Krisztián Németh was both saint and sinner for Sporting Kansas City as they hosted Vancouver Whitecaps at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday night.
The Hungarian had put Sporting KC into a 37th minute lead, only to leave his side playing nearly the whole second half down a man following his straight red in the 51st minute for a late lunge on Felipe Martins.
It looked like the latter wasn’t going to prove costly when the Whitecaps were reduced to ten men themselves after Doneil Henry strained his left hamstring with 17 minutes of the match remaining and the ‘Caps had just made their final substitution.
With time running out and Vancouver seemingly heading towards defeat, they earned themselves a point through a wonderful volley from half time sub Derek Cornelius in stoppage time for an emotional draw in KC.
Marc Dos Santos made two changes for this one, bringing in PC for the injured Lass Bangoura on the wing and dropping an out-of-form and at times tired looking Inbeom Hwang for Andy Rose.
KC had their own injuries worries and were only able to field five subs for the match, and that was including an emergency call up due to the MLS “hardship rule”.
The game had been in doubt due to some terrible weather conditions in the build up to the match and it started as a fairly disjointed and chippy affair, with neither side really threatening to break the deadlock.
KC had a couple of forays forward that led to some easy Max Crepeau saves and defensive blocks, while Fredy Montero had a header for the ‘Caps straight at Tim Melia that didn’t have a lot of power behind it, and Rose headed another chance wide.
The home side were looking the slightly more dangerous side in their attacks and it was them who took the lead in the 37th minute.
Felipe was easily pushed off the ball and dispossessed just inside the Whitecaps half by the newly reacquired Benny Feilhaber. The veteran quickly played the ball out to a wide open Johnny Russell, who bore down on goal and forced a save from Crepeau. The rebound though fell straight into the path of Nemeth, who took his time and a touch, to coolly slot home into an empty net.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) May 19, 2019
And that was pretty much it for a half with very little between the two teams, but KC had the most important thing, a one goal lead.
Still all to play for though for Vancouver and even more so six minutes after the restart when the goalscorer Nemeth was given a straight red card by referee Timothy Ford for a clumsily timed lunge that bent Felipe’s ankle and saw the midfielder replaced by Inbeom Hwang.
So up a man with nearly a whole half to play with gave Vancouver a great chance to get something from the match, and they upped their tempo and started to take the game to KC.
But they weren’t really threatening to get the equaliser and it was Kelyn Rowe who came close for KC, firing a long ranger narrowly over in the 71st minute.
You felt that if Vancouver could get one, then they had a great chance to go on and win the match. The big problem being, however, that they weren’t looking even close to getting that one to begin with.
It was starting to look like a tough ask for the ‘Caps to get back on level terms, made even tougher when Doneil Henry went off with a left hamstring strain seconds after Vancouver had made their final substitution, leaving it as a 10 v 10 showdown for the remaining 17 minutes and bringing the home side right back into the contest.
Vancouver were lacking any real attacking threat and midfield creativity once again, and Kansas City looked to be comfortably seeing out the game and if anything more likely to add to their lead.
But with the game deep into stoppage time Ali Adnan took the ball up the left, hit the byeline, and cut the ball back to a waiting and wide open Cornelius who swivelled and volleyed home a cracker for his first goal as a Whitecap, and you could see how much it meant to him as he ran to celebrate on the sidelines.
CORNELIUS GRABS THE EQUALIZER IN STOPPAGE TIME!!!!!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 19, 2019
This could be a huge point for Vancouver in the grand scheme of things against a team that you have to feel will be challenging them for one of the last playoff spots come the end of the season.
The fighting spirit and never give up attitude of the team is fantastic to see and if there had been some more time on the clock, you wouldn’t have put it past them to add another.
But all that said, and being elated to come away with what looked like an unlikely point, this was a disappointing game on a number of levels. The ‘Caps were heading to a depleted team, out of form and leaking goals, and who were playing most of the second half down a man. They just simply couldn’t get any kind of attack going that really threatened to trouble the scorers.
The attack had a severe lack of movement or threat and the midfield once again lacked any real creativity. Hwang had another poor outing when he came on and there’s simply no-one in that Whitecaps midfield that can step up and provide what he can when the Korean is out of sorts.
We knew the back to back victories masked a lot of deficiencies, but when you see them exposed in the matter they have been against Atlanta and KC, the Gold Cup break can’t come quick enough so that improvements can be made in the summer.
