2013 MLS Cup - Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City

Late goal from FC Dallas earns draw in Kansas City; Sporting’s attack suffering while squad rotates


Even as the defending champions were beaten last week in Seattle, Sporting Kansas City showed all the characteristics of their typical, Eastern Conference-dominating selves. They didn’t win the possession battle, but they were stingy in defense, rugged in the middle, and at least tried to keep the ball. That’s what we think of when Peter Vermes’ team comes to mind, so even as they lost 1-0 to the Sounders, the fact that a team without four regular starts could maintain its identity was an encouraging sign.

That sign was still there on Saturday as Sporting dropped points at home to FC Dallas, but giving up a late goal to Matt Hedges in a 1-1 draw, the champs were left to rue their inability to generate a second goal. Despite 64 percent possession and an 8-1 edge in shots on target (18-7, overall), Sporting couldn’t craft the quality opportunity they needed to get a second past Chris Seitz. With Aurélien Collin’s 81st minute opener coming off a Benny Feilhaber corner, a team that’s managing its regulars’ minutes has only scored from open play once in three games (counting CONCACAF Champions League).

source: Getty Images
Aurélien Collin converted a late Benny Feilhaber corner to give Sporting Kansas City’s its first goal of the MLS season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

The effect, however, has been a lack of good chances in the team’s two MLS games. In Seattle, a strong defensive performance from the Sounders and the absences of the team’s starting full backs left Sporting a shell of their former selves (albeit a dangerous one). Against Dallas, it was Graham Zusi’s turn to sit, meaning the team was without the man who pulls the strings in the final third. With Óscar Pareja content to see his team set back and play without the ball, Sporting couldn’t break through until a late corner, even if they saw a number of other close calls.

With Feilhaber’s set piece delivery and a target man like Collin, it’s not the worst situation for Sporting Kansas City, but it is an instructive one. Over the last two years, as players like Kei Kamara have left the team, Sporting has become more dependent on building play on the ground. That means not only more dependence on Zusi but also things like the runs Paolo Nagamura brings, the holding play of Oriol Rosell, and the space created as Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers bomb up the wings. Together, the mix forms a delicate balance MLS rosters might not be able to maintain when players have to be cycled out.

Tonight, the team’s key component was out. No Zusi? No open play goals. Without Nagamura and Myers, however, the team was also missing some important complementary components. We’ll see how many can return for this week’s trip to Cruz Azul.

Hilarious “Friends” spoof video ‘starring’ Messi, Ronaldo (video)

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Given the rivalry surrounding the two megawatt superstars plying their trade in Spain, you may be surprised to learn that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best of friends.

[ MORE: Top USMNT-Mexico rivalry moments ]

At least that’s what this spoof video conveys, as the Real Madrid and Barcelona stars help each other navigate tax season and toilet troubles.

Brilliant stuff, from FootbOle:

Top USMNT-Mexico moments: Looking back ahead of Saturday

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Landon Donovan #10 of United States celebrates his goal with teammates Carlos Bocanegra #3 and Alejandro Bedoya #22  against Mexico during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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You could argue its the biggest match between the U.S. and Mexico outside of the 2002 World Cup’s Round of 16, and there would be few arguments against you.

The United States and Mexico will tangle on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, with the winner advancing to the 2017 Confederations Cup finals in Russia.

It’s only so often that these rivals match up in a “do or die” match. Sure World Cup qualifiers carry critical import, but they don’t always become the decisive moment in the qualifying cycle.

[ MORE: Spurs’ teen shining at center back for U.S. U-23s ]

Aside from the aforementioned World Cup match and the first match in the rivalry — see 1934 below — no other match has carried as much international weight as Saturday.

So with anticipation high, let’s dance backward in time to the Yanks’ best moments in the rivalry. And let’s also imagine what would have to happen to put Saturday in the mix.

(Of course, our apologies to Mexican fans. We aren’t including the times you slapped American soccer in the face).

2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 — “Dos a Cero” to the fourth power

There is no more celebrated score line in USMNT history than the 2-0 hurting it put on Mexico in four successive home World Cup qualifiers.

2002 — World Cup Round of 16

Goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan prodded an upset of the world’s then-No. 7 ranked nation, as the USMNT carried a feel of destiny through its best World Cup.

1934 — World Cup qualifier

Aldo Donnelli scored all four goals as the States won the first recorded match against Mexico, and it was a big one. The winner would go on to the 1934 tournament in Italy, while the loser would go on a tour of European friendlies. The States won, and wouldn’t win again until the qualifiers for the 1982 tournament.

2012 — First win at Azteca

It may’ve been a friendly, but Michael Orozco’s finish will go down as the Yanks’ first ever winner in the fortress of Mexico City.

1980 — World Cup qualifier

Though it meant little to the Yanks’ fate in the 1982 tournament — the U.S. finished last in a group with Mexico and Canada — it was the first win over El Tri in 46 years.