please tell me why it is considered acceptable to play league soccer in stadiums with different sized fields?

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