The ball bounced twice in the penalty box, and after a brief initial reaction, Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jon Kempin realized the inevitable and simply stood still. His shoulders slouched as the ball crossed the goal line and budged the net.
In the opening 12 minutes of a CONCACAF Champions League match in Vancouver on Tuesday, this scene unfolded twice — a ball finding daylight into the goal, without a keeper there to make a play on it.
They could amount to the final scenes in Sporting Kansas City’s CCL hopes.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC dealt Sporting a 3-0 defeat on Tuesday night and took control of the three-team Champions League group.
Sporting has only one point through the first cycle of the double round robin in the group. Vancouver has six.
“They were the better team for sure tonight. We didn’t compete as well as we should have,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview afterward.
Three days after Sporting utterly dominated an MLS match against Vancouver to the tune of a 2-0 victory, a significantly altered lineup never found its footing. Whitecaps midfielder Cristian Techera struck in the eighth minute, Erik Hurtado pushed the margin to two in the 12th minute, and Techera provided the dagger in the 64th minute.
Kempin came off his line on the initial two goals. He was unable to clear a well-placed crossing pass on the first tally after an ill-timed Sporting giveaway in the back. And he sprinted to the edge of the box to cut off a 50-yard over-the-top pass on the second goal, but Hurtado beat him to the ball and lofted it over his head and into the net. Kempin did make four saves on a night in which he saw plenty of action.
“They were going to play balls over the top — we talked about it as a team. We knew they were,” Vermes said. “And unfortunately, they caught us on a fast break, and we gave up those two goals. It made us chase the game.”
Sporting did not register a shot on goal until the 48th minute.
The club has two home matches left in the CCL group stage — against Vancouver and Central FC — but that leaves only six remaining possible points. It trails Vancouver by five in the standings, and Vancouver also has two matches to play.
Sporting KC used only one starter who also started Saturday’s win against Vancouver — center back Kevin Ellis, who paired with Swope Park Rangers defender Amer Didic to form the middle of the club’s defensive formation. Winger Cameron Porter and defender Ever Alvarado made their first starts this season in any competition.
“I don’t use that as an excuse,” Vermes said of his lineup. “We still could have been better in the game. We weren’t. That’s on us.”
Sporting will conclude its streak of five matches in 15 days Saturday, when it travels to play Philadelphia at 6 p.m.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 0
KANSAS CITY: Jon Kempin, Diego Rubio, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amer Didic, Kevin Ellis, Ever Alvarado, Cameron Porter, Paulo Nagamura, Soni Mustivar (Ualefi, 64th), Emmanuel Appiah, Connor Hallisey.
VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi, Masato Kudo, Erik Hurtado (Blas Pérez, 68th), Jordan Smith, Kendall Watson, Tim Parker, Brett Levis, Fraser Aird, Matías Laba (Andrew Jacobson, 90th+), Russell Teibert, Cristian Techera (Alphonso Davies, 76th).
Kansas City: None.
Vancouver: 1, Techera (Hurtado), 8th minute. 2, Hurtado (Teibert), 12th minute. 3, Techera (Laba), 64th minute.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: None.
Vancouver: Teibert (unsporting behavior), 32nd; Watson (argument), 40th; Aird (unsporting behavior), 87th.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Erick Yair Miranda Galindo.
Assistant referee: Alberto Morín Méndez.
Assistant referee: Andrés Hernández Delgado.
4th official: Roberto García Orozco.
Announced attendance: c.