Mar 10, 2018; Bridgeview, IL, USA; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez (21) reacts after scoring a goal against the Chicago Fire during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
It was a roller coaster of a match Saturday, as Sporting Kansas City took down Chicago on the road, 4-3. After Sporting got shut out last week, goals rained down Saturday from Felipe Gutiérrez, Johnny Russell and Jimmy Medranda. Meanwhile, Chicago shot some major holes in what was previously the league’s best defense. Here are three things we learned from Kansas City’s dramatic victory:
Felipe Gutierrez is a pistol
The Chilean designated player was relatively quiet last week against NYCFC. But all 5-foot-7 of him was a force Saturday, squirming all over the field to create chances. It was Gutiérrez’s first MLS goal that put Sporting on the board early on in the ninth minute, and it was his finish in the 86th that served as the match-winner.
Even outside of his goals, Gutiérrez had promising moments: He fed a perfect ball into Gerso Fernandes in the 76th minute. Ferndandes’ shot darted just right of the goal, but it was the kind of creative chance Sporting desperately needed at the moment, just after giving up two Fire scores.
It takes time for new guys to find their groove
Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes has preached it throughout the offseason, and we’re seeing it play out now: It takes weeks for new additions to mesh together, especially on the offensive end. Soccer isn’t quite like baseball, where you can trade for a player and just stick him in the batter’s box, ready to go. It’s a sport that requires a subtle weaving of playing styles, and seamless communication. That takes time to develop, and we’re already starting to see new players like Russell and Gutiérrez look more comfortable in Sporting’s offense. The two combined to score three of Sporting’s four goals, despite playing their first matches with the club just last week.
Sporting’s defense is now facing far more questions than its offense
Coming into the season, it was Kansas City’s offense that felt like it could be off-kilter, with a poor track record last year and several new pieces coming into the fold. And after an all-league performance in 2017, Sporting’s defense felt like solid ground. But after two matches and five goals conceded (including three in the second half against Chicago), that’s no longer the obvious case.
The Fire only got one shot off in the first half Saturday: That’s the kind of stonewalling Kansas City has come to expect from itself. But the Fire scored twice in five minutes after halftime, and briefly held a 3-2 lead, dashing holes into Sporting’s defense left and right.
It took 10 matches last year before Sporting allowed five goals, compared to two this year. Not one 2017 opponent put three on the board against Kansas City, something Chicago did in 82 minutes Saturday. So it’s disorienting for this year’s squad to be as porous as it has been so far in 2018. It may only be Week 2, but Sporting’s defense has serious questions to answer.