The playoff scenarios were first necessary on Sept. 30, with five matches remaining on Sporting Kansas City’s schedule. In the ensuing 12 days, the club has welcomed three opportunities to secure its spot, to ensure its year would conclude in the postseason for a seventh straight time.
Instead, three whiffs.
Each of them more distressing than the last.
Sporting KC relinquished a lead for the second consecutive match, falling 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday.
Its playoff fate is on hold.
“We’re just not intense in the (right) moment,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said of the lost lead. “We lost our focus and concentration. We’re not covering all the spots that we have to, which we’re supposed to as the game moves. This game doesn’t stay in one place. We need to move with the game.”
Sporting KC had a playoff spot within its grip Wednesday — needing only a draw to finalize it — after midfielder Jimmy Medranda scored the game’s opening goal.
But it allowed the equalizer and winner after halftime — the latter of which came on an own goal. Defender Erik Palmer-Brown attempted to clear a crossing pass but instead deflected the ball into the net in the 77th minute.
Sporting KC (12-8-12) could have clinched with a victory in either of its previous two matches but settled for a tie in Minnesota over the weekend after suffering its first home loss of 2017 the week before.
Having said that, it remains in second place in the Western Conference standings, and it’s still very much in the conversation for a first-round bye. The top two teams in the Western Conference will stay idle in the first round, a one-game knockout.
Sporting KC could’ve been in a comfortable position.
Medranda provided Sporting KC a 1-0 lead on a shot from distance, a strike he has rarely turned down over the past two-plus seasons. On Wednesday, he one-timed a pass from Saad Abdul-Salaam that slipped inside the left post.
But Tomás Martinez buried a shot into the middle of the net in the 63rd minute, beating goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra for the equalizer before the game-winner arrived 14 minutes later on the own goal.
“It’s not like we were going after that second goal — we just didn’t do it, and that hurt us,” Vermes said. “That’s what let them back into the game. They got the goal and got the momentum at home.
“We didn’t respond well enough.”
With Tim Melia sidelined with a hamstring strain, Sporting KC turned to Dykstra in goal. Dykstra, 31, made his first start with Sporting KC, receiving the nod over 22-year-old rookie Adrian Zendejas. It was Dykstra’s 33rd career MLS appearance. He finished with three saves.
Both teams played without a handful of starters who were on international duty. Sporting KC was absent three starters — Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber, who were part of the United States men’s national team roster that lost in Trinidad and Tobago late Tuesday. Palmer-Brown, Abdul-Salaam and Medranda started in their places.