And with that… Sporting KC are 3-0-0 to start the year. This was an interesting game from the beginning of the match.
Of the first three games of the season, this one provided the biggest challenge for Sporting KC. Due to the compact and very well organized Toronto defense, extended periods of possession were hard to come by. However, there were a few sparks; most obviously the goal by Brad Davis.
Take 1: The battle for midfield was real.
Last week we wrote about how Roger Espinoza commands the midfield, and how he was dominant on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Last night was a little bit of a different story though.
TFC challenged the SKC midfield all night by sitting back and clogging up the space directly in front of the back two central defenders. Despite Espinoza doing his job, and doing it well (SKC held 57% possession at the half), the game made it evident that SKC struggles to create without Feilhaber. Especially when there is a deep lying defense as organized as Toronto’s was. Espinoza is simply not as creative in tight situations, and Quintillia is a quality 2nd man in the roster but needs to learn how to create chances out of those tight spots.
This is why when SKC has Feilhaber, Espinoza and Mustivar in the lineup at the same time, they should be one of the most dominant midfields in the league. Those three players have the combined skill sets to break down any defense in the league. Feilhaber is creative, with defensive skills. Espinoza is the quintessential box to box midfielder, with a more defensive approach than Feilhaber. And Mustivar is an all out ball stopper right in front of central defense.
Last night’s game showed that when teams sit back, and Feilhaber is not in the lineup, it’s going to be a long, tough, low scoring match.
As Matt Doyle, the MLS Armchair analyst put it very succinctly, “[a] team plays uglier soccer without its most creative player.” Read anything and everything Matt Doyle writes!
And that’s exactly what last night’s game was…ugly soccer. A battle for the midfield.
Take 2: Brad Davis’ proves why he was brought in by Vermes and Co.
Throughout the week, and until TFC play their next game, people will be arguing all across social media about the game winner scored by Brad Davis. Whether or not it was a foul, for Sporting KC fans, it should not matter. The goal itself is evidence that the signing of Brad Davis was a very good one.
Davis gives KC great depth, yes. More importantly, he can be a spark of the bench late in games. Although he was subbed on at the half, Davis provided offensive experience and skill late in the game. In the past few seasons, KC has not only lacked depth, but also that all-important ‘Maxi Urruti’ type player to come on late in a game. Vermes in the past has brought on players like Jacob Peterson, Jimmy Medranda, and Sooney Saad. While none of these players are bad, they all lack the proven offensive quality that Davis or Mapp have. Having someone on the bench that knows MLS and has the proven ability to score or create offensively is highly valuable for Sporting right now.
Whether Davis, Mapp, or Hallisey are starting, having the other two available late in a game should prove to be huge for Sporting KC; as it did in this one. Peter said post game that he expects Davis to win us 5-7 points this season. There’s three.