Saturday was a chance for the Quakes to further solidify their position in the playoff hunt. Instead, it turned into a disappointing loss that will have a big impact in the weeks to come.
Every game now becomes the most important match of the season.
The Quakes let a golden opportunity slip through their hands. Sporting KC are not the best team in MLS, but they underestimated them, and now the Quakes have to play catch up.
From the opening kick, Sporting took the game to a rather passive Quakes side. Outside a few good chances, the Quakes were torn apart by a rapid Sporting side. At no point did the Quakes ever truly feel like they could get back into the game.
Going into Saturday’s game, the Quakes had a chance to move up to as high as third and create space between themselves and the playoff bubble. Both FC Dallas and Vancouver can now jump the Quakes and push the team to the play-in game. Every game now becomes a must-win, and Quakes can’t really afford another loss.
There are no positives to take from Saturday’s game. Not only was the result disappointing, but the impacts of this loss are concerning.
Kansas City has been a weird team these past few seasons. This season, they’re once again struggling and should have been a good win for the Quakes.
Sporting KC have spent most of the season in or near the basement of the Western Conference. They have yet to find any semblance of consistency due to a variety of reasons. Johnny Russell and Peter Vermes have done their best to keep this team afloat, even if they’ve seemed ready to come apart.
Over the past few months, the Quakes have built their foundation on their defense. It’s been the best improvement that Luchi has made with this team. Although, it has been concerning to see how much the offense has regressed since the start of the season.
This game saw the defense get torn to shreds by a rapid KC attack that was able to stretch apart the backline. Every time the Quakes tried to attack, KC was able to march right back upfield and cook in the space vacated by the team. Even with Gruezo, there was no way for Luchi’s men to plug up the holes exploited by Sporting.
Additionally, there were some concerning performances by Quakes players. Gruezo and Yueill both had their worst games of the season, as they were unable to cope with KC’s press. Cowell continues to have little impact on the game, and Ebobisse needs to find the back of the net soon.
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Quakes did. They were thoroughly dominated from the first minute until the final whistle.
The restart to MLS offered the Quakes a chance to jumpstart their playoff push. They should have returned to PayPal with a minimum of four points but are coming back with three.
These first two games, along with Wednesday’s game against the Galaxy, presented a good chance for the Quakes to beef up their playoff standing. All those teams would have been uniquely dangerous, but Luchi’s side is in better shape than all three of them. A stretch like this would be a godsend for any team in the same position as the Quakes.
Saturday really threw a wrench in these plans. Instead of returning to San Jose on a three-game winning streak, they need to beat the Galaxy on Wednesday. Anything less than a win will continue to threaten to ruin all the good progress that Luchi has brought.
Now, all eyes turn to the remaining schedule for the Quakes.
In these last few games, there’s an interesting mix of good games and points to get from teams out of the race.
After the clasico on Wednesday, the Quakes will have six games out of their remaining eight against teams that are in the playoff race. Only two of those games are against teams that are out of the race completely. Fortunately for the Quakes, five of the remaining games are at PayPal, so they should have a chance to take care of business at home.
Out of these games, the matches against Austin, Dallas, and Minnesota are the most important, as these are the direct threats to the Quakes’ position. These are the real must-win games; they could drop points against Nashville and RSL but can’t drop one against those three. Getting 12 points from these four matches should give the Quakes a playoff spot.
The Quakes can’t let Saturday’s results tank their playoff push. Yes, their path forward is even tougher now, but they still have a good shot at getting into the playoff.
For fans, this season has been the most positive in years. Luchi has undertaken a great improvement, and there finally seems to be a cohesive plan going forward.
Saturday’s game felt like a dagger to the Quakes’ playoff hopes, but they can’t let that stop them in the coming weeks.
Photo: Sporting Kansas City