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Round 1, Game 1: A Rainy Day at CityPark

The proverbial “when it rains, it pours” echoed louder and louder with each goal Sporting Kansas City put past St. Louis, shocking a home crowd, on a rainy night at CityPark. When the full time whistle blew, Sporting Kansas City erased any regular season woes at CityPark to the tune of a 4-1 win and 1-0 series lead in a best-of-three series.

The game started out much like their most recent encounter with both teams feeling each other out. However, it became very clear what Sporting Kansas City wanted to do: sit back, watch what St. Louis would do with possession of the ball, and strike when it needed to.

Kansas City would find the opener in the 27th minute of play thanks to poor defending on a throw-in in St. Louis’ defensive third. A miscue by Anthony Markanich’s header found its way to Kansas City’s Alan Pulido. Pulido found a wide open Logan Ndembe just outside the 18-yard box. The left back took a touch and then unleashed a thunderous left-footed strike to give the visitors the lead.

Kansas City’s lead would last less than a minute as St. Louis’ Tim Parker responded to bring the score level at 1-1. A rebound off of a corner and Pulido fell at the foot of Parker and he didn’t miss from the edge of the goal. Even with the much-needed response Parker gave St. Louis and the crowd, it would be overshadowed once again by defensive miscues and clinical finishing.

After Kansas City’s Gabi Kinda had his shot blocked, Pulido picked up the rebound and drove to the goal line. His cut back pass found its way to City’s Njabulo Blom whose attempt at a clearance went straight to Kinda in the 18-yard box. Roman Bürki saved Kinda’s second shot attempt, but the rebound found a waiting Rémi Walter just outside the 18-yard box, who struck for a 2-1 lead in the 36th minute.

Then came the gut punch.

Three minutes after Kansas City retook the lead, a goal kick deflected off of Khiry Shelton and Gabi Kinda picked up the loose ball from about 30 yards out. Kinda took matters into his own hands, dribbled through City’s swiss cheese of a defense and blasted a right-footed shot to put KC up 3-1 and firmly in control. VAR did check for a possible handball off Shelton’s deflection, but it was inconclusive to overturn. Kansas City’s third goal sucked the life out of CityPark and St. Louis just before half time. Kansas City added a fourth goal in the second half to round out the final score.

There’s no use in playing the excuse game for what happened last night. Weather? Kansas City played in it too. Was it a handball on Shelton? VAR said no. Don’t like some of the calls the ref made throughout the game? It’s nothing new. There is an argument to be made that certain calls and the timing of those calls influence what happens in the game, but City wasn’t ready to play, period. None of that changed City’s play and how uninspiring it looked and felt. It was a bad game and it's a problem that’s been building for the last few weeks.

Thanks to MLS’ new format, the series now shifts to Kansas City. St. Louis suffered a 2-1 defeat in their last visit to Children’s Mercy Park, but if they want to avoid a similar result than Sunday’s defeat, the team will need to look at themselves in the mirror. They’ll have a week to do just that when game two of the best-of-three series kicks off at 4:00pm on Sunday, November 5th.

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