On decisions and evolutions for Sporting Kansas City 2023

Yes, me too.

Fitness centers encouraging people to join… people inevitably ruin the previous year while claiming the new year will be better… tiresome resolution jokes.

The fire started around January 1St and the days that follow can drag rather than inspire.

But the New Year is here! And that means Sporting Kansas City is going to preseason camp (preseason camp starts today.). That’s inspiring!!

Sporting is poised to build on the momentum from the end of the 2022 season as the explosive attack will be bolstered by the (eventual) return of wild card skills Gadi Kinda and the fox-in-the-box ability and more of Alan Pulido. The midfield has a great new player in defensive midfielder Nemanja Radoja. Now I’m calling it, our club doesn’t start the season again 2-7-3 with a -13 goal difference. Guaranteed. Nothing wrong with a renewed spirit.. such bold predictions.. high hopes.. and all that shit.

Once again, we pundits and fans once again debate all topics related to the team we love to love and think we know better. Topics and outcomes are not life and death, but they are important to us. And for us older fans, if pontificating, sometimes critical thinking and comparative problem-solving delay the early onset of dementia, so much the better.

Side question… why are there no good New Year’s movies? Or have I already answered that question?

By the way, there is a New Year’s quote circulating on social networks that I really like. It’s real. it’s honest. “Don’t expect any New Year’s resolutions from me. I intend to remain the same unwieldy, open-ended delight you’ve all come to know and love.”

Before I figure out if that quote reflects on me or the things about Sporting Kansas City that we all like to complain about, let’s start with what changes we hope to see from Sporting this season. In other words, we hope that their solutions.

Many of these are taken from articles written last season by various TBT scribes (references included).

Wisdom in the defensive third by @dan_mccown, Three thoughts from the game Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo – Blue Covenant and @Playfor90, Breaking down Sporting KC’s key moves against Nashville – Blue Vow

Passing the ball under the pressure of space and time is difficult, just go play a little football to check. Pressing and counter-pressing are constant threats to Sporting’s possession, and this season from St. More “energy-drinking football” is coming to Louis City. Let’s hope that Vermes’ pullets, especially the younger ones, will be successful from day one. An occasional mistake, of course. But being consistently clean with the ball in your own end or simply throwing it downfield when in doubt should be on SKC’s list of decisions.

Keep your foot (or both) on your opponent’s throat from… @SpKClife How steep is the climb? Sporting KC playoff preview from “In the Box” – Blue Vow

Interesting related stats: According to an article titled World Cup Tactical Trends: Lots of width, fewer goals on the ball, and who needs possession? – The Athletic by Mark Carey (interesting read btw), during the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, teams with less possession earned more “points per game” than those with more possession. However, the statistics are not surprising since this trend was already visible in the leagues. Even so, the tactic may be moving away from high possession… (though I doubt it.)

In 2022, Sporting Kansas City was 14thth in MLS possession with a rate of 49.8% according to whoscored.com. Of course, possession is only one way to keep a foot on the opponent’s goal. Scoring the first goal is a big step towards that, but even when they did, Sporting too often failed to quell their opposition last season after taking the lead or seizing momentum away from home by drawing. The survey reveals that Kansas City is down 19 points. in eight games last season in such a way.

Exhausting and frustrating the opposition with quick, purposeful ball movement is still the best way to dictate a game and find that second or third goal that leads to execution. (Gotta finish when I get the chance!) Put ruthlessness on the decision list, Sporting.

Turn off the crosses and tick effectively in the box by @SpKCLife, Takes SKC’s loss in Colorado from “In the Box” – Blue Vow and @Playfor90, Breaking down Sporting KC’s key moves against Nashville – Blue Vow

Some of these resolutions could apply to all football teams in the world. What makes these two particularly applicable to Sporting is the youth on the back line, mostly wide backs. Not that the two veteran wide backs were infallible at preventing crosses, nor were they and the centre-backs superb at erasing their impact when they entered the box.

Namely, Kansas City was great in the middle of MLS in rebounds and 23rdrd out of 28 in air jumps he won according to whoscored.com. Remember that capitulation at Austin FC in mid-August: Sporting KC leads in the first half, but surrenders late goals to lose 4-3 in Austin – Blue Covenant?

Yet, as the loss in Austin showed, Kansas City’s struggles weren’t just limited to flights. Blue Testament community member MrPiThetahead commented after a loss to Nashville at home in April: “Defensively, SKC’s organization continues to be lacking. It’s not just about settings. There were many times in the first half (and in the previous games I watched), where SKC seemed to be struggling to defend instead of organizing and establishing their lines.” from Breaking down Sporting KC’s key moves against Nashville – Blue Vow

And that brings us to the next resolution…

Be like one in midfield by @dan_mccown, Three observations from the game Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United – Blue Covenant and @SpKCLife, “Pressing” is important for Sporting Kansas City from “In the Box” – Blue Covenant

“I was really disappointed to see our midfield look completely disjointed for most of the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second half,” was Dan’s reflection after the 3-1 opening defeat to Atlanta United last season. Thing is, not much has changed in the other 33 matches as Sporting have allowed the second-most counterattacking goals in MLS 2022, according to whoscored.com.

