Nothing leading in to Friday night’s match between Sporting KC and D.C. United was normal.
Kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park was pushed back 2 1/2 hours because of weather concerns — and then the weather delayed the match nearly an hour at halftime.
United didn’t even make it into town until Friday morning, delayed by the storms that rolled through the area Thursday.
Unfortunately for Sporting KC, the result — a 1-0 loss — was all too familiar.
United’s Alhaji Kamara got the game-winner in the 86th minute. Kamara made his United debut only a minute earlier when fortune smiled upon him.
Sporting KC’s Tim Melia and Jacob Peterson and Kamara collided going for a cross.
Melia and Peterson each fell to the ground.
Kamara remained standing, the ball fell at his feet, and he booted it into an empty net.
Sporting KC (5-8-2) once again came out on the wrong side of a critical, match-defining moment.
“It’s poor decisions. That’s all I can say. Poor decisions, poor execution. At the end of the day, that’s the brutal honesty,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I don’t know what else I can elaborate on that.”
It was Sporting KC’s seventh loss in its last 10 matches, and the 14th point the club dropped at home this season. United snapped an 11-match winless road streak, dating back to last August.
“It was one moment. I think we were sharp the whole game, and one moment, a lack of communication leads to that goal, and that’s frustrating,” Opara said. “We focused all week on stopping defensive errors, and we make it 85 minutes. All I can say is, moving forward, we need to finish the last five.”
Sporting KC’s cold streak has been defined by such errors, and the club is still searching for the solution.
“I don’t think any games we’ve been out of it. We’re just not getting anything to fall,” Opara said. “If we’re able to get a goal, one of those chances in the first or second half, I think that changes the whole game. If we can finally do that moving forward, I think good things will come. But we still have to make our luck.”
Sporting KC outshot United 18-6 for the game and dominated the run of play, yet was shut out for the fourth time this season.
Both clubs also took the field with patchwork lineups, because of national team call-ups for the pending Copa America Centario and one Sporting KC suspension.
Sporting KC had three starters — defender Matt Besler and winger Graham Zusi (U.S.) and midfielder Soni Mustivar (Haiti) — away on national team duties. Midfielder Roger Espinoza missed the match with a one-game suspension handed down earlier in the week by MLS for a dangerous play against Real Salt Lake last week.
Defender Nuno Coelho was also unavailable for the first time after playing every minute of the season before Friday.
“He was a little heavy-legged, and it was more precautionary,” Vermes said. “There’s no sense in trying to push somebody through something, and then all of a sudden you actually really injure them. We just wanted to be very, very smart in regard to him… If you’re not, then all of a sudden you push somebody and they’re out four-to-six weeks, and that’s not something we were willing to risk.”
Friday’s lineup included Kevin Ellis, making his return from a groin injury, and Jordi Quintilla, who was just called up from Swope Park Rangers. Paulo Nagamura made his first start — and second appearance — of the season.
United (4-5-4) was without leading scorer Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and defender Steve Birnbaum (U.S. men’s national team), but did receive a boost with the return of goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who made his season debut after suffering a knee injury in January.