There's a certain emotion that comes with Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs the past three seasons. It's increasingly a form of numbness combined with frustration and anger, where it's hard to look ahead to the next season because the same result keeps happening.
So when the Seattle Sounders scored a late goal to eliminate Sporting Kansas City from the 2016 playoffs, it was a feeling all too familiar. The Sounder hung on for a 1-0 lead in Seattle on Thursday night.
It was a match between two teams on opposite sides of the momentum spectrum. Sporting KC had stumbled their way into the playoffs, while Seattle had surged from a midseason coaching change. The fourth-seeded Sounders were the hosts, while Sporting KC was playing their third knockout round game on the road in a row.
The match was chippy, and the rain falling in Seattle did not make for a smooth contest. There was a moment in the first half when Osvaldo Alonso went in on Roger Espinoza and committed a foul that earned him a yellow card, but debatably could have been a red card. This would prove very important later on in the match, but the rest of the first half was mostly uneventful. Both teams were scoreless at the break.
Early on in the second half it looked like Sporting Kansas City might have an advantage when Matt Besler was able to head a ball into the net, seemingly for a goal, but he was called offside.
Later in the second half, Alonso was the center of attention again. He went in on Benny Feilhaber with legs spread and knocked Feilhaber to the ground with the tackle. This had Sporting KC fans crying for a second yellow card, but there was no foul given, and he stayed in the game.
The gut punch, after all the back and forth from the game, came in the 88th minute. A sub named Nelson Valdez headed the ball into the net for the game-winner off a cross from Joevin Jones. It carried on a tradition of late Seattle winners, and a tradition of late heartbreak for Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs.
It leads Sporting KC into an offseason full of questions. The futures of Benny Feilhaber and Paulo Nagamura take the forefront while the front office has a lot of big decisions to make regarding the structure of the team, and how they can adjust going forward. Because three years in a row of heartbreak like we've seen only hurts worse the longer it goes on.