The demands of the week were a bit self-inflicted, a product of Sporting Kansas City advancing in the U.S. Open Cup tournament and congesting its summer schedule. A worthy tradeoff, but it prompted 300 minutes on the docket in a seven-day span.
The effects of that workload presented themselves in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday.
Seattle outmanned Sporting KC 1-0 on Saturday, reshaping the Western Conference standings.
Playing with seven reserves in its starting lineup, Sporting KC (9-5-10) lost for the first time since May 27, a stretch that had included 13 matches across all competitions.
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“I think they gave what they could,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a postgame phone interview. “We just didn’t have a ton of time to get ourselves prepared.
“It’s not the players’ fault. It takes time to build continuity between players, and we changed seven guys in the (lineup). That is going to have, somewhere along the lines, a little bit of an adverse effect.”
The result was a costly one, at least for the moment. Seattle (10-7-7) pulled even with Sporting KC atop the Western Conference standings, and it opened the door for Houston, FC Dallas and Portland to do the same before the weekend’s end.
Clint Dempsey continued a season-long hot streak that has impacted both the Sounders and the United States national team, scoring the lone goal in the 36th minute.
It was the only true threat either team posed in a match that had a dragging feel, though new signing James Musa tested Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the 74th minute.
Not much else. Sporting KC was credited with just three shots on goal.
“We weren’t good in the final third. We weren’t dangerous,” Vermes said. “We didn’t put the other team under pressure at all. We didn’t do anything. We made a couple of changes and thought maybe we could sneak one back. We were trying to claw our way back into the game.”
After navigating 90 minutes Sunday and then 120 minutes Wednesday in the Open Cup semifinals, Sporting Kansas City’s starting lineup Saturday included only four regulars — goalkeeper Tim Melia, captain Matt Besler, defender Seth Sinovic and forward Gerso Fernandes. Besler and Melia totaled 300 minutes in seven days.
On Friday, Sporting KC promoted Musa from its USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers. He was immediately plugged into the starting lineup, marking his Sporting KC debut.
The reserve-heavy group held its own — if not dictated the pace — for the opening half hour, but it failed to put a shot on goal in that time frame.
Seattle, on the other hand, didn’t waste its first chance. Jordan Morris pinpointed Dempsey in the penalty area, and Dempsey headed the ball past Melia, who was sliding in the opposite direction. The breakthrough was the first regular-season goal Melia has allowed against Seattle in five matches. Dempsey, who last month scored significant goals for the United States men’s national team in the Gold Cup, has bagged 10 goals in 19 MLS appearances this season.
“They had one chance, and they scored it,” Vermes said, adding, “Other than the one chance we gave up, we were actually pretty good. Unfortunately, we walk away with nothing.”