After it spent the offseason overhauling its roster, Sporting Kansas City migrated to the Western Conference, and with 10 weeks left in the regular season the renovation reached its summit. For the first time this season, the club had an opportunity Wednesday to grab a share of first place in its new conference.
And then the San Jose Earthquakes thwarted it.
And emphatically, too.
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San Jose dealt Sporting KC its worst home loss in 14 years, a 5-0 blowout in front of 18,866 fans at Sporting Park.
“When you get your (butt) kicked like this, you need to now reach down deep and get going,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “And now all this talk about us being good is out the window, which is absolutely right.”
It was an unlikely result. To say the least.
The Earthquakes, 9-10-5, are the first visiting team to win inside Sporting Park in 2015, and they won for only the second time over their past eight matches. It was also their first victory at Sporting Park since 2004, a streak that spanned 10 matches.
It gets worse, too.
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber was given a red card in the 71st minute, a punishment accompanied by a one-game suspension.
An ugly finish to an ugly night.
The club allowed five goals for the first time this season. After allowing only seven goals over its first 11 home matches, it has yielded eight over the past two.
“You just can’t have a performance like that,” Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia said. “That’s going to be the one time this season for us.”
It kept Sporting KC stuck in third place in the competitive Western Conference. A victory would have moved the club into a first-place tie with the LA Galaxy.
But that possibility evaporated over the course of a first half that saw San Jose tally three goals in the first 30 minutes — with Cordell Cato, Chris Wondolowski and Anibal Godoy serving as the responsible parties. Cato and Wondolowski scored again in the second half, punctuating the rout.
“I thought our back line was absolutely horrific,” Vermes said. “It’s the reason why we gave up the goals we did. We were nonchalant. We didn’t play together as a group. We weren’t good in our individual defending. We were very, very poor with the ball.”
Sporting KC, 11-5-7, was playing its fourth match in 12 days.
The club offered virtually nothing in the offensive attack over the first half, and its best chance of the second half — a low shot from Krisztian Nemeth — deflected off the post.
And so it went.
Sporting KC travels for its fifth match match in 15 days when it faces Columbus at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It has nothing to do with the amount of games, said Sporting KC forward Graham Zusi, who returned from a calf injury and entered the match in the 68th minute. “That’s a horrible excuse if anyone gives it.”
Four days after a thrilling, come-from-behind win against Vancouver, Sporting KC couldn’t muster the same energy when facing a deficit.
It was shut out for the first time this season in a loss, even with a pair of halftime substitutions.
Amobi Okugo made his first start with Sporting KC since the club acquired him in a July trade, starting at defensive midfielder in place of Soni Mustivar, who is battling a left groin strain. But the first start was a quick one. Okugo lasted only one half — an uninspiring one — before he was replaced by Mike Lopez, who made his 2015 debut.
Marcel de Jong also replaced Amadou Dia at halftime.
They couldn’t solve the first-half issues.
“That’s something that should never happen, especially at home,” Zusi said. “We owe a big apology to the fans who came out tonight. That’s just not us.”
Sporting Kansas City 0
SAN JOSE: David Bingham, Marvell Wynne, Clarence Goodson, Victor Bernardez, Shaun Francis, Fatai Alashe (Marc Pelosi, 82nd), Cordell Cato, Anibal Godoy, Shea Salinas (Sanna Nyassi, 88th), Chris Wondolowski, Quincy Amarikwa (Adam Jahn, 73rd).
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia, Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Amadou Dia (Marcel De Jong, 46th), Chance Myers, Amobi Okugo (Mikey Lopez, 46th), Paulo Nagamura (Graham Zusi, 68th), Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer, Krisztian Nemeth, Jacob Peterson.
San Jose: 1, Cato 2 (Salinas), 3rd minute. 2, Wondolowski 10 (penalty kick), 17th. 3, Godoy 1 (Amarikwa), 27th. Kansas City: None.
Shots on goal
San Jose: None.
Kansas City: Nemeth, 74th.
San Jose: None.
Kansas City: Feilhaber, 71st.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Assistant referee: Peter Manikowski.
Assistant referee: Kyle Atkins.
4th official: Younes Marrakchi.
Announced attendance: 18,866