As Sporting KC opened its season with a 2-0 defeat to New York City FC on Sunday, its first home opener loss since 2009, the team spent little time lingering on the past. Three new foreign transfers made their MLS debuts on the night in front of the home crowd at Children's Mercy Park.
Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez and forwards Yohan Croizet and Johnny Russell all started on Sunday evening, with the chance to showcase their international play in front of a roaring home crowd.
All players progressed as time went by, getting comfortable as they adapted to the new setting.
But Kansas City coach Peter Vermes did not sugar coat their transition to the team.
The Kansas City team was shut down on Sunday night, losing 2-0 behind lifeless offense.
Of the three, Gutierrez, whose play at midfield may go unnoticed, showed the greatest on-ball technique.
“Gutierrez [is] a great ball winner, sees the field very well,” Vermes said. “[He] finds really good spots as we’re going to the goal.”
Gutierrez proved his skill in getting toward the goal with three shots and three crosses throughout the entire game. His energy brought the most statistical help to Sporting KC, playing all 90 minutes of the game.
Along with Gutierrez, Johnny Russell, a Scottish forward who came to Kansas City from Derby County in England, was active the entire game, creating and finalizing chances from the left wing all 90 minutes.
“As the game went on, Johnny Russell got better and better,” Vermes said. “It was incredibly dangerous in so many different situations … but it happened as the game went on, because he’s getting more familiar with the MLS game.”
Russell certainly showed some intensity on Sunday, producing a team-high five shots throughout the evening, as well as mesmerizing the fans with his exciting attack-minded runs down the left wing.
“I felt as the game went on I got stronger, so hopefully I can continue to do that,” Russell said.
After losing Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing in the offseason to Los Angeles FC, members of the Kansas City soccer club talk about their former teammates and the need to bounce back without them.
Although both Guterrrez and Russell got a full 90 minutes, Croizet was the game’s first substitution, coming off for forward Gerso Fernandez early in the second half.
The Frenchman, who played three seasons for KV Mechelen of Belgium’s top league, presented his tremendous speed and skills in the first half, showing his off-dribble speed multiple times. With three promising crosses and two shots all in the first half, topped by a near goal in the 30th minute, Croizet was the team’s highlight in the first half.
However, the Frenchman’s energy slowed down, as was evident by Vermes’ comments after the game.
“I think [Croizet] had some very good actions,” Vermes said. “I think [he] was a little bit more a man on an island.”
Like the rest of the new additions, Croizet is expected to only improve as the season moves on.
“It’s going to take a little time for the guys to really get used to how we are going to play,” Vermes said.
And Vermes will have no time to waste in an attempt to acclimate all of his players, as Sporting will look to get their first points Saturday when they visit the Chicago Fire, followed by a return home the following week against the San Jose Earthquakes.