In a manner of moments, what looked like a good start for Sporting KC in their opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament turned sour and put SKC on the back heel in Group D as they fell to Minnesota United FC 2-1.
The Loons scored two stoppage time goals following a Tim Melia red card in the second half to erase Sporting KC’s first half advantage.
It was Sporting KC who had the momentum in the first half, creating the lion’s share of chances. Gadi Kinda had a fantastic opportunity early on, receiving a great ball from Pulido that took Kinda behind the Loons’ defense, which could have developed into a one-on-one situation. Instead, Kinda quickly decided to shoot from 25 yards out which went harmlessly wide.
A few minutes later, Sporting KC had another golden opportunity. After a corner kick went through the hands of Minnesota keeper Tyler Miller, it headed toward Illé Sanchez, who chested it down and rifled a shot high and wide of the near post he was stationed at.
Sporting KC would continue to create opportunities but would not capitalize until the 43rd minute. Alan Pulido sent a great ball to Khiry Shelton streaking down the sideline, who took it all the way into the box. Miller seemingly conceded the near post in an effort to block a potential cross and shot, but Shelton never made the cross and instead had an easy opening for the first score of the match. It was his second goal of the season.
Sporting KC would take that 1-0 lead into the half.
In the opening moments of the second half, SKC had another golden opportunity when Gerso Fernandes got behind the defense. He was alone in front of the keeper with Shelton crashing in on the other side. However, Gerso misplayed the ball and his shot/pass ended up as a soft ball right to Miller and the end of the chance.
As the second half wore on, the tide turned. Minnesota looked like they were going to equalize in the 64th minute when a pinball-situation in the box following a corner was knocked in by Ethan Finlay. However, it was VAR to the rescue for Sporting KC, as the video review found that Kevin Molino was offside and the goal was disallowed, keeping Sporting in the lead.
Just a couple of minutes later and MNUFC threatened again, this time with Aaron Schoenfeld having a go from outside the box which clanged off the crossbar, but Sporting remained ahead, if only barely.
This second half downturn went from bad to worse in the 74th minute. Schoenfeld took a brilliant touch to get past the Sporting KC back line to where he was alone in front of Melia. The Sporting KC keeper then went out of the box to challenge Schoenfeld and took him out with a poor tackle. Melia was shown a red card and ejected, knocking Sporting KC down to ten men with 15 minutes to go. Richard Sanchez came on for his Sporting KC debut to replace Melia.
From there, Minnesota continued to knock on the door and threaten. There were several opportunities, but they had to wait until stoppage time to find their equalizer.
In the 92nd minute, a Loons’ free kick was sent curling into the box. Shelton, who had scored the Sporting KC goal in the first half, ended up deflecting the ball past Sanchez and into his own net. This own goal was the result of several minutes of pressure from Minnesota and brought the game to a 1-1 scoreline.
Finally, the heartbreaker came in the 97th minute. A cross from Romain Métanire made its way to the far post, where it was one-timed from Raheem Edwards to Molino at the top of the six yard box, and Molino proceeded to put it home for the game-winner.
With a final score of 2-1, Minnesota jumped to the top of the group with three points, while Sporting KC now sit in the basement with two matches to play. SKC will meet with the Colorado Rapids on Friday at 7:00 p.m., where they will be without Tim Melia due to his red card.
The Rapids play Real Salt Lake this evening in the other group game, and the result of that will give an idea of what Sporting KC need to do to get back in contention to advance.