Sporting KC falls into Western Conference cellar with 1-0 home loss to Vancouver

·3 min read

The men of Sporting Kansas City had an opportunity, at home Saturday night, to separate themselves from the rest of the conference bottom-feeders.

Instead, they find themselves occupying the dead-last position in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference after losing 1-0 at Children’s Mercy Park on Lucas Cavallini’s penalty kick for the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

Vancouver opened (and closed) the scoring in the 24th minute when Uri Rosell tripped up a Whitecaps player in the box. Cavallini put the penalty kick past Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, and that was all she wrote.

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes, whose squad fell to 3-8-4, said the difference in the match was simple.

“They had the penalty kick, they scored,” he said. “We had a couple chances, we didn’t.”

Kansas City captain Johnny Russell, who’d scored twice in Sporting’s most recent game, had two golden chances from close range that he couldn’t convert.

On the first, Cam Duke had played him in with a perfect pass, but Russell couldn’t re-direct it on frame. On the second, Felipe Hernandez’s second-half pass hit Russell in space with time to shoot, but the Scot put a tame effort right at the goalkeeper.

“I’ve got to hold my hands up,” Russell said. “Wasn’t good enough there. I’ve been given praise in recent games and recent weeks. But tonight, (my) finishing wasn’t good enough. I kind of cost the team.”

The loss brings to a close a brutal run of games during which Sporting has played seven matches in 22 days. The run has included trips to Portland, New York, San Jose, with games in Kansas City sprinkled in.

Already weathering an injury crunch on its roster, Sporting has been forced to play some players out of position in every match during this grueling stretch.

It was no different Saturday night, as Sporting ran out the same lineup that earned a draw in San Jose.

Melia wasn’t using that as an excuse, saying it’s just not acceptable to lose at home.

“They’re (Vancouver) in a similar position as we are,” Melia said. “Ultimately, at home, we need to come out on the better side of that.”

Sporting gets a break now before its next match on June 12 against the New England Revolution. Just the same, KC will still be in last place when that match kicks off two weeks from now at 2 p.m. Central at Children’s Mercy Park.

“We all need to use these days off to the best of our ability,” Melia said. “Whether it’s mentally, physically, getting guys back, coming back with a different attitude.”

While this break will provide some crucial time for the players to clear their minds and rest — and perhaps for Vermes to welcome a couple others back from injury — the situation in the standings is rather bleak at the moment. Sporting has collected just 13 points in 15 matches.

If this club doesn’t get itself right when play resumes, drifting even further from postseason contention isn’t out of the question.

So there’s only one remedy.

“Win games,” Russell said. “Simple as that.”