This is how soccer can be cruel.
Sporting KC dominated the first 35 minutes Friday at Sporting Park, turning the Philadelphia Union goal into target practice. Nothing got through, but Sporting owned possession time and fired six of the game’s first seven shots.
But a moment later, Sporting found itself down 1-0.
That’s how it finished, and Sporting’s three-game winning streak was over.
“At half, it was unbelievable to be down 1-0,” Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “We were completely dominating the game and created chance after chance after chance.”
The difference was Union took full advantage of its one good early opportunity. The goal was no thing of beauty, but for a team riding a five-game scoreless drought, it would have accepted even the ugliest of scores.
A Union push, its first of the game, resulted in a Michael Farfan short shot that Nielsen stopped with a reflex save. But the ball landed near the foot of Union forward Conor Casey, and he didn’t miss the shot past a fallen Nielsen and other Sporting bodies for his 10th goal of the season.
“I couldn’t find the second ball, I couldn’t see through my own people,” Nielsen said. “I was hoping for the best that somebody would block the second shot.”
When that didn’t happen, Philadelphia ended a scoreless streak of 346 minutes.
Sporting KC failed to gain ground on first-place New York, which plays at Seattle on Sunday, in the Eastern standings. At the moment, Sporting, with 48 points, remains three points behind the Red Bulls.
Scoring chances piled up early and often for Sporting KC.
“We had way too many chances not to score,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “On the attack side, we weren’t clinical enough to score. You have that many chances, you’ve got to score to put pressure on the other team.”
The first solid opportunity came in the 14th minute and started with a curling pass from Jacob Peterson to a streaking Benny Feilhaber, who arrived at precisely the same moment as the ball and Union midfielder Michael Lahoud.
Sporting got the foul call, and Feilhaber took the free kick from about 25 yards just to the right of the goal. The ball could not have been more perfectly placed, curling over the wall toward the upper corner. But goalkeeper Zac MacMath got a mitt on the ball just before crashing into the pipe.
The first-half chances continued. A minute later Dom Dwyer found an opening and ripped a low drive just to the left of the net.
In the 25th minute, Feilhaber and C.J. Sapong worked a give-and-go that left only 10 open yards between Fielhaber and MacMath, but MacMath went low for the save.
There was more action: Graham Zusi got off a clean strike from the right side, a near-miss by Sapong on a header, the chances kept coming in the first half, but no payoff.
Sporting’s frustrations continued in the second half. In the 52nd minute, Chance Myers put a long drive squarely on the noggin of a diving Dwyer. But the header went just wide.
Sapong had scored Sporting’s previous three goals, including a pair at Toronto last week. But his tough luck continued in the second half when he air-balled a shot from in front of the goal.
Another chance not finished. That was the story of the night for Sporting KC.
“Very frustrating,” Dwyer said. “We got unlucky in the first half. We had a few that could have bounced either way.”
On this night, they bounced away for Sporting.