Sporting Kansas City moved to six games unbeaten (three wins) with a 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas on Friday night, pushing the Western Conference newcomers to third place in the wild West. Few expected Peter Vermes’ side to gel and take the league by storm this quickly, but they’ve been immensely impressive in doing so.
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Most importantly, Friday’s showing put the rest of the league on notice: the end of the 2014 season was more an aberration than a sign of things to come. Three things to be taken from the latest installment of Viernes de Futbol…
Krisztian Nemeth was brought in to be a (the?) difference maker, but he’s turning into a star instead
The thought behind Sporting’s signing of the ex-Liverpool prodigy’s this winter was that he’d serve as a consistent second scoring threat, taking the focus of opposing defenses off last year’s 22-goalscorer, Dom Dwyer, while chipping in eight or 10 goals of his own.
Instead, Nemeth has hit the ground running in MLS (when healthy) and very much usurped Dwyer’s star power — at least for the time being — with a three-game stretch (three goals, two assists – six and two on the season) in which he’s constantly looked like the best player on the field, in games against New England, Seattle and FCD — three surefire playoff teams and MLS Cup contenders.
The way Nemeth dominated, and at times toyed with, FCD’s talented, veteran central defense on Friday night (just watch how he leaves Matt Hedges for dead HERE) should serve as notice to the rest of the league. He’s dangerous with clever runs into the left channel, he’s simultaneously shifty and strong in his hold-up play, and yet he somehow looks most comfortable when running straight at defenders with the ball at his feet.
Dear Jurgen Klinsmann, please write Benny Feilhaber’s name on your Gold Cup roster…in ink
This is one has more to do with the last 18 months than Friday night’s shellacking at Sporting Park — though Feilhaber was pure quality yet again — but, to steal a now-famous line from Sacha Kljestan, are you even watching, Klinsmann?
Feilhaber has been, by miles and miles, the best midfielder in MLS since the start of the 2014 season (see HERE, HERE, HERE and most notably HERE…and especially HERE). Three months of total balling out wasn’t enough to earn a call-up to last summer’s World Cup? OK, fair enough, do it for an extended period of time. The second half of 2014 looked much the same as the first. Three three months of 2015, Feilhaber has four goals and seven assists to his name.
To say he’s been the best player on the field in 75 percent of Sporting’s games this season would be selling the man short. No longer just a one-way, luxury playmaker, Feilhaber covers more ground and recovers more balls inside his own half than most defensive midfielders. In short, he’s exactly the player the U.S. national team was praying Michael Bradley could be in a more advanced role last summer. No sour grapes here, though, just hoping against all odds and precedence that Klinsmann won’t make the same mistake two summers in a row.
FCD looked extraordinarily average without Fabian Castillo
FCD managed to get by to a certain extent (one win, one draw) in four games without Mauro Diaz earlier this season. While the Argentine No. 10 is the beating heart of everything FCD look to do on a given night, the level of fright Castillo puts into the hearts of opposing full backs — and the subsequent production built upon said fear — is simply irreplaceable and further cements his place as the most dangerous attacking player in the league.
Without Castillo in the 18 on Friday night, the Sporting midfield collapsed on Diaz early and often, giving nary a glimpse of time or space in which to operate. Without the threat of Castillo running behind the exploitable right side of Sporting’s defense, the backline pushed higher and higher, smothering possession after possession deep in the middle third of the field.
Keying in on and shutting down one star attacker isn’t all that difficult in MLS, but doing so against a duo as talented as Castillo and Diaz…that’s a whole other story.