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Breakdown: How Sporting Kansas City set fire to their reign



Thad Bell Photography

No need for intros in this week’s Breakdown of the Match on Sporting Kansas City, let’s get into it.

At the 65:06 mark of Sunday’s match between host Sporting Kansas City and guest Portland Timbers, Kansas City left center back Robert Voloder goes down in a heap after catching his left foot in the turf and hyperextending his left ankle in the moment and subsequently his right knee in the next step. To no fault of Voloder’s seventeen seconds later, unmarked and undisturbed Timbers’ halftime substitute Felipe Mora scores from the exact space Voloder would have been stationed to put Portland within one at 3-2.

Unfortunate? Yes. Unlucky? Absolutely not.

At 79:49, Sporting’s Erik Thommy fails to contain Portland’s Evander on the touchline as Evander nutmegs Thommy for entry into the deep left edge of Sporting’s box. There, left back Tim Leibold and Thommy fail to trap Evander once they have pushed him out of the box. The Brazilian plays short for Antony (merely shadowed by KC’s Alan Pulido) whose cross leads to a shot, the rebound of which is put away to level the match at 3-3.

At halftime, Sporting Kansas City was cruising with a 3-0 lead. How did Sporting get there? That was the big question after the match. One can picture a silhouetted Yoda hovering over Children’s Mercy Park uttering in his deep, reflective knowing: “A slow burn, it was.”

If luck is a thing… Portland Timbers created their own. As’s Matt Doyle stated, “Portland carried themselves like there were still points to be won, and so they [won a point].”

Sporting did things like those mentioned above. And things like this:

Credit: AppleTV

Yes. Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes was correct in his post-match quote – poor game management. A slow burn. A slow setting fire to their 3-0 reign. That’s how Sporting allowed Portland’s smoldering attitude to turn into a conflagration. No matter additional chances to score that were missed, a 3-0 lead should be three points. Period. A key lesson early in life – and it is still early in the season – is to learn to not put oneself into a position where bad things can happen. It’s half of living a fortunate life.

In the 2nd half, Sporting:

  • was sloppy with the ball (Poss. was 60-40 Portland in 2nd half thru the 80th… Thanks, @sperrydaniel94).
  • was taken out of their defensive shape.
  • ‘s substitutes – Alan Pulido and Alenis Vargas, designed to increase possession and provide a vertical threat – executed ineffectively.
  • conceded a penalty on an unnecessary challenge in the box.
  • marked poorly, repeatedly.

Sporting were Romeo after killing Tybalt: “fortune’s fool.” And we all know how that ended. And that was on Romeo who was acting on his own within a given framework. Like a father, a manager can only do so much once their charges are left to operate.

Vermes does not control Jake Davis turning a literal blind eye to the Timbers’ Jonathan Rodriguez and his positioning at the back post all match. Vermes does not control Leibold’s poor challenge in the box. Vermes does not control both Nemanja Radoja and Remi Walter failing to take up for Voloder and mark Mora in the box. Nor does Vermes control Voloder being flat-footed during the shot and the rebound on the match equalizer.

But it is on Vermes to find a solution in the players he has. However, those players, those professionals, are the ultimate determiners, the ultimate leaders.

Side note: Maybe I missed it. Or maybe it wasn’t on screen. But I did not see one moment where Sporting’s players came together for a quick huddle to refocus their efforts. On-field leadership often does more than any sideline direction.

Thankfully, at least one player knows where the responsibility ultimately lies:



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