Pre-match hype for Sporting KC match threatens to implode; tackling and "intent"

Pre-match hype for Sporting KC match threatens to implode; tackling and "intent"

The midweek bump has come a bit more quickly than I'd originally envisaged: Not more than four days until we play — who is it we play again? Oh, right. Sporting Kansas City, the side we're all supposed to be scared of, shaking in our boots at the sight of, ready to fold up and go home once we get there.

OK, so reaction hasn't been slanted in quite that direction yet. Still, we're coming up against the hype team of the early season, and while it's impressive that they've only won their matches this season, they've managed to beat D.C. United, New England, FC Dallas, Chivas USA, and LA Galaxy. Those five sides have a cumulative 27 points over 24 matches, leaving the average points-per-match for their early season opponents at 1.125. We're sitting at 31 over 30 matches for our opponents, leaving us with something even closer to 1 at 1.033.

What I'm saying here isn't that either of us have had a tougher schedule than the other, but that neither of us have had a particularly tough schedule yet. Sure, we've both had to face off against the Galaxy, but they look so utterly bereft of ideas that it's almost funny. But compared with last season's final points tally, it's striking,  as an average points-per-match below that would leave a team in the bottom five in the league. Obviously the numbers are still raw and don't mean everything (or much of anything) yet, but that's sort of the point.

Sure, we both play 'the right way,' and sure, it'll be a scintillating matchup, no doubt, but there's something disconcerting about this being described as the matchup of the season because we've both done well to this point. At this rate, people will be expecting goals by the bucket loads, and that is probably not an entirely healthy expectation.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very excited for the match, and I think, looking at last season's standings — Sporting KC finished first in the East, after all — it's not entirely surprising that there's a good deal of hype around this one. Had we not stumbled against Chivas (if wishes were horses and all that, though, right?) we'd be two sides with nothing but wins.

I will, of course, have more on the impending match as it gets closer, but for now, I'll just warn that it may not be able to live up to the very lofty expectations set out from this point.

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A word, too, for the recent disciplinary committee decision to ban New England defender and midfielder Shalrie Joseph for a tackle on Ricardo Villar at FC Dallas. He and many others have come out and said the ban is unjust. I could buy this argument; I have no particularly strong feelings against it.

I am, however, disturbed by the repeated mantras: "There was no intent" and "He never meant to hurt anyone." Maybe it's true. Hey, it's probably true, really. I'm sure Joseph didn't mean to tackle badly then land on Villar's foot, but the issue isn't at all intent. Remember the talk around Marcos Mondaini? "He didn't mean it." "It was an accident." True or not, it's not at all the point. If any player means to injure another player, they should be handed very lengthy bans. But not meaning to do something doesn't exactly absolve one of clumsiness, of recklessness, of the like.

So while the decision may have been wrong, the reaction to the decision has, in some ways, been even more wrong. Perhaps I'm biased: I've seen too many players with careers nearly ended because of recklessness and clumsiness. Remember the "challenges" to Morales and Zakuani last season? Maybe those still sting a bit. Maybe I don't want to see them again. The solution, we can all agree, isn't to absolve the tackler of any wrongdoing.

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A quick injury report update and I'm off to the races. Still out is Nico Muñiz with a ligament sprain, while Cody Arnoux (adductor strain), Ned Grabavoy (rib cage dislocation), Enzo Martinez (back spasms) and Javier Morales (hamstring strain) are all listed as doubtful. This is, at the very least, a little bit encouraging.

Right, 'til tomorrow, when I'll certainly ramble on about something else (or something I've covered already. That would be about par for the course.)