The month of May hasn’t proven well for Sporting Kansas City. Despite a blowout 4-0 win in the beginning of the month against Chivas USA and a 2-0 win against lower league Des Moines Menance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the rest of the month has seen the team struggling to get points in the once intimidating Sporting Park. In what was at one point impossible for teams to come to Sporting Park and get any sort of result, the points have been leaking out of the stadium in past games. The team has also been in a bit of a controversy with Orlando City in the Open Cup that got many people in the soccer community to weigh in on one side or another.
Since the 4-0 win over Chivas, Sporting KC had to face some of their toughest opponents of the season at a time when they have had to deal with injuries and players on international duty. It’s not an excuse because every team deals with those issues. Well, good teams deal with players on international duty. The important thing is that it’s a rough stretch for any team even when at full strength. The Seattle Sounders game was an exciting 0-0 game that ended in typical Sporting vs. Seattle fashion and Seattle won with a stoppage time goal. Sporting at least wanted a result against Seattle, especially because they had to play another rival in the Houston Dynamo in Houston. Sporting, to once again, lose in that way to Seattle, that was tough to swallow.
Going into Houston to play the Dynamo, the Dynamo had a league record 36 game home winning streak and was unbeaten at BBVA Compass Stadium. In this stretch of games, this game in Houston would be the toughest. In a highly physical game in which Sporting had 25 fouls total, it was Aurelien Collin’s header off a Seth Sinovic throw that sent Sporting home with 3 points and Houston suffered their first loss at their new stadium. This proved to be a mirage as Sporting still sputtered in neutral for the rest of the month as well as Houston paying them back 2 weeks later with a 1-1 draw in KC.
In what was supposed to be the easiest game of the bunch, the game in DC proved to be harder than what Sporting should’ve made it. Yeah they got screwed over on the offside goal that disallowed Ike Opara’s goal, but in what should’ve been a moment of motivation to tear through anything and everything in their path to get what they deserved, Sporting seemed like they just went through the motions and expected something to change out of thin air. They took that call with them the rest of the game and drew 1-1. Sporting’s reaction to the call was what cost them 2 points. Every team gets bad calls, Sporting isn’t immune to that, move on and get tough instead of playing the victim.
After the Open Cup game against Des Moines, the realization came to the forefront that Sporting would be playing their partner team, Orlando City. Orlando City currently have Sporting players Dom Dwyer, Jon Kempin, Christian Duke and Yann Songo’o. Dom Dwyer has been lighting up the USL already scoring a team season record 13 goals in just 11 games. Sporting and Orlando made a “gentleman’s agreement” to not allow the Sporting players to play for Orlando in the Open Cup game. This caused a fury of speculation and analysis from soccer fans from all signs of the spectrum. The way I see it, I’m with Sporting on this. This happens in every country in the world where players don’t play against their parent team in competition so it’s not shocking that Sporting is doing the same. They are competing to win and at the end of the day, Sporting is sending those players to Orlando to get playing time and to learn, not to help Orlando win ball games.
The Eastern Conference leading Montreal came into town and it brought sparks that looked like they were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Very physical, a bit rough and dirty from both sides and it caused both teams to quickly despise each other. I don’t know if Montreal and Sporting have a rivalry but if they do, it spawned in this game. Claudio Bieler got back on his scoring run and scored on a very controversial PK right before halftime. You know how I said earlier about every team getting bad calls. Well when a team gets a bad call, it’s a good call for the opponent and Sporting got a gift with a foul that really was outside the box. The trouble for Sporting is that while they played victim, Montreal got pissed off at halftime and earned the 2-1 win despite an Alessandro Nesta red card.
So is it time for panic in Kansas City? There certainly is a cause for concern because of all the dropped points but it’s also June so there’s still plenty of time. I will say that now is the time to get points because once the Open Cup and Champions League hit, the schedule will be more and more crowded and the depth will be tested more and more. I still have no doubt Sporting will make the playoffs and LA and Houston proved that all you need to do is get into the playoffs and you have a chance at going to the MLS Cup Final. At this point, it’s not likely Sporting will win the Supporter’s Shield but they’re still a favorite for two out of three trophies which in the grand scheme of things, they’re in a far better spot than a lot of other MLS teams.