Sporting Kansas City traveled nearly 4,500 miles over the past week to play a pair of matches.
The journey home will feel even longer.
Philadelphia Union dismantled Sporting KC to the tune of 4-0 Saturday night at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., extending Sporting KC’s road winless streak to five matches.
Peter Vermes’ club entered the night with a chance to move ahead of D.C. United for first place in the Eastern Conference — needing a victory to do it — but instead surrendered four goals for the first time this season.
’”I think travel was a difficulty. But at the end of the day, we weren’t sharp enough,” Vermes said. “We came out, and we were sluggish. We had a difficult time getting anything going.”
The task of winning on the road became even more difficult 59 seconds into the game.
Philadelphia forward Jack McInerney cleaned up a mess in front of the net in the opening minute when he booted his first goal of the season past keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who whiffed on an attempt to clear out Raymon Gaddis’ crossing pass.
McInerney, making only his second start of the season, ended another scramble with his second goal in the 43rd minute, giving Philadelphia, 3-8-2, a two-goal cushion heading into halftime. Nielsen halted a point-blank attempt from Carlos Valdes off a free kick from former teen sensation Freddy Adu, but all it took was a light tap from McInerney to balloon the lead to two goals.
“Things might have been different in the second half if you take away that goal,” Vermes said. “That put them in a real good position, and they were able to slow the game down and hit the ball long. They didn’t have to play aggressive offense at that point.”
They managed a couple more scores anyway.
The Union entered the match with a league-low eight goals in its first 12 matches. It added a penalty kick goal from Lionard Pajoy in the 81st minute after Sporting KC defender Aurelien Collin was charged with taking out Antoine Hoppenot in the goalie box. Hoppenot scored six minutes later for the 4-0 final.
Sporting KC, 9-4-2, was held to three shots on goal — all after halftime — in a lackluster offensive performance. Twenty-year-old Zac MacMath stopped all three for his fourth shutout of the year.
The difficult trek continues for Sporting KC. The club plays host to Dayton in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal battle on Tuesday at Livestrong Sporting Park before returning to MLS action against Chicago on Friday.
“(Tuesday) is a big game for us, because we have a chance to play our way into the semifinals of the (Open) Cup,” Vermes said. “So there’s not a lot of time for us to think about this one. We have to move on and get ready for the next game.”