3-2 defeat on Saturday night against the New England Revolution (2-2-3, nine points) at Gillette Stadium
Ninth in the Eastern Conference and last overall on four points (1-3-1) with 29 games remaining
Three things to take away:
1) Kansas City have to find a way to keep 11 men on the field for all 90 minutes.
[inline_node:334720]The numbers don’t lie. When Kansas City finish a match with a full side, they’ve earned a tidy four points with one win and one draw (a 3-3 result against Vancouver that really should have been a victory).
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
When Sporting see red, they haven’t collected a point from three very winnable matches. With all the focus on MLS refereeing so far this season and the League’s efforts to crack down on rough play, it has been the newcomers (Omar Bravo, Júlio César and Aurélien Collin) who have drawn the ire of referees. The quicker those three – as well as the club’s other potential offenders – become comfortable with the refereeing, the quicker Kansas City can try to get on track.
2) When will Sporting finally have a back line they can count on from game to game?
With red cards, injuries and international absences preventing manager Peter Vermes from sticking with a regular back four, Kansas City have struggled mightily to keep the ball out of their own net. Sporting have fielded four different defensive lineups in five games, which isn’t exactly a recipe for success in a system that relies on familiarity and timing.
Vermes seemed to have found his preferred lineup against New England in Michael Harrington, Collin, Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza, but Collin’s red card may have thrown a wrench in those plans. Kansas City are appealing the Frenchman's automatic one-game suspension, but there is no guarantee that will be overturned, leaving open the possibility that even more shuffling is on the horizon.
3) It’s not time to panic just yet.
It certainly doesn’t feel good to sit in last place, but all is not lost in Kansas City. It may be apples to oranges, but both Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids logged five-game stretches with four points or less in 2009 and 2010 on their way to winning MLS Cups. Both of those sides also had fewer regular-season games in which to make up ground.
RSL actually took just three points from seven games in May and early June of 2009, a stretch that included their most recent defeat at Rio Tinto Stadium – to Kansas City, no less – and managed to fight all the way back into the MLS Cup Playoffs race. Still, those slides didn’t last forever, and Sporting must find a way to end their own.
Two players who stood out:
Forward Kei Kamara
[inline_node:334708]Kamara has picked up right where he left off last season from an attacking standpoint, and that’s an encouraging sign moving forward for Kansas City. He scored his second goal of the season to answer the Revs opener, sliding the ball just inside the near post with his weaker peg, and added his third from the spot to give Sporting a brief lead.
Unfortunately, the play Kamara will likely remember most came on the other end of the field. Though he is accustomed to marking the other team’s most dangerous weapon on set pieces and takes pride in his defensive ability, Kamara couldn’t keep Shalrie Joseph from rising to meet Kenny Mansally’s free kick to tie the score at two.
Defender Aurélien Collin
Collin played well for 75 minutes Saturday night, showing an aggressive attitude and ability to snuff out dangerous situations that hasn’t been present alongside Besler for much of this season. Unfortunately, he was on the wrong end of a bit of play acting and referee baiting that saw his night end earlier than anyone in Kansas City had hoped.
Though Sporting are hopeful the French defender’s suspension will be rescinded by Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee this week, making him available against New York, there should be no shortage of opportunities to see Collin in action the remainder of the year.
One play that changed the game:
Pointing to Collin’s dismissal is the easy answer but not necessarily the correct one. The true turning point for Kansas City came when Joseph erased the visitors' 2-1 advantage just minutes after Kamara’s penalty kick hit the back of the net.
Instead of having the luxury of playing with a lead late in the match and waiting for opportunities to hit the Revolution on the break, Sporting found themselves dealing with an inspired opponent playing in front of its home crowd and pushing for all three points. Once Collin was sent off, New England had the space it needed to push even more numbers forward and the goal came just eight minutes later.
Add another gut-wrenching defeat to the growing list of disappointing results this year for Sporting, who just can’t seem to catch a break through five games. Whether it’s dubious red cards or defensive collapses, this is a team that could do with a healthy dose of luck. All in all, Vermes’ side probably deserved a point against the Revolution, but Kansas City can only look to themselves for blame. Sure, Collin’s ejection changed proceedings, but the visitors had plenty of opportunities to prevent it from ever getting to that point.
Saturday at the New York Red Bulls (3-1-2, first in Eastern Conference). In an ideal world, Kansas City would have a few home games on the horizon to build up some much-needed confidence after a rough start. Unfortunately, reality isn’t nearly so kind.
After some hiccups early in the season, New York seem to be firing on all cylinders. The Red Bulls boast one of the league’s deepest and most talent-laden rosters, and Designated Player Thierry Henry is finally finding his groove. Kansas City need all three points, but one would be seen as an extremely encouraging result from this fixture.