Sporting Kansas City’s five-match road winning streak ended with a thud and a 2-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday at BC Place.
The club also lost goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to an apparent shoulder injury. He was replaced at halftime by Jon Kempin, who made his MLS debut.
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes didn’t know the severity of the injury, or how much time, if any, Gruenebaum might miss. The club is still without the services of starting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, who is recovering from a broken finger.
Sporting KC didn’t look like the best road team in the MLS on Sunday. Gone is the aforementioned road winning streak, which tied a club record and was the longest in MLS since 2005. Also gone is an eight-game unbeaten streak, dating back to a May 31 loss at DC United.
Never miss a local story.
“Simply put, the other team wanted it much more than we did by far. We were playing very casual, very lackadaisical,” Vermes said. “They were playing on the front foot. They deserved easily to get the three points. They were the better team.”
The Whitecaps got on the board in the 17th minute due to a miscommunication between Gruenebaum and defender Igor Juliao.
Gruenebaum came off his line to collect a long ball played forward from the Vancouver back line. Juliao thought his goalkeeper stayed home, and headed the ball over Gruenebaum’s head and into the net for an own goal.
The Whitecaps added some insurance in the 39th minute, when a Sporting KC turnover led to a 2-on-1 break. Darren Mattocks took a perfectly timed pass from Pedro Morales and slid it past Gruenebaum for a 2-0 lead.
“You can’t go out and think it’ll be a walk in the park. The mentality has been good as of late, but you have to be consistent,” Vermes said. “When you don’t you get your butt handed to you. I don’t think their place in table shows what kind of team they are. They were hungry, they were moving off the ball we weren’t. I could go on and on, but we just didn’t have it.”
Sporting KC’s first-half deficit easily could have been doubled. Gruenebaum fought off a wicked free kick from Morales in the 32nd minute, and Collin cleared a ball off the line in the 45th minute.
Kempin held firm in the second half, especially on a Whitecaps penalty kick. Aurelien Collin was whistled for a questionable foul in the box.
Kempin dove to his right and got a hand on the shot, deflecting it off the post.
“Jon played well... when he had to be big he was with that penalty,” Vermes said.
Sporting KC, 11-6-6, has 39 points in the season, and is still two points clear of DC United in the Eastern Conference standings. It is tied with Real Salt Lake in the race for the Supporter’s Shield.
Vancouver improved to 7-4-11 and snapped a streak of four consecutive draws. It was the Whitecaps’ first win against Sporting KC.
Sporting KC returns to action on Saturday at Sporting Park when it hosts Toronto FC.