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Sporting and Sporting Alone Thoughts for 3/22/23
I am starting to want something else!
I watched Sporting KC and FC Dallas from a stool at the end of the barat the Red Lyon Tavern in downtown Lawrence. Mike and I were among the only people paying attention – The day of the Jayhawks getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament is always a sordid day in Lawrence. It’s less so this year, as that day didn’t come about last year, but the mood in downtown Lawrence was not the carnivalistic joy that I’ve felt down there in mid-Marches past. Sporting KC did not calm the nerves. .
Throughout the evening, the audio system of the Lyon played a selection of classic and mostly-forgotten-save-for-me hits of the 1990s: Rhythm Nation preceded Short Dick Man preceded Give It To You preceded, just after Dallas scored their second goal, Semi-Charmed Life.
There are moments in which the guilty pleasures of the past become normal pleasures, when you find the courage within yourself to state out loud “You know what? This is a good song.” Semi-Charmed Life is a good song. It’s all about how hard the rest of the band hits those “doot doot doots.” They sing those doot doot doots like the doot doot doots are the groundwork, the foundation, of that song’s success – and they are! As I sit there, watching this team go down a goal late, appreciating those doot doot doots, I start to really hear the chorus. I’m not hitting it the way the other guys in Third Eye Blind hit the doot doot doots, but I am starting, again, to feel that
I want something else
To get me through this
Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
Questions and Answers and Questions
Q1: Can we score a goal?
Yes! I was far off... But not so far off. Last week, I thought it might be either a defender, which was very wrong (it was Daniel Salloi), or an own goal, which was not that wrong (the goal came off of a deflection). Hedging aside, the goalless drought is over. Sporting Kansas City is not the last team to score its first goal in MLS this season. Ours came at 7:41pm CST, Colorado got their first sometime around 9:50pm or whereabouts CST, in the 49th minute of their fourth match this year. Montreal's goalless drought ended at something like 6:45pm CST (there's the pregame show that the 6:30pm window follows which affects that), three minutes into their fourth match this year. However, it did take a very long time for Sporting Kansas City to score its first goal in 2023.
Another odd fun factoid here: Daniel Salloi has scored Sporting KC’s first goal for the past three seasons now. This is now the longest streak of one player scoring the first goal of the season for Sporting KC. Mo Johnston did it in 1997 and 1998 and CJ Sapong did it in 2011 and 2012. Salloi ties Davy Arnaud for most season-opening goals, as Arnaud scored first in 2004, 2006, and 2009. Congratulations, Daniel!
Q2: Can the center-backs continue their recent success on the road against a prolific attack?
Not precisely. I can't really pin either goal on them, and I can't singularly pin the first goal on anyone -- Khiry Shelton could've maintained pressure on Alan Velasco after he laid the ball off to Lletget, but I can't claim to know what his role is in the defensive scheme, and Voloder could’ve been one step faster in racing to block the shot from Velasco -- but FC Dallas was far more successful than the Galaxy or Rapids were. That first goal came off of an excellent build-up starting from their center backs, and the second goal came off of a dispossession of Ben Sweat reminiscent of the goal given up to Portland in the first match of the season. I would put more of the defensive ineffectiveness on Remi Walter playing out of position again, who wasn’t winning the duels you’d need a defensive midfielder to win. This brings us to...
Q3: How much of the Radoja/Walter/Thommy midfield combo will we get?
Zero Minutes! Nemanja Radoja came in for Erik Thommy himself. We were given no Eliminator Midfield this weekend. This was either a defensively-minded substitution to maintain a 1-1 road point, or that Vermes was a little upset with Thommy given the whole penalty kick mishap. This is inconclusive. We had a brief stint of the Radoja-Walter-Hernandez midfield, which would be 6+54+21: 81. The 81 midfield, or... what's that, the amount that Jalen Rose gave up to Kobe Bryant lineup? That's not a good omen.
Q4: Will Graham Zusi get some rest?
