In the middle of three games in eight days, Frank Klopas had to prioritize. He couldn’t have his whole team playing both legs of the club’s Canadian Championship semifinal as well as today’s match against Sporting Kansas City. That’s why, come kickoff today at Stade Saputo, a back four averaging 23 years of age was tasked with stopping the defending champions, with Jed Brovsky, Wandrille Lefevra, Karl Ouimette and Maxim Tissout asked to forget the fact Montral had already given up four goals to Sporting earlier this season.
Thanks to an early red card to Collin Warner, Klopas never got a real chance to evaluate his young defenders. Instead, he saw an already out-gunned team play at a numeric disadvantage for 73 minutes. With two goals from Dom Dwyer sandwiching Paolo Nagamura’s first half tally, Sporting claimed its second victory of the season over Montreal, the 3-0 result keeping Peter Vermes’ team at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Here’s the early, match-changing foul:
Did Warner forget where he was? Perhaps thinking he was in the middle of the field? Because it appears as if the Montreal midfielder was trying to pull a trick you’d see elsewhere on the field, grabbing the ball to stop play after you’ve gone down. Instinct probably took over, but how do players develop instincts that lead to fouls like this. Unless you’re Luis Suarez against Ghana, decisions like this rarely pay off.
Dom Dwyer converted the ensuing spot kick for this fifth goal of the year, giving Sporting a lead it’d double by halftime. In the 34th minute, Paulo Nagamura finished far post from the left of goal, eliminating what little uncertainty remained after Warner’s red card.
Given Kansas City already routed Montreal once this season, the result is less surprising than how it happened, yet the contrast between Sporting’s 11-on-10 performance and that of New York last week at Dallas makes for an interesting comparison. Granted, Dallas is a much better team than Montreal, but playing up a man in Frisco, Tex., the Red Bulls struggled, having to rely on a goal in transition from Bradley Wright-Phillips to claim full points. Had Blas Perez converted his early second half penalty kick, the result could have gone the other way.
Sporting, on the other hand, played 11-on-10 as if it spent most of the preseason practicing the scenario. The team’s passes were quick, assured – almost rehearsed. On one first half sequence, a ball fed to Graham Zusi above the defense’s left channel saw the U.S. international turned to play it wide as the ball was still on its way. With nobody within three yards of him, Zusi’s body language portrayed a man executing a step in a recipe the team knows by heart. Within 17 minutes of the red card, Sporting had put the match away.
As a result, Sporting will stay at the top of the Eastern Conference. Montreal, meanwhile, turns its attentions to midweek, when FC Edmonton visits Stade Saputo.