The article “…Part III, Trends in Time…” builds a 6-year case for Sporting to be defense first in 2023 to achieve not only more consistent results, but to make them serious contenders for hardware. Will last year’s experience for a youthful back; whatever happens at centre-back following Nicolas Isismat-Mirin’s dismissal; and the addition of Nemanja Radoja, a soon-to-be 30-year-old Serbian La Liga veteran, raises the ceiling at defensive midfield? Whatever that answer is, the will to rule out crosses, marking in the box and defending without organization in the midfield must be determined in 2023.

Be bolder from @dan_mcown Three observations from the game Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United – Blue Covenant and @SpKCLife “Sporting Kansas City Award Recognition”

Quick Quiz: At the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, which player had the highest line-crossing rate? At a rate of 0.95/10 passes, according to Carey’s article, American left winger Christian Pulisic led the way.

There are stats that track those passes, that track “key passes,” that track passes that move the ball forward, but there are no stats that track “risk-reward” passes. These passes create 1v1s in the box or force defenders to make decisions and result in a throw-in deep into the opposition, a corner or a penalty because the defender(s) are put in a compromising position. Both articles listed at the beginning of this section bemoan Sporting’s lack of penetrating, “risky” passes. The player must quickly decide what the next play is when he receives the ball – hopefully well before (he must always see the field) – and manage the risk. The player may be uncomfortable. Kansas City’s resolution should honor the true saying that the growth of a state begins when one steps out of one’s comfort level.

Yes, Tyler Adams and others had strong World Cups for the USA, but it was Pulisic who consistently and most effectively caused problems for opponents.

Dominance in attack sets of all??

It seems to be an accepted statistic in the soccer world that 30% of goals come from set pieces. However, during the 2022 World Cup, only 15% was the rating according to Carey’s article above.

It is unclear whether the statistics take goals scored directly and indirectly from balls or only directly. The stats gurus at whoscored.com say Sporting finished 21st in MLS in goals scored off set pieces with eight. Eight was 19% of KC’s goal production. Top in MLS around 2022 was Nashville SC. Music City residents hit the target 35% of the time. Between 19% and 30% or 35%, there is a lot of room for improvement for Sporting. Put this resolution on the dry erase board in the war room and locker room, Kansas City.

Increased success in the upper sides by @SpKCLife In 2023… Part III, Trends in Time: Sporting Kansas City 2017-2022 – Blue Vow

One can argue that many of the problems, even some of the ones mentioned above, disappeared for Sporting Kansas City when striker Willy Agada and midfielder Erik Thommy started playing regularly together on the pitch. However, that perspective is from, if not rose-colored glasses, rose-colored glasses.

As revealed in “Part III, Trends in Time,” Sporting’s impressive 10-game sprint to the 2022 goal has covered the warts of a long season. “Against 2022 MLS Cup-chasing sides, Sporting went 2-2-1 with a +3 goal differential at 14-11 (Yes, three of those games were on the road.) [In matches v non-playoff sides, Kansas City went 4-0-1 with a +8 goal differential at 9-1, as all four shutouts came against non-playoff sides.] The difference in the two sets of matches is big. The 14 goals scored is actually one goal per game better. However, we can all agree that a clip of 2.8 goals per game is not sustainable. A more worrying stat is the goals: an average of 2.2 goals allowed per game indicates significant defensive problems, even with a productive attack. It’s clear that the more skilled sides in MLS are able to find and exploit Sporting’s soft bottom.”

In order to return to the elite in the MLS regular season AND playoffs, Sporting must match and then surpass stronger teams. That is an undeniable truth.

Part of what makes good decisions is keeping in mind what you already do well and choosing things that will build on those strengths and raise the quality of your life and the quality of those around you. Sporting does many things well on the training pitch, off the pitch and on the pitch.

Recently, manager Peter Vermes stated, “Our goal is to continue to raise the profile of Sporting Kansas City and also Kansas City as a soccer city,” Vermes said. “To continue to do that, we can’t stay inside the bookend. We have to expand from that, and there will be different ways to do that.”

There are very few ways to achieve that goal better than an elite team in Major League Soccer. The above resolutions will undoubtedly help Sporting get there.

Decisions take time, patience and hard work before they become a habit, a part of who we are. This is Sporting’s evolution which means it will be less awkward, more open and even more likeable on the field in 2023.

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