This week’s “Six Degrees” post brought to you by the good folks at TalkinTouches.com, most notably myself, Andy Edwards, and in honor of any poor, poor New England Revolution fan who sat through 90 minutes in front of television on Saturday, only to see their beloved team smacked down by Sporting Kansas City, 3-0.
(#) denotes something new you’ve learned today, thanks to “Six Degrees“.
1. What can Red do for you?
UPS may have gone the route of “Logistics” as their new major marketing campaign to get you to do your postal packaging with the shipping mega company, but easily their best ever slogan was “what can Brown do for you?” Sporting KC showed exactly what Red could do for them in this game after Revs defender Stephen McCarthy was shown a straight red card just 15 minutes into the game on Saturday night. (McCarthy attacked and brought down Sporting forward CJ Sapong like a zombie on “The Walking Dead”)
What Sporting did in the subsequent 75 minutes (and more immediate 30 minutes) was show that they had grown up right before our eyes. The 2011 Sporting KC team that made it just 90 minutes from an MLS Cup final appearance would have (and did so, actually) allowed the Revs to hang around in the game until halftime, at which point all bets are off once the initial storm has been weathered. Even with a man advantage, the 2011 squad (while made up of nearly the same exact players) would have failed to put a foot to New England’s throat and score three goals in a span of 20 minutes.
If the NCAA basketball tournament has shown us anything, it’s that if you let a weaker or wounded team hang around with you for too long they get a little belief in them and go wild with thinking, “maybe we just could pull this thing out.” Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong goals in the 28th, 39th and 47th minutes, respectively put that thought clear out of everyone’s mind.
In short, Sporting’s logistics of ball would have made Andy Azula very proud. (1)
2. Support for The Samurai
The “Samurai” nickname for Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi began on Twitter the night of the season opener against DC United, found its way to the World Wide Web in last Monday’s “Six Degrees”, and was approved of by Zusi himself on Tuesday of last week. Then, the ultimate sign of support came from someone out their in Sporting KC land – the Google’d phrase “Graham Zusi Samurai” found its way to this blog on Monday afternoon, showing that the word has spread.
As for the player himself, Zusi had another classy performance on Saturday, scoring a goal and picking up his second assist of the season in a tidy 57 minutes of work.
Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore, but Zusi continues to skyrocket his way up the rankings of quality MLS midfielders, with an aim towards the very top. Zusi’s role as distributor of the midfield, and he claimed himself to be in the above interview, was truly fulfilled on Saturday as Zusi completed 79 percent of his attempted passes, including the ball that sprung Seth Sinovic to the end-line to set up CJ Sapong’s easy finish to make extend the game to 3-0.
Not limiting himself to only offensive duties, Zusi also recovered a half-dozen 50-50 balls, a couple of which inside Sporting’s defensive half of the field. The fact that Revs midfield star Shalrie Joseph was forced to drop back into McCarthy’s vacated centerback position (and to his credit, looked slightly more aware than Moses’s 40 years of wandering around the desert in doing so) after the red card undoubtedly made Zusi’s night easier, as Joseph is one of MLS’s best at busting up passes and possession, but it was another top-notch performance from the young Minamoto Yoshiie, legendary warrior and hero of the ‘later three-year war’. (2)
3. ”Don’t Cut Me, Bro” – Seth Sinovic
Sporting leftback Seth Sinovic enjoyed a mildly successful rookie year with the Revs in 2010 before being cut part of the way into the 2011 season. A failed trial with Real Salt Lake later, he found himself back home in Kansas City, playing for the team he supported as a boy, and eventually becoming a hugely important piece of a back four that gelled late in the season and became arguably one of the league’s better defensive units.
A bit of offseason drama (expansion draft selection and subsequent trade for Davy Arnaud) seems to have done little to break his progress as a player, and for the third time in twelve months put in a stellar performance against his old club. Saturday was a much different performance than anything we’ve ever seen from Sinovic, though.
Generally thought of as a defend-first, “safe” player, heat maps indicate that Sinovic spent about half the game inside the New England defensive half of the field. That’s a player that rarely went forward in attack in 2011 spending ample time in attack and competing (what is high for a fullback) 70 passes at an 86 percent rate. This is, though, example no. 387 of things made easier by playing against ten men. Sinovic’s attacking work also acted as great cover for a slightly ailing left winger Bobby Convey, playing in front of Sinovic.
“There’s a little bit of motivation in there (playing against New England) for me,” Sinovic said after the win on Saturday.
New England, tell me: how did Didier Domi (for whom you cut Sinovic to be your starting leftback) work out for you? As Sinovic should have said postgame Saturday night, “don’t cut me, bro.”
4. Get on board with “Sport-elona”
Sporting followed up a classy 371 pass performance in the season opener against United with a jaw-dropping 647 pass clinic against New England. For the ump-teenth time, passing the ball around against ten men sure is easier than doing so against eleven, but it’s the accuracy (85 percent) with which the did so, and the amount of sheer possession (nearly 66 percent – 2-to-1) that assured this game was never in any sort of question.
By matching what was, by account of anyone, a dominating performance against United in having 57 percent of possession, six Sporting players completed over 50 passes (Roger Espinoza and Convey), four of which were over 60 (Chance Myers and Julio Cesar), and two over 70 (Matt Besler and Sinovic).
Peter Vermes’ boys have taken the progress from 2011 and built upon an already pleasing style of football early on in 2012. Movement and positional rotation suggest that the capability to play similarly to that decent team from Spain exists. Now, if only they could find a do-it-all, “messy” player.
5. Man of the Match
This isn’t an “official Talkin’ Touches Man of the Match” award or anything. It’s something much simpler than that, actually. It’s a tweet that I received that pretty well sums up everything from Saturday evening; a tweet that I meant to use to close out the postgame podcast, but after nailing my closing lines so perfectly, let it completely slip my mind.
Anyways, your sentimental Man of the Match for Sporting Kansas City 3-0 New England Revolution:
CincySporting: @AndyEdSKC For player: Kei. For anyone in Sporting Club the man of the match is Robb (Heineman).
Right you are, Sporting fan from Cincinnati, right you are. Another truly special evening at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
We’ll do six next time, I promise. Really, I promise.