No! Kayden Pierre did see some time, but it was in relief of Ben Sweat, rather than Graham. Pierre played at Right Back last season to some effect, and we didn't see enough of him at left back to get a clear picture of him. I would like to see more of him, though I am skeptical given what I expect from this management that we will see more of a developing young player like him anytime soon.
I will say, though: I am not asking to see Graham Zusi subbed off for poor performance. Graham has probably been Sporting's best player this season so far. Opposing teams have shied away from attacking down his side of the pitch and he's connected on 82% of passes so far. He's still playing at a very high level now into his late-thirties, which is commendable, though I just hope the fatigue doesn't get to him. This isn't such a mayday scenario, as Pierre will be there when he needs to come out.
Questions for Next Week
Q1: What changes personnel-wise, if any, will come against Seattle?
Here is where I struggle not to give off the sense that I’m typing this through tears and gritted teeth. Despite the woes in goal scoring and the inability to win matches, Sporting KC has come out with nearly an identical lineup each of the first four matches. Leibold came in for Sweat before he got injured, Shelton and Tzionis traded starts briefly. Otherwise, this has been it. I guess that I don’t know what the hell the change that could bring the team to the level where I want it to be could come from, but I have little faith that it will come.
I hate to be so dour, especially as the first half of last week really looked like a corner might’ve been turned, but really looking at the facts of the matter now that the early season hopefulness has worn off has me pessimistic and frustrated. I just don’t see a way forward, this feels like a repeat of 2022 — With the same two highly-paid, highly-important players injured and the same stubborn rigidity of play and personnel. It does frustrate me. This is looking like another very long year, and perhaps worse, it seems like we’re going to keep trying to pretend that what doesn’t work works if we hit it against the wall enough.
Q2: What's the stadium atmosphere going to be like?
By the end of that Galaxy match, I was surprised by the angst that seemed to run through Children’s Mercy Park. The fanbase seems to be frustrated, especially after so many of last year’s problems have reared their heads again, and I really wonder what the stadium will look like if the team loses, or even just comes out and struggles to score again. I’ve never really seen the place get all that upset, but two years of this shit with no end in sight will turn people — And not just turn them from content to upset, but it’ll turn them away from the park at all. I have a sense that we’re going to see angst out of that stadium that we really aren’t used to.
Then that penalty thing between Agada and Thommy… That was just weird, wasn’t it? I think there’s just a bad aura around this team. A curse or something… Did Sporting do somebody wrong at some point? Diego Rubio? Wilson Harris? Cristian Roldan? Joe Bush, maybe? Did I curse them and forget about it?
Oh, you know what?
I put a photo of Peter Vermes in my freezer last year. Forgot I did that. Sorry, everyone! This whole thing was my mistake, I apologize!
I’m probably not going to go to this match, for the record.
Q3: How does the attack look?
I will cease my maudlin wailing for a moment to say that the first thirty or so minutes of the FC Dallas match brought more direct attacking than we saw in prior matches. We will see if that continues against Seattle, especially given the defensive skill of their fullbacks in Alex Roldan and Nouhou. Their center backs and defensive midfield are also very good. Seattle as a whole is very good. This team has struggled to score against lesser defenses so far, so something different will need to happen for the team to get by Seattle.
Q4: Does Graham Zusi get some rest?
Self-explanatory. This is not a criticism of Vermes or Zusi, for the record, I’m just curious how many consecutive minutes Graham will play to start the season. You know he and Diego Chara are the same age? Everybody loves Diego Chara’s continued effectiveness into his late-thirties, but I don’t hear the same amount of love for Graham for doing the same thing.
We’ll see what happens this weekend! I apologize for my childish despair for so much of this post, but we’re in something of a valley. My high expectations have been dashed and we’re not to the point where the losing has set in to the point that I’m finding something intriguing about it. I will find a way to have fun with another bad year, but I haven’t reached that point quite yet.