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Sporting KC is frustrated again, dropping a 2-1 decision to Columbus

By SAM McDOWELL
Special to the Star

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Kei Kamara sticks to a postgame routine after losses. Well, usually.

It goes like this: After returning home, Kamara watches a recorded version of the game, picking spots along the way where he could have done better.

This one couldn’t wait until he got home.

Fresh off the sting of Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to visiting Columbus at Livestrong Sporting Park, Kamara found the locker-room TV and watched the replay of his 97th-minute chance, in which he found himself a couple of feet in front of the net with the ball at his feet. His kick slowly rolled inches wide right of the net.

“I had to check it out,” he said while shaking his head. “I wish I would’ve done something different with it.”

It was a pointless exercise. The play had already stuck in Kamara’s head as the last in a flurry of game-tying chances that failed to equalize the game. Instead, Sporting KC extended its home winless streak to four games and missed an opportunity to regain the Eastern Conference lead after New York fell 3-1 to Montreal earlier in the evening.

The loss came at a hefty price: Midfielder Jacob Peterson exited the game in the 71st minute because of a right shoulder sprain, the severity of which won’t be known until X-rays are taken Monday.

The scoring drought, though, is over. Kamara ended Sporting KC’s 333-minute home scoreless streak with an eighth-minute header goal, finishing off Graham Zusi’s crossing pass for his team-leading eight goal of the season.

Jario Arrieta responded with two first-half scores — the first two in his MLS career — capitalizing on two defensive lapses from Sporting KC in helping the conference’s lowest-scoring team to a 2-1 lead. It stood for the final. The Crew improved to 8-7-4.

“We completely dominated the game,” goalie Jimmy Nielsen said. “We gave away two sloppy goals. We got punished hard for that.”

Sporting KC, 11-7-4, is winless at home since a June 16 victory against Toronto.

It had its opportunities to flip that streak. The club outshot the Crew 19-1 in the second half — setting a team record for shots attempted in a single half — but the chances failed to find the back of the net against the Crew’s league-best defense.

Or did they?

Blue confetti flew into the air behind the Sporting KC goal in the 63rd minute, signaling the equalizing goal. The sellout crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park reacted similarly. One problem: Matt Besler’s redirection slid just to the right of the post for a goal kick.

Forward Teal Bunbury had three game-tying opportunities of his own. Zusi nailed the crossbar in the 51st minute, and the rebound fell into Teal Bunbury’s lap, but his ensuing touch sailed wide of the goal. Bunbury found himself alone with Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum just 5 minutes later, but Gruenebaum stoned him twice from point-blank range.

“The second half was total domination,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “We hit everything. We were all around the goal. We just didn’t put it away. It’s been that way for us the last couple of games.”

That left Arrieta as the hero for the night.

He tied the game in the 17th minute, fighting off defender Lawrence Olum in the box and sliding a shot past Nielsen. Olum started in place of defender Aurelien Collin, who missed the match with two facial fractures he suffered in the MLS All-Star Game. Sporting KC also played without defender Chance Myers for the second consecutive match.

Arrieta’s second score required much less work. Zusi lofted a ball back toward his own goal, and Arrieta intercepted it, turned toward the goal and buried a 30-yard rifle into the left corner of the net, beating a diving Nielsen in the 34th minute.

“We broke ourselves,” Vermes said. “We gave them two bad goals, and that’s it.”

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