KANSAS CITY, KS - APRIL 14: Alvaro Saborio #15 of Real Salt Lake topples over Kei Kamara #23 of Sporting Kansas City as they compete for the ball during the Major League Soccer game on April 14, 2012 at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
If you went into this match thinking it would be anything but a tough fought physical match, you would have been mistaken. It was going to be a challenge to see which style would win out, and the overwhelming pressure that SKC put on the ball all over the pitch that forced RSL to play a style that doesn't suit them.
I thought early in the match that RSL might be able to dictate the match as they came out early and forced Sporting on their heels a bit, but without being able to create any real offensive chances Sporting gained their composure and confidence and began playing their style of match. I am pleased that RSL was able to keep SKC to a season low 10 shots, as well as a season low of 3 shots on goal, it was one of the 11 corner kicks that RSL gave up that resulted in a lost mark and Aurelien Collin finding the back of the net. I think the 73% passing accuracy by RSL is probably a season low for them, a result of the formation and pressure that Sporting applied.
So while RSL lost the match 1-0, a fairly common result against Sporting, I am left wanting more, I oh so wish we had kept a balanced schedule, so we could see these two teams do battle again. Nope instead we get bye weeks and a schedule that leaves me still confused how this is good for the league.
After the jump my position by position thoughts.
I was solidly impressed with RSL's defense, I mean Nick Rimando was solid as he can be and made an incredible save to keep the match 1-0. The back line dealt with the size and physical nature of Sporting rather well, they keep the dangerous chances limited, they kept Bobby Convey from making really any impact other than taking corner kicks all night. It was a solid effort against a team with a lot of players who could have caused problems.
In the midfield I thought that Will Johnson and Sebastian Velasquez were very good, they worked hard on both sides of the ball and were the best I thought at responding to the high pressure of Sporting by applying their own pressure right back. Kyle had a good match, but I wish he had tried a couple shots from distance when he had the ball, we know he can make those shots and it might have helped ease the pressure if we made SKC think about having to defend more. Luis Gil did what he could but clearly as he was battling the high pressure he was taken out of his game by the defensive efforts and physical play of both Espinoza and Cesar. Jonny Steele came on and provided a bit of energy and a bit more physical toughness, but by then Sporting had changed their tactics a bit and made it hard for him to find much space to work.
Up top I was a bit disappointed by the effort, Sabo was deliberate but slow to respond on both sides of the ball. He clearly didn't react to the game the way I hoped he would, it seemed as if he tried to avoid the battles more than his normal relishing in them. I thought Fabi made some great runs and did his normal incredible amount of work on both sides of the ball, it was clear that he wasn't backing down from anyone but I thought a few of his runs were a bit lackluster. That may have been frustration at the lack of touches and opportunities. I thought it was a brave move to bring in Paulo Jr. as a third forward and given the result it had (increased possession and chances at goal) I wonder if we should have made the move earlier?
Listen when top teams collide it often is going to be a match the the result is going to come off a set piece or a mistake, in this case it was both of them. RSL must get better on all their set piece defending, but it is early in the year and I expect they will rebound quickly.
OFF MY SOAPBOX