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Know Your Enemy: Sporting KC, Meeting the First - Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second half of the latest installment in the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, Sporting KC, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting some points of interest

Dom Dwyer, after an impressive loan stint with Orlando last season, has quickly become one of the best finishers in the league
Dom Dwyer, after an impressive loan stint with Orlando last season, has quickly become one of the best finishers in the league
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Part One was posted earlier, examining Kansas City’s potential lineup and form

The Tactics

When considering the threats posed by Sporting, it is hard to look past Dom Dwyer, whose eight goals account for half of Kansas City’s sixteen on the season. He is tied with a handful of players, one behind league leader, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

He has scored in their last three matches – tallying four goals in that stretch; it is his tenacity and versatility that makes him such a dangerous opponent.

Perhaps the best of the bunch was his cracker against Colorado:

Note, Dwyer expressed his admiration for Jermain Defoe this week (and the desire to steal his shirt post-match); that goal is something of a mirror image of Defoe’s against New York.

Though this one against Philadelphia was none too shabby either:

A poor midfield turnover from the Union allows Sporting to break forward with devastating effect – Toronto will have to be careful in possession, least they allow such a similar opportunity.

Bradley Orr did very well against New York last week, but with Michael Bradley’s continued absence, this could be a good chance for Collen Warner to make his debut – though, he was sent off for a handball the last time he played Kansas City.

What makes KC so dangerous on the counter comes down to two factors – the speed of their passing and their ability to make defensive moves turn in their favour.

In the above goal, Paulo Nagamura recognizes that by drawing Sheanon Williams towards him he has opened a gap through the middle for Dwyer to streak.

They nearly did the same to Montreal’s Karl Ouimette, turning his own aggression against him, using quick ball movement to expose the gap vacated on the back-line to round out the scoring at Stade Saputo:

When not exacerbating an opponent’s mistakes, KC is equally adept at spreading defenses in a more methodical manner, backing up the opponent with a million little passes that shuffle open gaps, as with Nagamura’s strike in Montreal:

Death by a thousand passes – only the last handful are shown in the above clip, but they capped a lengthy, patient move that shifted Montreal and backed them deep into their box, creating the laneway for Chance Myers’ cross through the top of the area..

Therein lies the difficulty – if one opts to sit back, Sporting will create the gaps, if one opts to pressure, they will exploit that movement to great effect. Either way, TFC will need to find a solution to this conundrum, pressing, while also maintaining a shape and balance, without dropping too deep.

As if that was not enough to content with, they are rather proficient from set-pieces as well – Aurelien Collin, if fit, is a serious threat from corners and the like, while the combination of Benny Feilhaber’s service (with Graham Zusi away) and Dwyer’s running  was enough to expose this obvious defensive shortcoming in Chicago:

It was pretty clear what KC were going for there – Chicago’s marking was dreadful – but Toronto will no doubt have their hands full with the boundless energy of Dwyer.

At least they won’t have to concern themselves with Matt Besler’s long throws – though Jacob Peterson and Seth Sinovic can launch them, just not with the same devastatingly flat trajectory as Besler.


Making matters all the more difficult is that through eleven matches KC has conceded just ten goals, a full half of which (five) have come from the penalty spot – so, clearly odds dictate that Toronto should look to win a penalty.

Aside from relying on the fortunes of a referee’s whistle, and oddly considering their prowess in the opponents box, Sporting is vulnerable on set-pieces, where their lack of height can prove a weakness.

Matt Hedges absolutely abuses Besler on this Michel free-kick to equalize for Dallas:

Between Doneil Henry, Steven Caldwell, and Nick Hagglund Toronto has enough big bodies to cause their defenses trouble.

That goal undoubtedly infuriated Peter Vermes, already one of the more vocal and animated figures on the sideline – as a former defender himself, that sort of inattention to detail will drive Vermes crazy.

It is a weakness that has reared its head repeatedly.

When Teal Bunbury scored the winner for New England, it was from a hopeful ball to the near-post that was allowed to drop.

Besler and Lawrence Olum neither covered their men, nor attacked the ball – Sporting, when forced onto the back-foot, retreating towards their goal, have a tendency to lose their marks.

Same goes for goalmouth scrambles, which proved costly when Chad Barrett bundled a 94th minute winner over the line:

Both the Bunbury and Barrett goals began with attacks from the wide position, spreading out the defenses, getting them moving, and then exploiting the gaps.

Toronto has the ability to prove troublesome in wide positions, but to make the most of such situations they must get numbers in the box.

This would be the perfect time for a flicked header from a near-post run by Defoe, a back-post touch-in from Gilberto, or another cheeky flick from Luke Moore, such as the one against New York that nearly saw Daniel Lovitz tuck in his first MLS goal.

Points of Interest

The two clubs have met eighteen times in league play with Toronto winning four, KC ten, and four ending as draws.

Nine matches have been played in Kansas City, with the home side winning seven, drawing one, and losing just once – back in 2009, when TFC won 2-3 on a Jimmy Brennan opener followed by an Amado Guevara brace; Davy Arnaud scored both of KC’s goals.

They met three times last season, with Toronto winning the first (2-1 at the SkyDome) and Kansas City winning the last two matches – 3-0 at home in July and most recently 1-2 in Toronto from a CJ Sapong brace, either side of a Darel Russell strike.

Sporting have won the last five meetings at home, stretching back to 2010, outscoring TFC 12-3, including some of the hardest matches to watch in the sordid history of the club. Ouch.