To call it a match is giving it undue credit.
Sporting Kansas City ran rampant over San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, scoring two of the easiest goals you'll see before the Quakes were even awake enough to know the game was over. Gerso and Felipe Gutierrez both had a goal and an assist before the 25th minute, and there was truly a sense that KC never even got out of first gear.
On the opening goal, Gerso undressed his marker on the left and slid a low cross behind the defense for Felipe who, based on the reactions of San Jose's center backs, was deploying his invisibility cloak at the time. No defenders reacted as the midfielder slotted home the opener, and they showed even less life in the 23rd minute when Felipe dwelled on the ball in midfield, waited for Gerso to make a curling run behind off the left flank, and simply passed the ball through two defensive lines into space for the winger. 2-0 at a trot.
Next came the Tao of Tarbell: Andrew Tarbell made a flying save on Yohan Croizet. Andrew Tarbell dropped a ball at Ike Opara's feet. 3-0.
In the second half, San Jose learned their lessons.
Just kidding — it was more of the same. A simple ball behind the defense up the left released Gerso once more, and he laid a pass into Krisztian Nementh's path for the recent re-acquisition's first goal of the season. Danny Hoesen, who might as well be nicknamed "The Lone Bright Spot" for San Jose this season pulled one back before a Gerso volley finished things off at 5-1.
What did we learn...?
It's difficult to pull much from a match in which the winners could have set a two-touch rule and still dominated, but suffice to say that the biggest takeaway is that Sporting KC can get behind a back line if you grant them time on the ball in midfield. Closing down Felipe, Ilie, and Roger Espinoza quickly is the key to preventing players like Gerso and Johnny Russell from finding space to run at defenders.
Another lesson? KC has depth. This was a walk in the park even with Russell, Diego Rubio, and Daniel Salloi starting on the bench, and young talents like Jaylin Lindsey and Gianluco Busio didn't even get extended run-outs.
In other words: Sporting remains good. And if you're off your game, they can pounce. With Philly eyeing the US Open Cup final on Wednesday, they will need to find ways to remain focused on the game at hand Sunday afternoon. Organized pressure can create turnovers in KC's midfield, or a deep block can frustrate the Western Conference powerhouse. The Union don't like to change their system for anyone, but there may be some tweaks to the pressing choices that allow the visitors to progress further before triggering defensive attacks.
The Union and Sporting KC face off at 1PM EST at Talen Energy Stadium on national TV this Sunday.