Man of the Match: Sporting Kansas City’s Aurelien Collin is a top-level MLS center back when he plays in control. Saturday, we saw the “under control” Collin, timing his challenges and entrances into passing lanes to claim almost everything near him. His work in the first half was especially flawless, and then he turned up with the game-winning header to keep his team’s record perfect through six matches.
Packaged for take-away:
Collin was 100 percent unchallenged on the game-winner; It was RSL’s Alvaro Saborio who lost Collin on the restart.
A contest between the best of each conference played out very tactically. RSL was fairly conservative, which isn’t really the RSL way. Fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert mostly declined to join the attack, and midfielders were slow to arrive in support of their strikers. The result was quality soccer, but “tactically” quality soccer, and not necessarily explosive attacking stuff.
Sporting Kansas City’s high-pressure ways, so expertly coordinated in terms of when to press as a unit, made things tough on Real Salt Lake. The visitors never found the passing rhythm for which Jason Kreis’ teams are known.
The early corner kicks by Graham Zusi and Bobby Convey were brutal. Surprisingly so. But Zusi began finding the sweet spot on his deliveries, including the game-winning assist to Collin.
That assist matched Thierry Henry’s in New York, which means Zusi still leads the league (and Henry) by one.
Speaking of corner kicks, it’s awful tough to see where the foul was on C.J. Sapong’s disallowed first-half goal.
If you watch the impact Kei Kamara continually has on matches, including a lot of laudable help on SKC’s defensive end, and then compare it to the impact-Lite that Convey is supplying on the opposite wing, it’s not even close.
The only sore point Saturday for Sporting Kansas City: Peter Vermes’ team did, finally, allow a shot on goal. So the streak was snapped at a remarkable 335 minutes.
That shot on goal? By the end, RSL center back Nat Borchers was playing as another forward, as RSL resorted the old faithful of late, playing-from-behind tactics, pushing long balls hopefully into the penalty area. Borchers got onto one to direct a header on goal, which Jimmy Neilsen handled comfortably.
Last shot on goal against Sporting Kansas City before Borchers’ header: March 25.
Real Salt Lake went to a 4-3-3 for the last 15 minutes and did find space not previously available, mostly out on the right wing, where Fabian Espindola gave left back Seth Sinovic some trouble.
Roger Espinoza had another busy, effective night as the left-sided man in SKC’s midfield triangle. Like Collin, he’s a highly useful and skillful individual when he plays under control.
The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.
My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.
2018 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.
Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:
“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”
Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.
Sticking with the orange and blue color combination which has served them since inception, the shield has FC in the top left corner, Cincinnati running diagonally left-to-right in blue script on white, and a winged lion holding a sword as the primary icon.