Monday, April 4, 2011

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-3 Sporting KC: An Advertisement for MLS

Vancouver and Sporting KC played one of the best MLS games you will see all season. Some wonderful attacking football was displayed on Saturday afternoon. Sporting was lucky to still be at 0-0 after 30 minutes, as Vancouver was denied time after time by Sporting's Jimmy Nielsen. The Sporting defence looked suspect again as they have all season. There's no bite in the midfield either, and it's not a big surprise they would end up drawing this match and at times be over run.

Sporting grabbed the lead on a fantastic 20-yard strike by Teal Bunbury; who created something out of nothing and was able to get a shot away as the defender gave him a little room. Sporting's second came on  fantastic combination play by Milos Stojcev and Teal Bunbury. For the third rookie C.J. Sapong did a fantastic job down the left hand side before cutting the ball back and outside footing a pass across the box to Kei Kamara. This is were the defence should have shut up shop and the midfield should have overrun the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps were missing there star striker, too.

Since the season started I've said Vancouver is a darkhorse in the league. They've put this team together properly, and it has shown so far this season and have always looked impressive in each game. Atiba Harris would get the first goal goal off of a cross from the left side that came off of Harris's thigh. Harris was able to ghost into the box behind Sporting's defence. For the second there were too many Sporting players playing catch up, and most of them were jogging back expecting someone else to stop the attacker. Sapong allowed Davide Chiumento to get behind him, collect the ball and make a inch perfect pass to Camilo who slotted it home. Again, none of the Sporting defenders stepped up to the attacker and not enough pressure was put on the ball. The third would be similar, but this time from a looping Camilo header.

This was a fantastic match and is an advertisment for the league. It felt like a cup final at the end of the match. Though it was a draw this result was more like a loss for Sporting and a win for Vancouver in the way that it ended.

The biggest thing coming away from this match is Sporting has to get their defence sorted out. They've scored eight goals in three matches, but they have given up eight goals. In my opinion they are lucky to have four points from nine, and could very easily have drawn in week 1 with Chivas. They can't expect to outscore everyone in every game, and Vancouver's flair players tore the defence apart. Sporting has a fantastic attack, currently it may be the best in the league. But the midfield has no bite and the defence is pourous. Nielsen kept this from being a loss and should get apologies from the rest of the team after the poor defensive performance. Sporting allowed Jimmy Conrad to leave in the off-season, and though I don't think he'd make a big difference and it was a good idea to let him go, they didn't upgrade the position. Julio Cesar is pathetic and looks like Pablo Escobar v2.0. Rob Heineman and Peter Vermes are at fault for some of this as they have made this team incredibly unbalanced and top heavy. They desparately need a centreback who will mark an attacker and not allow them to get past so easily. Sporting would also be stronger at the back with defensive midfielder Craig Rocastle slotted slightly closer to the centrebacks and to protect them more. But perhaps, putting four in the midfield would allieviate the problems as well. However, a change from the 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 would take away from the wealth of attacking options Heineman and Vermes have assembled. I've said for a while now I think Heineman is weak at his position and isn't the soccer mind he believes he is. I know the salary cap doesn't allow for teams to have top notch players at every position. But with four strikers (Bunbury, Sapong, Kamara, Omar Bravo) you'd think they could sacrifice some of the attack for a defender or two. Aurelien Collin will join the team in the summer, but Sporting maybe in more trouble at the back before that.

Sporting may lose several players to the Gold Cup or other international competitions this summer. Being a supporter of this team I'm afraid they won't have the players to fill the voids and will not make the play-offs yet again.

In all a fantastic game, but at 3-0 no team should ever give up a lead. Sporting was lucky to get the point in the end.

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