Sporting Kansas City at Seattle: Takeaways from the opening game of MLS’s 2014 season


1. CONCACAF Champions League plays a role in Major League Soccer’s opener

Kansas City faces Cruz Azul mid-week at Sporting Park. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Peter Vermes exercised caution when selecting today’s starting lineup. Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic missed out. Oriol Rosell started on the bench in favor of Lawrence Olum. Graham Zusi was dropped into midfield in the absence of Paolo Nagamura. During a game decided by the thinest of margins, Sporting’s absences could have been the difference, but with Mexico’s leaders in Kansas on Wednesday, Vermes is already having to make sacrifices.

2. Changes will take some time to gel for Seattle

Seattle worked hard to create their winner, taking advantage of Sporting’s inability to deal with what could have been an innocuous cross, but for most of the match, the Sounders struggled to generate chances going forward. Granted, the same decryption could be applied to Kansas City, but coming off a fall where the attack was ineffectual, finding a way to consistently threaten goal is 2014’s number one priority. After 90 minutes, the search continues, but it continues from the top of the standings. And remember: This was Sporting Kansas City they were trying to break down.

3. This Sporting team looks awfully familiar

Stifling chances and chopping down their opponents. Add controlling the ball, and you’ve described a typical Sporting Kansas City performance. That they don’t win the possession battle (45 pct.) may have contributed to Seattle’s ability to create their final chance, one that delivered full points to Sigi Schmid’s side.

But that was Seattle’s first clear cut chance of the match. Going 93 minutes without allowing one, Sporting look capable of maintaining the stellar defensive record they’ve posted under Vermes (even if Eric Kronberg looked shaky at times in goal).

And with 25 fouls, the defending champions continue to play to type, continuing to pressure officials to limit how often they can obstruct over the course of 90 minutes.

It’s a very successful formula – one that opponents will continue to find frustrating throughout the 2014 season. Until somebody can give them an incentive to stop, there’s no reason for Sporting to change how they go about their business.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.