Sporting Kansas City won the West, and clinched home field advantage on that side of the MLS playoffs, with its 2-1 win over Los Angeles FC Sunday.
Here are three things we learned from the Decision Day match:
“Playing for a tie” might as well be a string of curse words
Had Kansas City’s 1-1 tie with LAFC held, it still would have taken the No. 1 seed in the West. Still, Sporting pushed for the game-winner that eventually materialized in the form of a Daniel Salloi goal.
Opponents of the “sit back and play conservatively to keep a tie” style, rejoice.
“We knew we could have tied the game and been through and still would have been first place, but our mentality is not built that way to go in and try to get a tie,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes said. “I think we have an obligation to the fans to win here at home and show them that we appreciate the fact that they’re with us.”
Salloi, himself the scorer of the game-winner, was of the same mindset.
“I think you can never play for a tie,” he said.
And from this point on, that mindset will be even more important.
Sporting’s back line will likely be shuffled for its first playoff match
In addition to the equalizing penalty kick from LAFC, Seth Sinovic’s handball and red card ejection will have longer-lasting effects. He’ll have to sit Kansas City’s first postseason match on Nov. 11 (unless Sporting wins any kind of an appeals process).
After Sinovic’s expulsion Sunday, midfielder Yohan Croizet slid over into a left back position. Expect to see more of a shuffled lineup from Kansas City’s defense as it enters the playoffs.
This team is in the form it wants heading into the postseason
There is no denying that Kansas City had its fair share of rough patches this season. A six-game winless streak from late June to early August was punctuated by injuries and a lack of form.
But in the sport of tremendous ups and downs, Kansas City has slid into the last portion of the season in the form that it wants. Daniel Salloi is scoring goals left and right – including Sunday’s game-winner. The team has won its last three matches, and hasn’t lost since it dropped a 2-0 match against Philadelphia on Sept. 23. It’s only allowed eight goals in the past two months.
And finally, for a franchise whose struggle has always been having to go on the road in the postseason, Kansas City has secured homefield advantage through the Western Conference half of the playoffs.