Sporting Kansas City can take one bit of solace from their shock 2-1 loss to Toronto FC at the Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon: the tried and true philosophy that says, "win your home games and draw your road games" in order to be a championship contending team is not only still on track, but the club are slightly ahead of the curve.
In coming out victorious last week in the season opener at Philadelphia Union, Sporting KC gave themselves a slight room for error with which to work away from home after that game. The only problem is, they used up their entire breathing room against one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer, and in only the following week. In any event, losing to a team that finished very bottom of MLS with just 23 points last year is not a good thing.
But, in keeping perspective of the entire season, Sporting KC come back to Kansas City for the home opener next week against Chicago Fire with 1.5 points per game on the road, and 17 home games remaining compared to just 15 on the road.
The game on Saturday was a comedy of errors from the outset. Toronto jumped all over after just three minutes when forward Robert Earnshaw jumped all over a dying, misplaced pass from Matt Besler to Aurelien Collin just outside the penalty area. Earnshaw, a Welsh international a scorer of 16 goals in 58 appearances for his country and signed just before the season's opening weekend, took his first touch around the sliding Collin and fired over the outstretched hand of Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Just like that, Sporting KC found themselves in an early hole for the second week in a row.
Things only got worse, and in a hurry a quarter-hour later. Midfielder John Bostock, signed just on Friday before the game, won a questionable penalty kick for his side in the 20th minute when Sporting midfielder Paulo Nagamura was judged to have brought the 21-year old Englishman down after a mazy dribble into the box and around Seth Sinovic. Earnshaw stepped up again, the goal-hungry forward that he is, and put TFC up 2-0 with relative ease.
The halftime insertion of CJ Sapong for Sporting KC pay almost immediate dividends, and certainly did over the final 45 minutes. Sporting were the dominant side in the second half, to the effect of a 12-1 shots taken advantage, but mostly due to the fact TFC chose to sit back and concede possession Sporting's way in order to shore up the defense and preserve the two-goal lead.
Sapong's biggest impact came in the 77th minute when he played the vital part in Sporting nabbing a goal back and making for a frantic finish. Following a foul and skirmish deep in Sporting's end of the field, Nielsen sent the ensuing free kick forward and Sapong won the header with ease, flicking on and splitting the TFC defense. Designated player Claudio Bieler split the centerback duo of Danny Califf and and Darren O'Dea hotly on the trail of the bouncing ball and rifled an even more impressive finish than his first-ever MLS goal last week, past TFC 'keeper Joe Bendik. Bieler has now scored a goal in each of his first two games with Sporting KC.
No matter which way you slice it, losing to a team of Toronto's current place in MLS - their first win in 16 MLS contests - is not a desired outcome, and a not a welcome sight ahead of next week's home opener at Sporting Park. The early mistakes of the Sporting defense once again reared their ugly head, but unlike last week, the attack was unable to dig the team out of the hole they dug.
Much more in-depth analysis of the loss will ensue over the next two days on The Daily Wiz, but for the time being, where are your feelings on the team, as far as how well they seem to have gelled and started the 2013 season?