Unfortunately there’s still three games to go before that and then a few more after it before the transfer window opens. Next up is a trip to New Jersey to face the Red Bulls. But if this team can continue to take points in crucial games while still not playing well, that can hopefully only bode well for the Whitecaps once the reinforcements and improvements finally come.
FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Nicolas Hasler, Botond Barath, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell (Yohan Croizet 82), Krisztián Nemeth, Kelyn Rowe (Gedion Zelalem 90+2) [Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Graham Smith, Wilson Harris]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Jake Nerwinski (Joaquin Ardaiz 72), Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Ali Adnan; Andy Rose, Felipe Martins (Inbeom Hwang 53), Russell Teibert; Lucas Venuto, Victor ‘PC’ Giro (Derek Cornelius 46), Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Scott Sutter, Brett Levis, Theo Bair]
MARC DOS SANTOS
Thoughts on the match…
We knew that we were coming into a place that I know very well. It’s very, very difficult to get something here. You could say that Sporting is going through a phase A or B but it’s always Sporting Kansas City. It’s always a very strong side at home. We knew we needed to be very disciplined in our play but not be afraid of playing. When you build up a lot, and you try to build up your play, there’s always the risk of losing possession in some areas. It’s unfortunate that we lost the ball in an important area. (They) transition. The defensive cover wasn’t good. And then (Johnny) Russell and (Krisztian) Nemeth had a good play and finished it well.
At halftime, we felt that if we cleaned up some stuff and we changed tactically. We felt that the way we changed better addressed what they were doing. We had an idea of a sub that we wanted to do at the 70th minute or 75th minute if it was still 1-0. We explained to the players what we wanted to do there. But then comes the send off. Then it’s a game where we have a lot of the possession with the threat being (Johnny) Russell and the counter attack. In a moment like that, you have to keep very focused and being very patient on the ball.
Then I felt as a coach, I tried to put a lot of numbers up – attacking pieces. That’s why we took Jake (Nerwinski) off to put Lucas (Venuto) on the right side and (Joaquin) Ardaiz closer to Fredy (Montero). But maybe that sub I did it too early. You learn and you have to admit is a coach. I think maybe that sub came early, because you always run the risk of an injury and it’s 10v10.
The positive thing of that is with the 10v10, the guys kept pushing. The guys kept believing. The guys had the mentality of there’s no way we’re getting out of here without anything. So the full mentality of the group and the way they fought and the spirit of what our team has been about was fantastic. This point is deserved at the end of the day.
On the team’s halftime adjustments…
We felt that Seth (Sinovic) was very high up the field and they were creating an overload on the left side. Every time that we released Jake (Nerwinski) to press, there was a space for (Kelyn) Rowe to attack in behind Jake. We felt that there was not enough pressure on the center backs coming with two forwards to press the centerbacks. Adding a third center back, now you could release Jake higher and you always have Erik Godoy that could slide on Rowe. You would have the opportunity, if Seth is so high, to exploit the space in behind them. Having Lucas (Venuto) already so high, we thought now we could exploit that. That was decision in doing that.
There’s two formations that we work. It’s good that we always have them because in moments that you have to change as coach, you can’t be afraid. The players have to have the confidence to do it.
On the play of Derek Cornelius…
He did his job. He was solid. He was able to release Ali (Adnan) higher. Because of always being the cover, Ali was able to get much higher on the field. At the end of the day, Derek is just waiting for chances to play. And then there’s the game in Houston, that sometimes it’s still in his head and is slowly getting out. He’s stronger from it. He deserves the goal. And the reason why he deserves the goal has nothing to do with Sporting or the game today, but he’s been an incredible teammate. He’s understood very well the form that Doneil (Henry) and Erik (Godoy) are in. He’s worked in training. He’s a good teammate. Again, I love it when good people get rewarded. It’s fair. The guys are happy for him. It was a great play on the goal.
Thoughts on the match…
That was a wild one. We deserved a point and we got one. We know we needed to score. It was almost like, with 10 minutes to go, we knew we were going to score. We had the chances. I think we were just getting impatient. I’m so happy for Derek (Cornelius). That kid has put so much work in the gym behind the scenes that no one sees. What I told him after the game is that’s the reward for all that work that he’s been doing. I’m super proud of him.
