A home opener at Sporting Park began with a video montage saluting Sporting Kansas City’s 2013 MLS Cup championship. It ended in much less celebratory fashion for the venue’s 37th consecutive league sellout.
After taking a one-goal lead late in the second half, Sporting KC managed only a 1-1 draw Saturday against FC Dallas in front of 19,431 fans at Sporting Park. FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges spoiled the home opener when he headed a goal past keeper Eric Kronberg on a restart play in the 90th minute.
The only shot on goal for FC Dallas tied the match while also providing a quick replay of the Sporting KC season opener in Seattle, when the club allowed a goal in extra time and lost 1-0.
“It’s unacceptable,” coach Peter Vermes said. “It’s not who we are. I’m not happy. And the guys know it.”
It qualifies as an alarming trend only eight days into the season.
Sporting KC had its first league victory of the season in its grasp Saturday when Aurelien Collin headed home a corner kick from Benny Feilhaber in the 81st minute. But Hedges answered nine minutes later when he sneaked through the Sporting KC defense, wiping out a clean sheet for Kronberg in the final minutes for the second straight week.
“It’s frustrating obviously,” Kronberg said. “We have to learn from it and close out games. That’s two weeks in a row. It won’t continue — I can tell you that.”
Trying to answer Hedges’ score, Sporting KC pressed forward in added time — and rookie Alex Martinez nearly scored the game-winner with two minutes to play, but Hedges once again played the hero role, clearing the ball off the line. Collin had a second headed opportunity off another corner kick in extra time, but he was unable to replicate his earlier late-game magic.
“We put ourselves in a good position,” Vermes said. “... But our inability at the end of the game to keep a clean sheet is the difference in the game. Those things can’t happen, and it’s happened two games in a row.”
For all the liveliness that the final 10 minutes provided, the preceding 80 minutes played out quite the opposite — to put it mildly.
The chances were few for Sporting KC and virtually nonexistent for FC Dallas, which was content to back off its pressure and instead allow Sporting KC to force the action. The home team obliged, but it resulted in only a handful of attempts on FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
“I thought the first half was sloppy,” defender Matt Besler said. “I thought we played a little bit slow. We came in at halftime and changed a few things — we started playing quicker and playing the ball wide. We found a few more chances in the second half.”
FC Dallas, 1-0-1, didn’t even attempt a shot until the 33rd minute — perhaps a true indication of how teams plan to play at Sporting Park this season — and it landed none on frame in the half. Still, it earned perhaps the premiere first half-chance, though that isn’t saying much. FC Dallas striker Bias Perez — the only forward in the club’s 4-5-1 formation — ripped a shot from just outside the 18-yard mark that sailed inches wide of Kronberg.
“I think it’s how we expected FC Dallas to play,” Kronberg said. “We did enough to win. We just gave one up late.”
Sporting KC doesn’t have much time to correct its late-match woes. It shifts its focus back to the CONCACAF Champions League next week. It makes the return trip to Mexico City on Wednesday to close out the quarterfinals series with Cruz Azul. Sporting KC has a 1-0 lead in the aggregate two-game series.