Sporting Kansas City’s climb to the top of the Western Conference was distinguished by the blueprint set forth long before the year. After early-season hiccups, the defensive lapses had vanished, and an offense that struggled to score in 2017 was showing an ability to finish chances at a greater rate.
But a home tilt Sunday with Seattle wasn’t the best example of either.
Sporting KC settled for a 2-2 draw Sunday with a winless Seattle club that was utilizing an undermanned roster.
Although it stretched its unbeaten streak to six matches, Sporting KC (4-1-2) salvaged a point only after defender Graham Zusi scored in the 78th minute, countering a pair of Seattle goals that came courtesy of mistakes in the back end.
“I just don’t think we played to our level today,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said, later adding, “I just think that for some reason, and I wouldn’t say it to everyone, but I just think we were sluggish or something and we were reactionary. We weren’t anticipating a lot of plays. I’m not telling you we were horrible. But I just think we weren’t on top of our game.”
The strike to conclude the longest scoring drought of Zusi’s career will finish among his best highlights, a left-footed blast from 20 yards out last month that splashed the upper netting.
The follow-up arrived Sunday from much shorter range. And it arrived in a more timely fashion.
After finishing without a goal in 2017, Zusi scored for the second time this season, dribbling through the Seattle defense before chipping one past keeper Stefan Frei. Zusi has scored twice in a month after going 17 months between goals, a streak that coincided with his move to the defensive line.
Yet in the moments after the match, Zusi was left pondering the goal that preceded it, one he deemed preventable by his own mistake. Zusi attempted to corral a long pass and instead took a heavy touch, leading to a Seattle break that Cristian Roldan concluded with a go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute.
Asked about answering that goal and evening the score, Zusi replied, “I’m too (ticked) about giving up the second goal myself. That second goal was on me for sure. I can’t even think about my goal at this point.”
Seattle’s first score will look much worse on the tape. Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 34th minute on Ilie Sanchez’s penalty kick— after winger Johnny Russell forced a bad challenge from Seattle defender Nouhou Tolo — but it relinquished it in the final sequence of the first half, caught standing still on a cross into the 6-yard area.. Will Bruin took advantage that time, recording Seattle’s first goal of the season in its fourth match.
Sporting KC, playing without midfielder Felipe Gutierrez for the second straight game, had plenty of opportunities to secure the next goal, with Zusi setting up a pair of header attempts on the doorstep. But while it put eight shots on target, too many were directed right at Frei.
“We had plenty of opportunities to take this game and run with it,” defender Ike Opara said. “We allowed what was a terrible goal on our part to go into halftime. And then we come out in the second half, and we should’ve been up a couple of times.”