The Sporting Kansas City winless streak is over. But its conclusion came at yet another lofty price.
Sporting Kansas City sidestepped a trio of key injuries — and one ejection — for a 2-0 victory Friday in Houston. Sporting got goals from Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer and put an end to a five-match winless streak that dated back to May 10.
“I have to say it’s probably one of the best performances we’ve ever had other than the championships we’ve won,” manager Peter Vermes said.
It came with only 10 men for the majority of the match. Sporting KC, 6-5-4, played a man short for the final 70-plus minutes after forward Toni Dovale was ejected for an apparent elbow to the neck area of Houston’s Alexander Lopez on a play away from the ball.
That forced one absence. Injuries forced three more.
A team already depleted by injuries watched as Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura and Igor Juliao were all forced out of the game with injuries before the start of the second half.
That wasn’t enough to prevent a victory.
“I think it shows an incredible amount of determination by the guys to get three points no matter what the circumstances were,” Vermes said.
Saad started the positive momentum.
His first start of the season also included his first goal of 2014. In the 44th minute of the opening half, Feilhaber intercepted a poor touch from Houston defender Eric Brunner, then tapped a pass to Saad, who finished the play with a solid strike past keeper Tyler Deric.
Trying to atone for his mistake, Brunner slid into Feilhaber and sent him airborne. Feilhaber landed hard on his left shoulder and was diagnosed at halftime with a separated shoulder. He did not return.
It was the fourth major change to the Sporting KC lineup before the second half even began.
Nagamura, wearing the captain’s armband in Matt Besler’s absence, left the game in the 7th minute after suffering a concussion when he collided heads with Houston defender A.J. Cochran.
Nagamura departed on a stretcher, then handed the armband to Feilhaber, who later suffered his injury. And defender Igor Juliao didn’t make it to the second half either. He was substituted out of the match at halftime after aggravating a quad injury.
The back line in the second half included Seth Sinovic, 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown, usual fullback Kevin Ellis at center back and usual midfielder Jacob Peterson at fullback. The group limited Houston to two shots on goal, both saved by Eric Kronberg.
“This group of guys, they deserve three points,” Vermes said. “I’m hoping this is a confidence builder for them because they deserve it. Their commitment (and) the way they played was excellent.”
Still, the ensuing international break couldn’t come at a better time. Sporting KC will take a three-week break from MLS action. In the meantime, it will face the Minnesota United on June 18 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.