Playing with a patchwork defense thanks to injuries and international duty, Sporting Kansas City appeared to have sewn up three points for a win on two different occasions Friday against Toronto FC.
Instead, playing a man down after Steven Caldwell’s red card in the 63rd minute, Toronto FC rallied both times for a 2-2 draw against the reigning MLS Cup champions.
Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer took over the top spot in the chase for the MLS Golden Boot with two goals, but it was not enough to secure a victory, much to the chagrin of 19,914 at Sporting Park, the club’s 43rd consecutive sellout for an MLS match.
“I’ll worry about it at the end of the season, but not right now,” Vermes said. “Obviously, I’d rather have the three points.”
He continued, “It wasn’t meant to be tonight, which is the only frustration, but I thought it was a good performance. I thought the guys at the back did a fantastic job. We haven’t got one natural centerback playing back there, and no one looked a step out of place. Credit to them tonight.”
Sporting KC, 5-4-3, started a pair of right backs, Kevin Ellis and Chance Myers, at central defender.
The club’s All-Star starting pair wasn’t available with Matt Besler training with the U.S. men’s national team and Aurelien Collin nursing a hamstring injury.
Reserves Lawrence Olum (Kenyan national team), Ike Opara (ankle) and Erik Palmer-Brown (suspension) also were unavailable, forcing Vermes to put together a patchwork backline.
Sporting KC also fielded a lineup without Graham Zusi, who is training with Besler for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and starting defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell.
That colored Vermes’ post-game assessment after Sporting KC blew a pair of one-goal leads despite a man-advantage against Toronto FC, 4-4-1.
“We’re disappointed with the result,” Vermes said. “We felt like we should have walked away with three points. … We had the run of play, and we had good possession. We just made two mistakes … and they both led to goals.”
Dwyer staked Sporting KC to its first lead in the 47th minute.
Off a throw-in, he played the ball wide to the left wing for midfielder Sal Zizzo, who took a touch inside then rolled a pass back to Dwyer atop the 18-yard box.
With a running, left-footed strike, Dwyer hammered in Sporting KC’s first shot on goal of the contest.
It looked like that might be enough after Caldwell was shown a straight red card for a serious foul in the 63rd minute. The Toronto FC defender spiked Sporting KC midfielder Toni Dovale in the right groin with a flying challenge.
However, Toronto FC striker Luke Moore delivered the equalizer in the 67th minute.
Sporting KC retook the lead on a penalty kick by Dwyer in the 84th minute, his MLS-leading 10th goal of the season, but it still wasn’t enough.
A poor clearance in the 91st minute allowed Toronto defender Nick Hagglund to chip a ball into Sporting KC’s box, where fellow defender Bradley Orr beat Sporting goalie Eric Kronberg to the ball for the game-tying header.
“I thought he was chipping it backpost, so I saw it late. But I tried to put my hands up to stop the header, and I got two hands on it,” Kronberg said. “I thought I got enough, but I didn’t. It’s a frustrating one. Everyone can look at the play and think of something they could have done differently, but that’s the nature of the beast sometimes.”
The already thin Sporting KC defense suffered another blow when Myers left in the 36th minute with a left Achilles’ heel injury. Vermes said Myers will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury during the weekend.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed to concede at the end,” Dwyer said. “It was definitely one that was preventable, but that’s football sometimes. It was a good performance. I thought we played well. I thought we controlled the game.”
Dwyer has now scored in four consecutive games, which is tied for the second-longest streak in club history (Eddie Johnson, 2007). Preki owns the club record, scoring in five straight games during the first MLS season in 1996.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.