(Photo Credit: @SportingKC/Twitter)
Sporting Kansas City put Vancouver Whitecaps to the sword on Saturday night, running out comfortable 3-0 winners and reducing any attacking threat from an out of sorts looking visitors. The question heading into the game was whether last week’s first away win in over a year was a turning point for the team or the exception. While one game is not a decisive answer, the ‘Caps performance in Kansas left a lot to be desired and certainly raises concerns for the tough seven game road spell they will be facing from late August.
First half goals from Remi Walter and Alan Pulido set Sporting KC on their way, while Erik Thommy’s decisive strike eight minutes into the second half killed the game off for the home side and left the Whitecaps with no way back.
Vanni Sartini made one enforced change from the side that got the ‘Caps first away win of the season last week at LAFC, with Simon Becher coming in to to lead the line and replacing Brian White, who was out with a hip strain. That change also saw a change in formation, with Sartini going back to his tried and tested 4-3-2-1 line-up, with Ryan Gauld playing his more familiar attacking role in the ‘2’ after last week’s successful wing-back experiment.
White was one of six players missing from Vancouver through injury and international duty, with KC down seven, so both teams can play the depleted card, it’s just that Kansas City coped far, far better with their depth.
The only real talking point in the opening passage of play was an injury to KC ‘keeper Kendall McIntosh, who was caught by a trailing leg from Sergio Cordova and had to play the rest of the game bandaged up.
It took until the 29th minute for either goalkeeper to make a save, with Yohei Takaoka turning a Daniel Salloi shot away at the near post, only for the referee to award the Whitecaps a goal kick instead of a KC corner.
Cordova headed over for the ‘Caps two minutes later after he got on the end of an excellent cross in from the left from Luis Martins, as the game started to finally liven up.
The home side then opened the scoring in the 33rd minute.
KC broke forward quickly through Gadi Kinda, who played a lovely curling ball inside to a streaking Walter and the Frenchman ran through two Whitecaps defenders to fire it past Takaoka and make it 1-0.
Remi Walter buries it to give @SportingKC the lead!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 2, 2023
It was great play from Kinda but less than stellar defensive play from the ‘Caps, and that wasn’t to be the first time we could say that on the night.
A wide open Salloi got onto a corner at the back post in the 39th minute, but his weak effort easily ran into the arms of Takaoka.
As the game entered first half stoppage time, Vancouver struggled to clear some KC attacks, allowing them to eventually get the ball to Johnny Russell at the far post but he shot into the side netting from a great position.
But the home side weren’t be denied and doubled their advantage three minutes into stoppage time after some great ball movement around the box.
The ball eventually was played to Tim Leibold at the back of the box and he sent a dangerous ball across goal, which was just missed by Salloi but ran through to the MLS Player of the Month Pulido, who hit home his 8th goal of the season to give KC a two-goal lead at the half and leave Vancouver a lot of work to do in the next 45 minutes.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 2, 2023
Both sides made a change at the half with Sebastian Berhalter coming on for Andres Cubas for Vancouver.
The ‘Caps had the first chance of the half, with Russell blocking a Cordova shot, which KC then scrambled clear, but it was the home side’s half time sub that got the next goal of the game in the 53rd minute.
Takaoka got his hand on a Salloi shot across goal, but parried it into the worst possible place right in front of him and Thommy was quick to react for blast home KC’s third.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 2, 2023
And that was basically that. KC comfortably saw out the game and the ‘Caps never really felt like they were at the races.
Vancouver only mustered two shots on target, only one of which produced a save but hardly threatened to end up in the back of the net. The hot and humid conditions seemed a struggle for the ‘Caps and they looked tried about a quarter of an hour in, but ultimately they failed to create, failed to provide service, were poor at the back, and just weren’t competitive.
The late changes livened things up, but the absence of White, Tristan Blackmon, and Julian Gressel was very apparent.
The ‘Caps now have four MLS matches at home, albeit the third and fourth of those are split up by a month’s break for the Leagues Cup. They simply have to take at least 10 points, and ideally 12, from those before their seven game stretch on the road. They finished Saturday’s match still hanging on to the final playoff spot, but they need to quickly bolster that in the coming weeks to make the rest play catch up. If they don’t it’s a tough task facing them down the stretch.
FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
33’ – SKC – Rémi Walter (Gadi Kinda)
45+2’ – SKC – Alan Pulido (Tim Leibold, Rémi Walter)
53’ – SKC – Erik Thommy
Possession: SKC 63% – VAN 37%
Shots: SKC 16 – VAN 11
Shots on Goal: SKC 4 – VAN 2
Saves: SKC 1 – VAN 1
Fouls: SKC 9 – VAN 13
Offsides: SKC 0 – VAN 5
Corners: SKC 7 – VAN 8
KANSAS CITY: Kendall McIntosh; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontàs, Tim Leibold (Logan Ndembe 86′); Rémi Walter, Nemanja Radoja (Erik Thommy 46′), Gadi Kinda (Marinos Tzionis 78′); Johnny Russell (Roger Espinoza 78′), Alan Pulido (Stephen Afrifa 86′), Dániel Sallói
[Substitutes not used: John Pulskamp, Khiry Shelton, Robert Castellanos, Felipe Hernández]
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Ryan Raposo (Giovanni Aguilar 81′), Ranko Veselinović, Mathías Laborda, Luís Martins; Alessandro Schöpf (J.C. Ngando 78′), Andrés Cubas (Sebastian Berhalter 46′), Pedro Vite (Déiber Caicedo 61′); Sergio Córdova, Ryan Gauld; Simon Becher (Levonte Johnson 61′) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Karifa Yao, Kamron Habibullah, Matteo Campagna]
On Kansas City’s gameplan & the match:
“To be honest, I think the first 30 minutes were actually the game that we were expecting. We did the possibility with our number eights, Pedro [Vite] and Alessandro [Schöpf] to receive the ball and play, we had some good combination, and we actually were doing the play that we were supposed to do. Then, we conceded the goal and again, it was, we can say sometimes unlucky. We had three chances to win a tackle that we didn’t a win and then Walter scored actually a very good goal to be honest, and we stopped playing. Again, I rephrase. Not we stopped playing, we started getting away from the plan. Starting to go individually. I don’t know what it was like. We just conceded a goal and said ‘okay, yeah, today went like this.’ I think it’s very humbling after the fantastic performance that we did last week the fact that, if we get away from the plan, every game becomes insurmountable for us. If we stick to the plan, like the first 30 minutes, every game can be a winning game.”
On giving opportunities to young players:
“I think it’s probably one of the few things [that was a] bright spot of the day. Levonte [Johnson] had a longer spell than the one in St. Louis, Gio [Aguilar] did his MLS debut, J.C. [Ngando] came back to play with the first team, he did at the beginning of the season, then a long spell with WFC2 so that was a good thing. Of course, everyone needs to try to, I would say, get the chance when the chance is going to be there and, of course, the situation that we’re in now there’s more chances for the young players. I don’t think that it’s going to play a big part in the transfer market. First of all, as usual, transfer market is something that club is deciding and the other thing is that we’re going to have basically three players back in a few weeks from international and the guys that are out, hopefully they will be back very soon. I’m happy that I had the chance to give the young guys an opportunity and I think they all did well. I told them, they came on the 3-0, I said they had to do everything to don’t lose their game and they didn’t, they did 0-0 in their game, so I’m proud of that.
On the performance:
“I thought that at the start we started off well, that’s how you want to start on the road against a good opponent in a good atmosphere, getting some corners, some opportunities so I thought we started well. As time went on, we started to get broken down and they were finding lots of space and overloading both sides, but kind of my side specifically and finding a lot of space like I said with the overloads, so it became difficult. Anytime you concede twice in the first half away, it’s always going to be tough to get a result.”
On the homestand ahead:
“It’s massive obviously we’ve done really well at BC Place for a couple years now. We have to continue that because, obviously, we are looking at the schedule and there’s a six, seven game away stretch, which is going to be really, really tough. So if we want to be honest with ourselves and realistic with ourselves, we have to look at these four home games and we have to take a maximum amount of points in them.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On the team’s response:
I think it’s the version that we strive for every week as a group. What I first think is that the preparation and the game plan was very good, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you execute on it. Wednesday and Thursday, they’re both very tactically-oriented trainings. The guys were very in tune and then they came out and executed today very well. To me, that’s the difference in the game.
On what changed for the offense in the first half:
Sometimes in matches, you’re trying to get a rhythm. You’re trying to get into your flow. We for sure changed some stuff in this game in the way that we do things for the opponent. It took a little while for us to get there, but I don’t think it was like we were performing poorly at that moment. It’s just that we needed to open up the game a little bit, and we started to do that after that point.
On the attack being more decisive:
I’m a big believer in preparation. I’m a big believer in four-day build ups. I think the fact that we had a chance to get training in this week and prepare for the team, I think that was a big help. I don’t think that anything we did tonight is so different than who we are when we’re on. I just think that we got back to being ourselves again. The idea is to be the best version of yourself as you possibly can be each game. I think tonight we were close to that.
On Johnny Russell coming back:
The idea always for me is that you keep trying to get into those spots, you keep trying to get in those places. At the end of the day, if you’re on the field and the team wins, that’s a positive. If you don’t get the pass or you don’t get the goal, I’m not so worried about that. I’m more interested in getting the three points and how we do that is irrelevant to me. Just get the three points.
