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SKC Looking to Heat Up in June

Favorable Month Ahead for Sporting

Chris Uno Cero
June 01, 2017 - 6:10 pm

Sporting Kansas City had a pretty good last month, considering the circumstances they were in. They played 6 games in the month of May, and there were clear signs of fatigue. Their record in the month was 2-1-3 (WDL). All three losses on the month were on the road against very beatable teams in Minnesota, Vancouver, and Colorado. In those losses, key guys got rest because of the grueling schedule, which meant they weren’t at full strength.

But even with Sporting ending the month on a sub .500 record, they still managed to grab the 2nd spot to in the Western Conference. Sitting at 22 points, they’re 1 point behind Houston for the top spot. They had been on top until Houston thrashed Real Salt Lake last night 5-1.  They also are tied with the best goal differential in the Western Conference with FC Dallas and Houston at 6. Considering how tough of a schedule they played in the month of May, I’d say this is pretty encouraging.

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The big takeaway I have on the field is that the offense is ‘next man up’. Latif Blessing had a brace in his first start of the season against Orlando. Gerso pulled off a hat trick against Seattle. The offense is capable of sustaining itself even if Dom Dwyer misses time. This didn't seem like the case early in the season, as they struggled to put up goals with Dom Dwyer on the field, but not they seem to be able to have 4 guys they can count on to generate offense. This month showed the potential that they have on that side of the ball, and it is encouraging for the team's championship aspirations.

The defense on the other hand takes a major hit if the key guys don’t play. Ike Opara and Graham Zusi have been given rest by Vermes in multiple games in May, and when they’re watching the game, it’s usually a disaster. Neither of the two played in the game against Minnesota, and it led to 2 easy goals on their side and many other missed opportunities by the Loons because half of SKC’s backline was backup level talent. This isn’t like in the UEFA leagues, where the top talent can afford to be rested because the backup talent is still pretty damn good. This is the MLS. Maybe the 8th or 9th best league in the world in terms of overall talent. You don’t have the level of depth to just simply replace a key guy for a game and still be okay on the field. The UEFA teams are the equivalent to all star teams, hence the reason why the MLS All Star teams play UEFA teams in the All Star Game. If they need to sit a a top player, or even get rid of one, they generally have or can find a replacement player that can play at that level with ease. It's tougher for a a league that's just starting to gain some traction with star players internationally. Look at how impactful the additions of the international players have been to MLS clubs (see Chicago and Schweinsteiger). Now imagine having an entire team full of players as good as these guys, or even better. That's the difference, and Vermes has most definitely learned that lesson in May. The talent difference in his starting lineup and his bench is vast.

Going into the month of June, Sporting KC has 4 MLS Cup games and 1 US Open Cup game. They’ll start the month off with Minnesota United FC on Saturday, and look to avenge a 2-0 loss last month to them up north. This time they’ll be at Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting has been amazing at, amassing a 5-1-0 (WDL) record on the season. This time, they should be well rested and ready to go at 100%.

The rest of the month they take on Montreal, Minnesota (US Open Cup), San Jose, and LA. It looks like a pretty manageable schedule. Minnesota has the second worst GD in the MLS at -11. Montreal is the worst team in the Eastern Conference. You’ve already beaten San Jose before this season, no matter how fluky it was, and LA has been up and down all year long, and probably isn’t a contender. I would expect them to rest key guys against Minnesota in the US Open Cup game, It’s a Wednesday night game and really isn’t all that meaningful for their MLS Cup aspirations. It would be best to make sure the guys are in good form for the most important games.

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All-in-all, I think SKC is in good position to make a nice run to distance themselves from the crowd. They had a chance to do that in May, but 3 losses on the road stifled that. Top East team Toronto has a 5 point cushion on the 2nd ranked Chicago Fire, who have surged this past month. They haven’t lost a game since April 15th, and now have a league-best GD of 14. Sporting needs to have a month like that. I think 8 points is a very reasonable expectation for the month. I think they get 10 points on the month, but you never know how they’ll play on the road. As long as they begin to build up some momentum, they could propel themselves to a run that could go deep into the fall.

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