Sporting Kansas City came back from getting thrashed 5-0 in Concacaf Champions League play this week to draw FC Cincinnati 1-1 on the road Sunday. Here are three things we learned from Sunday’s match:
That much-talked-about SKC depth can get results
Kansas City started against Cincinnati with dramatic lineup changes from Thursday’s CCL match in Monterrey, Mexico. Only Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez and Andreu Fontás started both games. In the new-look lineup, two (goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas and midfielder Gedion Zelalem) made their Major League Soccer debuts.
And at first, it seemed like Kansas City emptying its bench 72 hours after falling in Monterrey was going to lead to an MLS loss, too. They played out-of-sorts for the first quarter of the game, and allowed a Cincinnati penalty kick in the 19th minute.
But SKC settled down, 16-year-old Gianluca Busio scored the second-half equalizer, and that bench stole a road point from Cincinnati. We’ve heard plenty about SKC’s depth. And Sunday – missing eight regular starters for the majority of the 90 minutes – was a chance for that second team to prove it can get results too.
Johnny Russell’s motor just won’t quit
Russell played Thursday night against Monterrey and was one of the few starters who stepped on the pitch in Cincinnati. He also played as if that wasn’t the case: In addition to his typical full-speed-ahead attacking runs, Russell also had several great defensive plays. In particular, his recovery in the second half against an attacking Cincinnati player probably saved a chance, and he added a couple other clearances throughout the day.
You have to wonder when Russell will get the break that most of the rest of his fellow starters got. But for Sunday at least, his energy level ,wasn’t an issue.
When SKC is missing starters, back line might be weakest link
Sporting KC was lucky to head into halftime against Cincinnati only down one goal. FC Cincinnati hit the post on one chance, and got close on a few more. Cincinnati also did a great job bringing guys forward and putting pressure on Kansas City, which seemed, at times, disorganized in the back. There were a couple of times Zendejas jumped off his line and there seemed to be miscommunication between him and the SKC defenders.
Some of that’s to be expected, with a goalkeeper making his MLS debut, and with a group (Rodney Wallace, Botond Barath, Fontás and Nicolas Hasler) who have never played as one unit before. And they did settle down eventually (regular starter Seth Sinovic subbed in midway through the first half). But the back line was consistently exploited Sunday against Cincinnati, especially with long balls over the top. It’s something to keep an eye on, should SKC’s regular group back there misses consistent time.