On what he saw to attack on the right side of Vancouver’s defense:
Daniel Salloi. Look, Daniel has a great engine. His movement, his hunger to get in and behind somebody or another team is actually very good against whoever we play. So I just think that’s an area of the field that we’re going to always try to get to. The game is different and I’ve said this a million times. When you have Alan (Pulido), Gadi (Kinda) and you have your two wingers — and we have good wingers — it’s hard to focus on all those spots on the field. So now the other team, if they concentrate one place, the guys have enough improvisation to find the other. I think that was a good rotation in the first half between Gadi, Daniel and Tim Leibold. It was good. They were solid in the way that they did it. There was another part too. I think our efficiency defensively saved energy to go forward and a lot of times we wound up winning the ball so it only made sense to go because they over committed in a lot of situations.
On Tim Leibold’s performance:
I don’t think he’s fit enough yet. It was good that he was able to go 85 minutes tonight. The good thing is now (Logan) Ndenbe is back and just to get him on the field tonight and get him back in the game was good. This was the whole idea is that we could get back. Our objective is by the time we get to Leagues Cup, it would be great if we could basically have all the guys back from injury to really make a big push towards the end. We have got to keep ourselves within the mix of the teams. I think we’re kind of there, but we have got to get a little closer within that mix. His biggest thing is he’s got to get fit. For a guy like him who has never really played a season in the summertime because of where he grew up in Germany and playing there, this is new to him. So he’s got to adapt and adjust, and hopefully that comes a little quicker.
On Gadi Kinda’s performance:
He came off and said he wanted to play 90 minutes! He did, he really did. There’s a possibility that he could have, but I think the period of time that he was in the game, he was in the game. He wasn’t surviving the game. There have been other games where he plays 45 and then he plays the other 15. Then he’s surviving. Today, he didn’t do that. Today, he played like he was back to himself, I think, for the minutes that he played. I think that was a good way to leave the game. I really do.
On the play of Kendall McIntosh:
He’s done well with the team. He’s progressed game after game. I’m happy that he got a shutout tonight. He deserved it. His distribution with the ball continues to progress and tonight I think that he was solid with the group and made a lot of good decisions.
Thoughts on the game:
It was a good game. I feel very good. The team performed very good. I’m very happy for the three points and the way we played.
On his assist:
I got the ball and I turned and I saw that I had a little bit of space. I saw Remi make a good run. I passed it to him and it was a very good goal. I’m very happy.
On his fitness making him more dangerous:
It has helped for sure. As Peter said, I feel very good today and different than the previous games. I was in the game all the game and I feel very good in my fitness, so it gives me more confidence and I just want to keep going like this.
On who he watches for inspiration:
I watch a lot of players. I saw (Remi) make the run and it was in one second. I’m very happy that it was a success.
On his goal:
I’m very happy to score my first goal this season. It helped the team to get the first goal in the game so I’m very happy for that. And then we won the game, so that’s good. It was a good run and a good touch. I chipped it with my right. It was good.
On the pass from Gadi Kinda:
I know Gadi is a very technical player and I know him on his right foot. I saw the space between the two defenders so I hoped he would play that ball. We got a little bit lucky because when he played that ball, it goes under the legs so we got lucky. But it was a good pass and a good finish. That helps the team and that’s good.
On the team’s performance:
We have to take some points at home. It’s very important if we want to make the playoffs and we know that. I think we were on a good way to get some results, but the last few weeks was a bit difficult and a bit hard. We had a good game today. They didn’t score, so it was good. We scored three goals so it’s good for our confidence. It’s good for our fans and our club. Tonight is very good.
On the team’s tempo in the attack:
Sometimes you come to the field and you feel good. We have to not forget that we had a whole week to prepare for this game and before we had played every three days so we were a little bit tired. And, for sure, when you are tired, you are a little bit less good with the ball. We prepared for the game very good. We have a very good week and then we showed that on the field.
On Peter Vermes’ praise for him in the postgame press conference:
I’m happy that (Peter) saw what I was feeling, too. I think I had a good game. It was one of those games that everything works out except the goal. I wish I could have scored, but I’m glad we got the win. I felt good, honestly, and I think we played really well. We played really well. I’m happy that it was mostly on the left side.
On the team’s tempo in the attack:
We wanted to be very direct where we saw the spaces and where we can exploit the team. We did that very well. I thought everybody played really well, so that’s why it was working as well.
On his chemistry with Tim Leibold:
I think we’re getting more and more chemistry. I feel it too. I’m kind of mad at him because he hit that cross very hard and I couldn’t get to it, so I couldn’t score that. We’ll talk about it.
On the play of Gadi Kinda:
That’s my number 10 right there. I love this guy. I think he’s a really good player. I’m glad that he’s doing well after a long injury. It was an amazing assist, but an unbelievable finish too from Remi with his weak foot to chip it like that. Amazing.