During a 17-day layoff, Sporting Kansas City’s primary concentration was on finding a way to maintain its sharpness. In that vein, coach Peter Vermes scheduled a pair of intrasquad scrimmages during the break, attempting to replicate the feel of an actual match.
The rust remained anyway.
New York City FC overwhelmed a sluggish Sporting KC side to the tune of a 1-0 victory Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Jack Harrison provided the game-winning strike in the 84th minute with his left foot after chesting down a pass in front of the goal. It felt a long time coming.
“I think they competed at a higher intensity than we did throughout the match,” Vermes said in a phone interview. “We did it in spurts as individuals. We didn’t do it as a team like we normally do.
“At the end of the day, they outcompeted us.”
Sporting KC (10-6-10) was virtually absent in the offensive end, prolonging its offensive road woes. The club has scored just six goals in 13 road matches this season.
From the opening whistle, the game absorbed a choppy pace with a steady rain falling inside the narrow dimensions of Yankee Stadium. The layout is just 70 yards wide, the tightest field in Major League Soccer.
The baseball-turned-soccer complex undoubtedly played a factor in Sporting Kansas City’s inability to string passes together, but it wasn’t the only factor. Vermes called his team slow and out of rhythm. Sporting KC had not played since defeating FC Dallas on Aug. 19, with a postponement and international break on the heels of that win.
“The guys knew what they were getting into. We knew what was important in the game today, and we failed,” Vermes said. “We didn’t do our job. I truly believe (New York City FC) deserved (the win).”
New York City FC (15-7-5) held Sporting KC without a shot on goal for the entire first half. Midfielder Roger Espinoza erased that zero only a minute into the second half, testing NYC FC keeper Sean Johnson.
Wasn’t much else. Wasn’t anything else, actually. Sporting KC did not place another shot on target.
Sporting KC keeper Tim Melia fell just six minutes shy of his 11th shutout of the season, but he had some help in getting that far. Midway through the second half, New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Morález hit a shot that surpassed the save attempt by Melia, but NYC FC forward Khiry Shelton inadvertently deflected the ball off the goal line.
Harrison made the play irrelevant, finally capitalizing on an extended spell in New York City’s offensive end with his ninth goal of the season.
“They got the goal because of their scrappiness,” Vermes said. “They were going after it.”
Both clubs were shorthanded Wednesday, absent significant contributors. Sporting KC was without defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who started for the United States men’s national team a day earlier in Honduras. New York City FC played without several regulars, including injured striker David Villa, an MLS MVP candidate who leads the league with 19 goals this season.
NEW YORK CITY FC 1, SPORTING KC 0
First half: No scoring. Second half: 1. New York, Harrison (Allen), 84th minute. Shots: Sporting KC 10, New York 16. Shots on goal: Sporting KC 1, New York 6. Saves: Sporting KC 5, New York 1. Offsides: Sporting KC 2, New York 2. Fouls: Sporting KC 10, New York 11. Yellow cards: Sporting KC 2, New York 2. Att: 19,353.