On playing a 3-5-2 in the second half…
The tackle was deserving of a red card from what we saw after watching it in the locker room. It changed the way we played a little bit. We went with two holding midfielders and one attacking with (Hwang) In-Beom on the field. I think that he was a release for us in there. Credit to all the guys that were on the field when Doneil (Henry) goes down. That’s some adversity that you have to push through. It’s easy to crumble and say, ‘Oh, that’s just our luck.’ But we pushed through and we were deserving of that result.
On the importance of the road result…
Coming to KC and getting any point, one point or three, is a win for us. It’s a win for any team because Kansas City is a great home team. Great atmosphere. Great place to play. You know when you play Kansas City, you’re going to play a tough game. Three points are vital in each game, but coming here and getting a point – that’s big for any team and it was big for us tonight.
On his goal and the performance…
The biggest thing is to get the point. It was a performance where everybody gave their all, gave their best. It would have been really hard to accept not getting any points in a game like this. About the play specifically, it was just the final seconds, final minutes. Normally it would be my instinct to get back and make sure there’s no counter attack. In this circumstance I figured just go for it and I’m glad I took the gamble. Ali put in a great ball and I just got a good connection. Glad to help the team get a point.
Did his instincts as a former striker kick in?
It’s hard to say. It was just kind of in the moment. The ball just dropped kindly for me and I was able to put it away.
On the importance of getting a point in this busy stretch for the club…
It’s very important. The team gave 110% today. In games like that when everyone’s been stuck in, everyone’s giving their best, everyone’s pushing for that point, you have to get points in those games.
On his goal celebration…
It just kind of came to me. Nothing too much behind that. First thing, I felt there was a lot of outside noise coming in.
On the dynamics of being a man up and then losing Doneil Henry to injury to make it 10 v 10…
We only had about 20 minutes of being a man up before Doneil went out. We tried to play more offensive. I think that’s why we made the quick subs, trying to take advantage of being up a man. Then of course when Doneil goes down it’s a complete shift of how we were playing again. But again, the team, everyone was committed, everyone knew their job, whether we were up a man or when we went to 10-v-10, so that’s another big credit to the team and being to change on the fly like that.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On his team’s performance…
Our guys played really well and they fought really hard. They played a man down for almost a whole 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the game was changed by the red card, but we did a great job of managing the man down. We were just a little unlucky there at the end, but I don’t have any complaints. These guys fought with everything they had.
On Benny Feilhaber’s contribution…
He’s been great. He did everything that the game needed today. He was tremendous.
On takeaways from the game…
Each game we keep getting better and better and we just keep building from them.
On the Vancouver goal…
We’re devastated. I thought we should have come out with three points. It’s not just the last two minutes that we’re going to look at, we’re going to look at the whole game. I had two chances myself to put the game away 2-0, and I didn’t finish them. We can’t go out blaming the refs or the one play at the end, we have to look at the whole game. It’s going to take 90, 95 or 100 minutes – whatever it’s going to take to get this result and get out of this slump, but I have no doubt this team is going to do it.
Positives from the team’s performance…
We had a lot of positives. We’re going to go back and look at the whole game. We’re not going to just look at the negatives. We’re going to learn from the negatives but we’re going to continue on the positives going forward. I thought defensively we were really sound for about 93 minutes. We’re happy to have some big guys back like Matt Besler to captain us through this. We’re not out of this. We’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to be back next week.
Thoughts on the match…
It’s frustrating. We had a good game plan going in. We had a good first half. We got the goal. It’s silly by Krisztian (Nemeth). I think, obviously, he didn’t mean to do something like that but then we’re down a man for 40 minutes or so. We hang on until the last couple minutes and we give something up. It’s frustrating. There’s nowhere to look but forward. We’ve got to keep on fighting, get some more bodies back, keep trying to get better on the field and start getting some three points.
On setting up the goal…
It was a 50-50. I think it was a little bit of a sloppy pass from them and I was able to kind of body away Felipe in the midfield. Johnny was wide open because their center backs were playing as if they have the ball. I just slipped Johnny (Russell) in. The goalie made a really good save on Johnny but Krisztian follows it up and has the composure to finish it.
On positive takeaways…
In the first half, there were a lot of positives. Second half, it’s hard to take too much other than that the fight was there. We just missed on two minutes of it. The first half is where we can really look at the things that we did well. We had some good moments there. We defended pretty well when we didn’t have the ball and we were dangerous with it. I’m sure we’ll take a look at that and emulate more of that for the next game.