[MLS] Projections that Sporting Kansas City can improve enough to reach the playoffs this season are tempered by a 10-game road trip it must navigate before the unveiling of Livestrong Sporting Park on June 9. The best way to deal with a road trip – regardless of length – is to look at the next game, and not how far off into the distance that road goes.
SKC got off to a strong start by beating Chivas USA, 3-2, at Home Depot Center Saturday with a pair of goals by Mexican attacker Omar Bravo, the quickest ever goal by an MLS newcomer making his debut, and some vital defensive plays.
Bravo, the first Designated Player in team history, hit the second and third goals in his first MLS match after C.J. Sapong had netted just under two minutes into the game.
“He has a very good attacking quality,” says coach Peter Vermes of Bravo, 31, who spent most of his pre-MLS career with Chivas USA’s parent club CD Guadalajara.
“He not only wants to score the goals, he wants to be the protagonist, to get the ball, to finish the chances, all that stuff. From that standpoint I think he fits in very well. He also doesn’t need to go 100 miles an hour all the time. He can slow the game down, or move to the left if he needs to play a ball through, or go to goal himself.”
Keeper Jimmy Nielsen denied Marcos Mondaini, who’d been set up by Nick LaBrocca, with a kick save early in the match on a shot that would have tied the game, and he stopped LaBrocca in stoppage time to again preserve the one-goal margin.
Last year, SKC placed third in the Eastern Conference, but missed the playoffs by falling seven points short of the bottom two teams in the playoff octet, Colorado and San Jose, which finished with 46 points apiece. In the league’s revised playoff format, the top three teams in each conference receive automatic bids, with the next four teams determined by overall points.
The 10-game road trip to start a season is the longest in MLS history. Columbus (seven games, 1999), Los Angeles (eight games, 2003), and Chicago (nine games, 2006) embarked on long trips before their stadiums were ready. Last season, Philly endured 10 straight roadies until PPL Park opened but played twice at Lincoln Financial Field before that opener, which it won, 3-1.
“I told the guys we have nine [games] left until we get rewarded with our brand-new stadium,” Vermes said to mlssoccer.com. “We have to keep pushing towards that.” The march continues Saturday in Chicago.
UNION ROAD RELIEF. Philly had its own road woes last year; as an expansion team, it played 10 games – eight on the road – before moving into PPL Park and finished the season (2-12-1) away from home.
It has already won half as many road games as last year; defender Danny Califf scored in the sixth minute at Robertson Stadium and Colombian keeper Faryd Mondragon posted a shutout in his MLS debut to down Houston, 1-0.
"It was a very good road win – that's what we expect from these guys," said Coach Peter Nowak.