Sporting KC chalk up big win over LA to unexpected shifts
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The left back became the left winger. The left winger became the right winger. The right winger became the center forward.
Confused yet? That’s the idea.
Sporting Kansas City ran the soccer equivalent of a game of three-card monte on the LA Galaxy’s injury-depleted backline, and all the switching and shuffling paid off on Kei Kamara’s game-winning header in Saturday’s 1-0 victory.
“The guys on our team can all switch positions,” said Bobby Convey, who was brought in to fill a gap at left winger but was playing on the right side when his 40th-minute cross found Kamara unmarked at the corner of the six-yard box. “That’s a great option that we have in attacking. Each player can fill in for the others, and we do that to throw off the defense.”
Defender Seth Sinovic spent much of the afternoon pushing forward deep into the left corner, freeing Convey to rotate with right winger Kamara as the game evolved.
“I thought what was really good in his game today was him getting forward,” manager Peter Vermes said of the young left back. “He found himself in positions that really helped us relieve pressure by switching the point of attack to him, because of the width that he provided us in the game.”
Sinovic’s activity on the flank also meant that Convey could pick and choose his high-speed moments, and it showed on the game-winning play. Convey drifted wide to the right corner to take Roger Espinoza’s pass, then dashed to the top corner of the penalty area. Settling the ball there, he took two touches to gain space against left back Todd Dunivant.
On the other side of the area, Kamara was shedding right back Sean Franklin, who could only watch as Convey delivered and Kamara converted.
“I think I’ll add 10 years on my career if Seth wants to keep doing all the running,” Convey said. “I’m happy that I can fit into the team the way that I have, and I think it allows Seth more freedom so that I can go inside and not lose the ball.”
That arrangement’s fine by Sinovic.
“I don’t mind. I’ll do the running all day as long as we get the wins,” Sinovic said. “He reads the game so well, and I just kind of play off of him. He’s always in the right spots.”
OPTA Chalkboard: Check out Convey and Sinovic's heat maps
Convey’s assist was his first with Sporting, which acquired him from San Jose in the offseason to provide a veteran threat on the left wing. He said he’s felt no pressure to get into the points column, though.
“I’ve always been the guy that had to create and had to score,” he said. “It’s nice here that I’m not that person. It’s nice to have other players doing well and scoring goals. There’s a little bit of pressure with me being the only new player and bringing me in to win the championship, but other than that I don’t feel any pressure.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org