It’s only June 1, but Sporting Kansas City already matched its season total for home losses from a year ago after failing to hang on to a halftime lead Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact at Sporting Park.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Sporting KC, 6-5-4, took the lead in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time when Designated Player Claudio Bieler tucked a penalty kick into the lower left corner.
Montreal, 8-2-2, vehemently protested the decision, and that anger seemed to carry over into the opening minutes after intermission, which proved decisive.
By the 53rd minute, the Impact had rallied into the lead despite coach Marco Schallibaum being dismissed from the sideline for the second straight game at Sporting Park.
“That goal should have given us the power to hold the second half and win that game,” centerback Aurelien Collin said. “It didn’t happen and I’m very upset about it.”
The second-half trouble started immediately for Sporting KC when right back Mechack Jerome picked up a yellow card near the end line for a reckless challenge against Felipe Martins.
On the ensuing free kick, Montreal midfielder Sanna Nyassi drove a shot through traffic from atop the 18-yard box and tied the game in the 47th minute.
“We were not awake, and we were not ready for them coming at us at that moment,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “It’s a gigantic disappointment, and it’s not good enough.”
It got worse 6 minutes later.
Sporting KC’s defense struggled to clear a cross from forward Marco Di Vaio, which pinged around the penalty area — including a bicycle-kick cross from Martins — before coming to rest at Collen Warner’s feet near the right post after Peterson Joseph whiffed on a chance to clear the ball.
“You can’t fan or whiff at the ball inside the box when it’s played in there, then the player gets an easy chance like that,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “You work too hard over the course of the game to give up two easy chances like we did. They capitalized on them. At the end, we just couldn’t find a way.”
With one swift strike, the Impact was in front on Warner’s first career goal and that 1-0 halftime lead seemed a distant memory.
“We gave two goals away, so we should have won 3-0 today, because that was a present for them,” Collin said.
The Impact, which was outplayed in a 2-0 loss March 30 at Sporting Park, controlled the first half and created the most dangerous chances, including a 39th-minute shot by Martins that drilled the right post.
“We’ve got to change our mentality and how we approach those games at home,” Nielsen said. “When we went down 2-1, we went after them. But we should have gone after them from the first second of the game. They had a tough game Wednesday night, but we didn’t take advantage of that.”
Back to the penalty: Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins guessed correctly but was helpless to keep Bieler’s blast out of goal. It was the seventh goal of the season for Bieler, whom Sporting KC acquired from LDU Quito during the offseason.
There was no mistaking the quality of Bieler’s strike, but the sequence that led up to the penalty wasn’t clear cut.
Defender Alessandro Nesta tugged on Bieler’s jersey moments earlier, but that infraction was outside the box. Nesta still had his right arm resting on Bieler’s shoulder as a goal kick from Nielsen came bounding all the way down field.
When the ball arrived, Bieler went down, referee Armando Villareal conferred with assistant referee Greg Barkey and the penalty was given.
With the win and the New York Red Bulls’ loss, Montreal moved into first place in the Eastern Conference.