Sporting Kansas City, fresh off a Concacaf Champions League series win over Deportivo Toluca FC, opened its Major League Soccer season Sunday with a 2-1 loss at LAFC. Here are three things we learned from SKC’s last-second loss:
Next couple weeks will tell us a lot about depth
Entering Sunday’s match, plenty of questions swirled about what manager Peter Vermes would do with his lineup. SKC played its CCL match Thursday night in Toluca, Mexico (at 8,500-foot elevation) with its full starting XI. They’ll play again Wednesday at Club Atletico Independiente. So what lineup do you run out there for the match sandwiched by those CCL competitions?
Vermes elected to start his regular lineup with no changes. And the first half did nothing to discount that choice. Kansas City went into the half leading 1-0 and did a commendable job managing LAFC’s pressure to that point.
But in the second half, SKC started to look more fatigued. Diego Rossi torched defender Graham Zusi on the LAFC equalizer. SKC’s attack wilted. Challenges from SKC were more Tonka trunk than finesse, even by its standards (culminating in a Roger Espinoza red card in the 84th minute that left SKC a man down).
Vermes started throwing some substitutions in after the 61st minute. Still, you have to wonder how Sunday might have ended had the match started with a bit of a different lineup from the get-go. This is one of the deepest teams SKC has had – and the next few weeks, as they juggle CCL and MLS duties, will be a chance to test it out.
Seth Sinovic is such an underrated piece of back line
By definition, defenders are nearly always underrated. But even by those standards, Sinovic doesn’t always get the love he deserves. He doesn’t have the national team caps of Matt Besler, or the flashiness of the goal-scoring Graham Zusi. Instead, Sinovic occupies a quiet, but vital, cog in this defense.
There were plenty of moments Sunday that challenged SKC’s back line, with LAFC coming out pressuring from the jump. But on a night where LAFC scored twice – and on a night where Zusi struggled more than he has in a while – Sinovic held his own. Before LAFC scored in the waning seconds of stoppage time and it all became a moot point, Sinovic stopped what was about to be an LAFC go-ahead goal midway through the second half. On a counter, Carlos Vela charged downfield and saw nothing but green in front of him. But Sinovic, sprinting 20 yards to catch up, cut off Vela’s avenue with no time to spare.
Even on tired legs, Sinovic showed up and was one of the best players of the night.
Nemeth’s form soothes lingering worries about attack
Pretty much since Dom Dwyer departed SKC in the summer of 2017, fans and media alike have been asking when or if SKC would go out and buy itself a true No. 9. (This, despite setting a club record in goals scored last season). Those questions only returned when it traded away striker Diego Rubio this offseason.
But Krisztian Nemeth – who played for SKC before and returned midway through last year – is in great form. To start the season, he has three goals in three matches (two in CCL, one in MLS). And his goal to open up the scoring Sunday against LAFC was a beauty, taking a feeder from Johnny Russell on the wing.
It’s still early, but for now, Nemeth is looking every bit as good of an attacker and creator as what SKC would have purchased on the market anyways.