I know, losing sucks. Losing twice in four days is even worse. Sporting Kansas City's loss in Columbus doesn't worry me much, though. Look, Sporting was always going to lose that game. It was the last game of a brutal stretch and on the road. We were missing Benny due to suspension and the indispensable Mustivar due to injury. Worse yet, the Crew are both an exceptionally good team at home and a team pretty much designed to beat Sporting Kansas City, especially the current lineup Sporting can run out onto the pitch.
The Crew feature some pretty crazy attacking talent on the wings, in the form of Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram. Under the best of circumstances--say, with our first choice outside backs fully fit--Sporting's system is vulnerable to counter attacks on the flanks. The Vermes style requires the fullbacks to bomb up the sides to provide our width in the attack. Sporting's system wreaks havoc on a narrow diamond formation like RSL used to play, but it is vulnerable to teams with wide counter-attacking players. Even with a fully fit Seth and Chance in the lineup, the Crew was going to be tough--and we did not have either a fully fit Chance or a fully fit Seth. Abdul-Salaam and Medranda (and then Dia) acquitted themselves well last night, but the kids were overmatched, at least for the moment.
What makes the wing-play of the Crew particularly dangerous is the freakishly athletic former Kansas City hero Kei Kamara playing in center forward to finish or layoff those counters. Kei is 6'3" and possibly the most athletically gifted player in the league. Alas, with Opara still injured, 5'9" Kevin Ellis had to mark Kei. Ellis once again did a good job under the circumstances, but the circumstances were far from ideal.
Throw in a Sporting midfield without any of the three stars who have made us so successful this season (Feilhaber, Espinoza, and Mustivar) to face the Crew trio of Higain, Tchani, and Trapp (possibly the most underrated midfield in the league), and Sporting faced a huge disadvantage. In our midfield, I was encouraged by the play of Nagamura (in that he hasn't fallen to pieces after the overuse of late) and Mikey Lopez (in that he looked decent while getting his first MLS start this season and still very young) and Zusi (his goal was just the topper on a great game back from him). Still, the problem with our midfield that had never played a competitive match together was that they looked like a midfield that had never played a competitive match together: their timing with one another was off, so passes went amiss, and then the Crew turned those into nasty counter attacks. We weren't able to string together much possession. That's how it goes when you have a new group playing together without much time to train before the match.
To top off all the attacking talent that started for Columbus, the Crew brought in Jack McInerney for the final half hour. Jack Mac is already a deadly but troubled journeyman in MLS at the age of 23. He's apparently too difficult to put up with in a locker room to stick anywhere, yet too talented to be out of work entirely. He got the poacher's goal to win the match, like he has done so many times elsewhere already in his brief career.
Surrendering a lead twice over the course of the match hurt. Losing the draw in the 88th minute was even worse. The good news, the news that Peter Vermes wanted to focus on in his comments after the match, is how much better the performance was than the debacle on Wednesday. If you want to worry about this team, worry about the display we put on at home against San Jose. Do not worry about the events in Columbus.