That wasn't exactly how I wanted to see us play against one of the worst teams in the league, but a win is a win, and somehow I still feel like we earned this one. It definitely took this team 30 minutes or so to settle in, and gave up way too many chances during those first 30 minutes, but we looked like the better team in the second half, and ultimately we prevailed.
Thoughts on the surprising back line? A lot of fans have been clamoring for McTavish and Wallace each to get a chance in defense, and they both did tonight. Both were adequate, but probably not spectacular enough to unseat Jakovic and Burch when they return from injuries. I really didn't understand the move of taking off Julius James in favor of Avery John and moving Simms from CDM to CB, but it seemed to work out, because I only counted one scoring opportunity for KC after that change. I think the most likely back line for Saturday's match will be Namoff-James-McTavish-John.
1. It's unfortunate that he doesn't get credited with an assist, because it was the hard work of Chris Pontius that created Emilio's goal. Pontius really put himself in danger and got hit by Hartman and a defender in the process of sending a diving header off the post. Hopefully Soehn is starting to realize also (as I've been saying for months) that our team plays its best when Quaranta and Pontius are on the field at the same time. These two combined for three or four good chances tonight.
2. The predator Luciano Emilio made a return appearance in this match, poaching the winning goal after Pontius's header deflected off the post. Emilio had two great chances to put away the game late too, once on a perfectly timed run to beat an offside trap in the 81st minute, and then again in the 88th minute with a lob over Hartman's head which was clearly goal-bound if not for being cleared off the line by Conrad.
3. Bryan Namoff also deserves credit for an assist, as it was his cross to Pontius that set up the goal. This guy is really turning into a huge asset on corner kicks. He was also our most consistent defender tonight and helped us preserve the shutout.
4. Props to Tom Soehn for a nice and creative starting lineup. He also did well at recognizing how little Gomez was contributing and replaced him with Olsen at the half. And even though I didn't understand the John for James move at the time, that did ultimately seem to shore up the defense. Although that may have been more due to Kansas City running out of gas to attack.
1. The two surprise defenders Devon McTavish and Rodney Wallace each filled in admirably. McTavish demonstrated some Jakovicesque traits, occassionally starting the ball up the field or making runs into the midfield in transition. I might even go as far to say that McTavish looked like the more competent of our two central defenders, making me wonder if he should be the one to start alongside Jakovic when the Canadian returns from injury. Wallace had his ups and downs in his first MLS start as a left back. I questioned whether the best time to try Wallace in defense was in a match where Jakovic was not there to help guide him. Wallace got beat a couple times for some shots on target, but he did look excellent when pushing forward, and also was a big help in killing off the game with his aggression when moved to CDM after John entered.
1. Christian Gomez was largely ineffective and I wasn't surprised to see him subbed out at the half. I think it's time to move on from the days when it used to be a requirement to start Gomez and Moreno at the same time.
Inefficiencies aside, this was exactly the result we needed to kick off our five game home stand. Not just a win, but also a clean sheet to give our defenders some confidence back. And oh look! Suddenly we jumped from out of the playoffs to #3 in the East! Just in time for my Fifth Sixth posting later this week! Even though we've played one more game than just about everyone else, we're still in a very good position to make the playoffs with the schedule remaining, and as I expect New England and Chivas to continue to drop off. Next up: Seattle on Saturday, then another double match week with home games against Marathon and San Jose.