Beyond The Box Score: Disjointed defeat draws end to unbeaten run

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes was frank in his assessment of Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution on Saturday — a result that snapped his team’s seven-game unbeaten run.

“I don’t think it was a good game to watch,” he said after the match. “It was like car crashes all over the field. At some point, I thought I was maybe watching a tennis match a little bit because the ball was in the air so much. I don’t think it was a good game from that perspective, but I don’t think any team really did anything to warrant three points.”

In the end, three points went to New England — thanks in large part to a controversial goal awarded to Teal Bunbury just before halftime. Vermes’ remarks ring true, however, as they are supported by a slew of statistics that point to the overall caginess of Saturday’s battle on the Gillette Stadium turf.

With both sides pressing high up the field in a bid to create turnovers and win possession, a fragmented spectacle unfolded where neither side was comfortable on the ball and high-quality chances came at a premium. Consider the following:

  • Sporting KC and New England combined for one big chance created all night long, arriving in the 84th minute when Ike Opara’s pinpoint cross was headed narrowly wide by Khiry Shelton.
  • The teams combined for three shots on target from inside the box, the fewest in a game for either side this season.
  • Both teams finished with their second-lowest passing accuracy clips of the season, with Sporting KC at 77.9 percent and New England at 70.6 percent.

Unsurprisingly, New England’s final stat sheet was a less drastic departure from the norm than Sporting KC’s. Head coach Brad Friedel’s men have adopted a frenetic, pressing style of play this season and have played five matches on the fast-playing turf of their home venue.

The disjointed nature of Saturday’s match worked against Sporting KC, a club that predicates itself on possession and territorial dominance. The table below illustrates just that.

Statistic First 8 matches 
(avg. per game)
Saturday vs.
New England
Successful passes (attacking half) 252 (1st in MLS) 128 *
Passing accuracy (attacking half) 80.0 (1st in MLS) 64.0 *
Touches in opponent's box 31.5 (2nd in MLS) 15 *
Shots on target inside box 4.9 (3rd in MLS) 2
Big chances created 2.6 (3rd in MLS) 1 *

* Team-low in 2018

“The ideas were there for us tonight, but the execution wasn’t,” Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi said. “We saw what we wanted to do, and we saw some areas that we can exploit with New England, but at the end of the day we didn’t get it done.”

Still occupying first place in the Western Conference standings, Sporting KC returns to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday to host the Colorado Rapids at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are available via SeatGeek.com and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a Matt Besler bobblehead courtesy of match sponsor Mainstreet Credit Union.

And speaking of Besler, the Kansas City-born captain became the club’s all-time leader in regular season starts on Saturday, passing current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin at the summit.

MOST STARTS FOR SPORTING KC
(MLS REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)

Player Starts Years in KC
Matt Besler 229 2009-present
Kerry Zavagnin 228 2000-2008
Nick Garcia 224 2000-2007
Davy Arnaud 213 2002-2011
Jimmy Conrad 203 2003-2010
Preki 199 1996-2000;
2002-2005
Graham Zusi 187 2009-present
Chris Klein 183 1998-2005
Roger Espinoza 179 2008-2012;
2015-present
Seth Sinovic 163 2011-present
Series: 
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