From six to nine. Sporting Kansas City (9-6-6, 33 points) hosted FC Dallas (12-3-6, 42 points) in a match vital to Sporting’s late-mid season standing Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. An early goal from FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios and an early second-half equalizer by Sporting’s Gerso Fernandes set a tense affair until Barrios finished two more too-easy chances to ice the match for the visitors, shoving their hosts nine points back in the standings.
Sporting Kansas City, who began the night 3rd in the West, came in winless in their last four MLS contests, while FC Dallas, who began the night as Western Conference leaders, had won three of their last five, losing only one. A Sporting KC win or loss would make a six-point difference in the standings.
Sporting’s starting lineup featured the return of key Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, his first start since March 31, and its veteran center back duo of Ike Opara and Matt Besler, after two games, all due to injury. Winger Johnny Russell, however, was a late scratch due to an MCL injury sustained in training.
The best early chance came in the 5th minute as Kansas City’s holding midfielder Ilie Sanchez played over the top for right winger Gerso Fernandes. The second-year speedster, however, took his shot wide to the left.
Arms shoving, shoulders clashing, and elbows flying characterized the one-on-one battles early as both sides contested every roll of the ball, subsequently, Dallas’s Carlos Gruezo earned the first caution of the match in the 15th minute.
But it would be a Sporting error that would mean the hosts would allow the first goal for the fifth time in six matches. Victor Ulloa played over the top for Michael Barrios in the 23rd minute. Opara allowed the ball to bounce before attempting to head back to Tim Melia, his goalkeeper. With little room between his head and Barrios’s shoulder, Opara’s headed ball fell for the Colombian midfielder who then chipped over the onrushing Melia for his first of the season.
Despite swarming repeatedly around the Hoops box, Sporting could not find their finishing touch and seemed destined to go into the half down one. Yet it was nearly two. Melia lunged right on a knuckling Urruti shot 22 yards out from the right in the 44th minute to keep Sporting only one step below.
It would take only five minutes into the second half for Sporting, who enjoyed 69% of the possession in the first half, to level the match. Entering FC Dallas’s box wide right, Gerso stepped over, then cut right- cut left to split two defenders and loose a low left-footed shot that nestled into the bottom right corner of Jesse Gonzalez’s goal. The one-on-one effort gave the Guinea-Bissau native his second of the season and the home fans a release. The goals also marked Sporting Kansas City’s 1,000th goal all-time in the MLS regular season, the seventh MLS team to reach that milestone.
Seven minutes later, homegrown left back Jaylin Lindsey tested Gonzalez with a dipping shot from the top left of the box some 20 yards out that got fans to their feet. They would sit and groan only five minutes on. Sent in over the top again, Barrios got behind Opara. Melia, out to the very outer-right corner of the 18, perhaps over-aggressively, saw the ball go through his broad stance and roll into an unmanned goal for a 2-1 FC Dallas lead. Thus, Sporting KC has conceded multiple goals in six straight MLS matches.
Sporting Manager Peter Vermes inserted Yohan Croizet in the 69th minute for striker Diego Rubio for some fresh legs and perhaps a moment of magic from on-again, off-again Frenchman.
But Kansas City would lose momentum, instead of gain. Captain Matt Besler failed to cleanly clear a ball in from outside the left of Sporting’s box. The ball bounced around for a moment, before being played back to the middle of the box where, who else, Barrios latched on and ripped a shot from ten yards into the upper left of Melia’s net. Barrios’s natural hat trick made it 3-1 visitors.
Bright spots came in the form of Sporting’s homegrown attacker Gianluca Busio making his first MLS appearance, coming on for Gutierrez in the 77th minute, and right back Graham Zusi’s 85th minute left-footed rocket from the left that nearly skimmed the top of the crossbar to the beaten Gonzalez’s right.
Yet another bright light would flicker deep into the seven minutes of stoppage time as winger Daniel Salloi would put in an Opara drop-back pass from within FC Dallas’s six-yard box for his seventh of the season. Less than 90 seconds later, referee Drew Fischer would blow his whistle.
The loss put Kansas City in danger of falling to fifth in the Western Conference, pending the weekend’s results. Next Saturday, Sporting KC will play at Houston Dynamo, while the Hoops will host San Jose Earthquakes.