Sporting Kansas City had a chance to grab the Eastern Conference title race by the throat in the last week, but instead came up with zero points against its chief competition for a third straight regular-season crown.
One week after losing on a 96th-minute goal at Montreal, Sporting KC’s usually stout defense leaked goals in a 3-2 loss Saturday against the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park.
“Offensively, we came out with a strong attitude and we were flying and flying, but that’s the easy part of soccer,” Sporting KC goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. “The tough part, and where to have to show you have some (heart), is when you’ve got to run the other way again. That was not existent today.”
Things started well for Sporting KC, 10-7-6, which outshot New York 27-5 and controlled 65 percent of the game’s possession in front of the largest crowd in Sporting Park history (21,304) and the club’s 28th consecutive MLS sellout.
During a six-minute stretch in the second half, things fell apart completely when New York, 11-7-5, popped in two counterattack goals.
Fabian Espindola put the Red Bulls back in front in the 63rd minute, though replays showed he might have been offside.
Second-half substitute Lloyd Sam, who entered in the 60th minute and assisted on Espindola’s tally, delivered the dagger in the 69th minute.
“We were looking to do a little more counterattacking today and the counterattacking goals worked to a tee,” said Red Bulls coach Mike Petke, who was dismissed from the sideline late in stoppage time by referee Chris Penso.
Meanwhile, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes lamented his team’s lack of a killer instinct in the second half.
“We had them on their heels and we didn’t go step on them,” Vermes said. “We didn’t go after them like we should’ve, but we could’ve. That does not make me a happy guy when the opportunity is there. When we’re at home and we have a chance to go run at a team, we need to go at them.”
During the opening 25 minutes, Sporting KC outshot the Red Bulls 8-1 and seemed to be in control before midfielder Jonny Steele’s third goal of the season in the 27th minute.
Still, right before halftime, Sporting KC pulled even and seemed to grab the momentum.
Defender Chance Myers whipped a low, hard cross to the near post in the 45th minute. Forward Soony Saad headed the ball on frame, but Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles made a diving save.
Unable to control the ball, the rebound fell to forward Kei Kamara, who jabbed the ball into the net with his left foot for his fifth goal since returning in May from a three-month loan to Norwich City of the English Premier League.
Forward Dom Dwyer, who drilled a header off the post in the 82nd minute, notched his first MLS goal in the second minute of stoppage time, heading home a lofted cross from Kamara, but a third goal never came.
“It’s nice to score and I feel confident, but I’ve felt confident since coming back from Orlando,” Dwyer said. “It’s obviously nice to score, but it’s very bittersweet at the moment because of the result.”