A lost scuffle at goalkeeper Tim Melia’s near post was the difference as 2022 winless on the road Sporting Kansas City battled 2022 winless Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday evening in the Pacific Northwest. The result was a fair one as Sporting created some fair chances, but could not find the net.
Hoping to gain momentum from a 1-0 win at home over Real Salt Lake - only their second win in five on the young season - Sporting Kansas City headed north to BC Place to take on Western conference foes Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday evening.
For fans and Sporting alike, the lineup Manager Peter Vermes put out was good to see, if not for choices and quality, at least for depth as injuries began to assuage.
Rosell was in the Starting 11 (and the team) for the first time since the opening match due to a hamstring injury. The versatile bench included attackers Nikola Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis; midfielders Cameron Duke, Jake Davis, and Roger Espinoza; and backs Logan Ndenbe and Robert Voloder; along with goalkeeper John Pulskamp.
Some early releases to Shelton and Salloi at the edge of Vancouver’s box drew significant contact, yet no pity from Referee Fotis Bazakos.
By the 37th minute, the match had been played evenly in nearly all facets of the match, though the hosts held a slight edge in possession, forcing Sporting to handle nine crosses.
One minute into first half stoppage time, there was an echo to early in the match. Shelton got behind the Whitecaps defense off a defensive clear from Sweat and was tugged from behind at the shoulder just outside the box. Once again, no whistle sounded until the half was called.
During the half, Vermes took out Rosell, as scheduled, putting Remi Walter back to the #6 and inserting Espinoza into the vacated #8 spot.
Melia was forced into a mild save from a Whitecaps’ header by Ryan Gauld within two minutes, but the veteran was up to the task.
Sporting responded in the 53rd minute with Salloi at the top of the box in traffic. However, the Hungarian’s shot was saved with a lunge to the left by Vancouver ‘keeper Thomas Hasal.
Maintaining the back-and-forth nature of the match, the 61st and 62nd minutes saw Vancouver threaten, yet poor execution on their part and a Melia save kept the hosts off the board.
A difficult Espinoza chance from Sweat shined momentary hope for Sporting, but the Honduran was forced into an awkward volley that meant little pace on the shot. The chance took on larger meaning because Sporting’s midfield lacked the cohesiveness of the first half, allowing more Whitecap rushes and being unable to sustain possession.
Thus, a headshaking moment came in the 73rd moment. Vancouver sent in a ball near post, bringing a scrum of four players, two aside. The ball knocked off a defending Isimat-Mirin, then to Ryan Raposo who trickled the ball under Melia and inside the far post.
Vermes responded by removing winger Johnny Russell and midfielder Felipe Hernandez in favor of Tzionis and Duke respectively. Could Tzionis recall his powerful strike for Cyprus earlier in the week? Those moves were followed by Vujnovic for Shelton.
Kansas City put the pressure on in the last 10 minutes, but they could only bend the hosts, not break.
Sporting will turn host for Nashville SC next Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park and aim to keep their home record undented in 2022.