Sporting Kansas City didn’t just lose. It lost to an expansion team.
An expansion team, mind you, that was playing a makeshift lineup in preparation for a Canadian Cup semifinal it would lose to Toronto FC, the only MLS club still searching for its first point of the season.
Sporting KC even lost at home, suffering the first regular-season shutout loss in Livestrong Sporting Park’s history.
It was also the club’s second straight shutout defeat, extending its recent run without a goal — no, the own goal in Portland does not count — to 205 minutes.
Perhaps understandably, the last two results, but particularly that 2-0 loss last Saturday against the Montreal Impact, triggered a few alarm bells.
Left back Michael Harrington, who replaced an injured Seth Sinovic in the lineup against Montreal, admitted after the game that Sporting KC may have taken the Impact too lightly.
Other players referenced a poor mental approach or mentioned a lack of urgency in explaining the season’s first home loss.
Disappointing? Yes, but the sky isn’t falling.
“In no way are we happy with the way we played this past weekend,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “We’re not dwelling on it or anything, but it’s in the back of our heads to play differently. There wasn’t too much urgency on the field this past Saturday.”
In fact, it may have been a great lesson for Sporting KC to learn as it heads back out on the road — starting at 7:30 tonight against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park — before a Memorial Day weekend showdown with goal machine Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes.
The first loss, a 1-0 defeat in Portland, came courtesy of an own goal in the third game Sporting KC played in eight days. That included a 2,000-mile journey to the Pacific Northwest, which is taxing on both mind and body.
No excuses, but the loss was understandable.
It’s also understandable that Sporting KC may have expected an intimidated Montreal side simply to roll over for the Eastern Conference leaders.
“You can’t take any game lightly in this league,” Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza said after the Montreal game. “Anybody can come out and beat you and play just as good as you. We’ll take experience from this game and do better next time.”
Now, Sporting KC knows better and has a better idea that any team on any field truly can be dangerous.
“We know who we are as a team by this time,” coach Peter Vermes said. “I think also that, with this group of guys, when we make a mistake we’ve always responded well from that. I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Neither will the Sporting KC lineup.
“It doesn’t do much for a player’s confidence if he has a rough patch and immediately is put on the bench,” Zusi said. “I don’t think that’s the way Pete works or the way a lot of coaches work. It wouldn’t do much for one’s confidence.”
Look for the same Sporting KC crew that won the season’s first seven games to take its best crack at returning to the win column at Chicago.
“I don’t think people are panicking about any performances we may have had on Saturday,” Zusi said. “We’re looking ahead to Chicago and the first 45 minutes, trying to put a good half together.”