A day before Sporting Kansas City embarked on its CONCACAF Champions League schedule, coach Peter Vermes classified the match as an opportunity for a handful of reserves to make the case for more playing time.
Defender Kevin Ellis seized his chance in unexpected fashion.
But Sporting KC left feeling it had whiffed on one.
Ellis returned his goal-scoring roots from Oak Park High School, providing a second-half strike that gave Sporting KC a 2-2 draw Tuesday against Central FC at Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago.
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After Ellis tied the match in the second half, Sporting squandered a handful of enticing looks to win the game over the final quarter-hour.
“It’s good to get a point out of here, but we should’ve had three,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview. “I don’t know how many chances we needed to score a goal tonight. It was ridiculous. We missed a lot of chances.”
After a scoreless first half, the two teams combined for four goals in a 20-minute span, the last one an equalizer from Ellis in the 70th minute to ensure Sporting captured a point on the road in its CCL opener.
Sporting qualified for the CCL because it won the U.S. Open Cup last season. It is part of a three-team group that also includes Vancouver. The winner of the group will advance to the knockout stage in 2017.
Sporting grabbed its initial lead Tuesday in the 51st minute, when Seth Sinovic was credited with a goal off a deflection. But Central FC strung together goals from forward Marcus Joseph and midfielder Kenwyne Jones.
That set up the tying strike from Ellis in the 70th minute. The defender circled around Central FC keeper Javon Sample after collecting a pass from Brad Davis. Sample made six saves — three of them after the match was tied at 2.
“Coming back from his days as a forward, he makes a good diagonal run in the box,” Vermes said of Ellis’ goal. “He made it look easy. It was a very good finish.”
Because the CONCACAF Champions League match came only three days after Sporting KC played in Dallas, the club utilized a lineup that featured a handful of new faces. Ellis made his fifth start across all competitions.
Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin made his first start with the senior club after spending the majority of the season on loan with the Swope Park Rangers. Vermes assessed Kempin’s play as “OK.”
The Rangers were well-represented in the match. Rangers defender Amer Didic made his first career start with Sporting KC, pairing with Ellis to form the center of the defense. Didic played college soccer at Baker University.
“He learned a lot as the game went on,” Vermes said. “He really did. He got much better as the game went on.”
Sporting KC summary
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 2
CENTRAL FC 2
KANSAS CITY: Jon Kempin, Brad Davis, Diego Rubio, Connor Hallisey (Cameron Porter, 81st), Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amer Didic, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic (Ever Alvarado, 66th), Paulo Nagamura (Nuno Coelho, 67th), Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza.
CENTRAL FC: Kenwyne Jones, Javon Sample, Elton John, Andre Ettienne, Keion Goodridge (Kaydion Gabriel, 81st), Kevon Villaroel, Nathaniel García, Leston Paul, Marcus Joseph, Sean De Silva (Jason Marcano, 76th), Darren Mitchell (Keron Cummings, 53rd).
Kansas City: 1, Sinovic (unassisted), 51st minute; 4, Ellis (Davis), 70th. Central FC: 2, Joseph (De Silva), 54th; 3, Jones (Joseph), 56th.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: None.
Central FC: Ettienne (dissent), 50th.