First-place Sporting Kansas City played its third match in eight days Saturday night as they matched up with hosts and sixth-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a matchup of Major League Soccer Western Conference foes. But they left their recent edge in the final third – five goals in their last two matches – at home and suffered their fifth shutout in seven away games. Goals by midfielder Cristain Techera and Tim Parker would see the Whitecaps (5-5-1, 16 points) to the three points.
Sporting Kansas City rotated four players in, half due to injury as center forward Dom Dwyer and center back Ike Opara nursed injuries, although Opara was available on the substitutes bench. Midfielders Jimmy Medranda and Benny Feilhaber also did not start but were on the bench. Into the First 11 were Latif Blessing, Kevin Ellis, Tyler Pasher, and Soni Mustivar respectively, with the 23-year-old Pasher making his MLS debut.
The match was slow to take shape, perhaps due to Sporting’s changed lineup and the fact that Vancouver had not played on their home pitch for a month of four matches, their most recent a 2-1 loss at Houston Dynamo last Friday.
It was not until the 20th minute that either team threatened seriously. Found by a long ball from center back Matt Besler, Sporting Forward Gerso Fernandes received at the top of the 18, as his mark fell to the turf, cut to his left to beat another defender, and then goalkeeper David Ousted, before releasing a shot that was blocked by the backtracking Whitecaps.
Sporting would rue the chance to take the momentum as the Whitecaps jumped on top in the 40th minute to gain the advantage going into halftime in a three-touch masterpiece that never saw the ball touch the turf until it was nearly in Tim Melia’s goal. Released deep on the right side, back Sheanon Williams drove a lined cross into the left side of the box for Christian Bolanos who backpedaled and chested the ball sublimely to midfielder Cristian Techera whose powerful left-footed volley beat Melia to his left and into the side netting.
Sporting threatened four minutes later on a corner as midfielder Ilie Sanchez drove a strong header at goal from the penalty spot, but right at Ousted. The damage had been done, and Sporting would have to come from behind to gain a result.
Sporting Head Coach Peter Vermes reinserted winger Jimmy Medranda for Pasher to begin the second half perhaps for a hopeful offensive push as Sporting’s attack lagged in the first half for the second consecutive match.
But it was the Whitecaps who would have the fortune in the 51st minute as they gained a chance to go up two as left back Seth Sinovic nudged striker Fredy Montero in the box on a cross. Montero stepped up for the ensuing penalty kick and placed the ball well to the lower left corner, but Melia dove to his right to make another stellar save for Sporting to keep the deficit at one. It was Melia’s second save of a PK in three attempts on the season.
Despite another offensive insertion by Sporting with playmaker Benny Feilhaber entering for Soni Mustivar in the 56th minute, the hosts continued to have the best chances. Bolanos struck a vicious drive at Melia from his right in the 60th minute off a skillful switch. Melia was able to get his hands up to block and the danger passed.
In the 67th minute, Sporting’s Roger Espinoza received a yellow card for his foul on Alphonos Davies outside the right corner of Sporting’s box. And Vancouver would reap the rewards as Bolanos’ serve on the resulting free kick was nodded past Melia into the right side of the net by a rising Tim Parker to finally give the Whitecaps the two-goal lead.
The hole was nearly three as Montero headed an attempt off Melia’s left post in the 81st minute off a free kick from right side.
Sporting’s efforts to impact the match came to nothing in the final 10 minutes and stoppage time as they would bow to the Whitecaps for their third loss of the season, all in away matches.
Sporting (6-3-4, 22 points) will get a full week of training and rest before they travel to Colorado Rapids in a week’s time.