Sporting Kansas City will have some work to do — a lot of work — upon returning home for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals after losing to the Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Still, Sporting KC, which has won the regular-season conference title the last two seasons, wasn’t ready to concede a spot in the next round of the MLS playoffs to coach Dominic Kinnear’s club.
“At the end, it’s halftime,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “We’re getting ready for the second half now. It would be better if it was 0-0 or 2-0 our way, right? But I wouldn’t use (disastrous). There’s been many teams that have come back from this situation in the league.”
Of course, it wasn’t exactly good either.
Midfielder Adam Moffat staked the fifth-seeded Dynamo to an early lead with his 18th-minute missile and Will Bruin — who had both goals during the knockout-game win four days earlier against the Chicago Fire — turned that into a commanding two-goal advantage in the 75th minute.
“It’s not time to be sad right now,” Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “It’s time to show who you are now. I don’t believe we showed who we were today. We have the home advantage on Wednesday, and we know we have to score at least two goals, so we have to come in with an attacking mentality. It’s going to be tough.”
The Dynamo went in front early when left back Seth Sinovic won a header into the box, but knocked it dead center a few yards outside the goal, where Bruin beat forward Jacob Peterson to a 50-50 second ball, knocking it to the feet of Moffat.
Off the bounce, Moffat sliced a rocket across goal and inside the left post from 30 yards out for a 1-0 lead that only further emboldened an announced crowd of 20,689.
“He hit it very well,” Nielsen said. “It was a great strike.”
Meanwhile, Sporting KC’s chances were infrequent as the club — really, both clubs — struggled to maintain possession and link together passes, though only Vermes’ club was coming off an 11-day layoff between the regular-season finale and postseason opener.
“They did a very good job in the first half of every time we won the ball getting numbers around us, and either they won the ball or they fouled us,” Vermes said. “They broke the rhythm of the game very quickly, and this way they always got 11 players behind the ball. It slowed the game down for them every time we won it.”
During the 34th minute, forward C.J. Sapong won a race to the corner for a long ball, which Tally Hall started to go after before retreating to goal.
Trying to beat Hall inside the near post from a tight angle, Sapong won a corner kick and defensive midfielder Julio Cesar won a throw-in after that, giving Sporting KC three cracks at knotting the game — though none proved fruitful.
Most other chances were wild shots from distance or simply never materialized against an organized Dynamo defense that seldom conceded a shot off Sporting KC’s bevy of set pieces.
Among the most promising opportunities, right back Chance Myers found himself alone in the right channel in the 71st minute, drew Houston’s defense toward him then cut back a pass for Zusi, but the All-Star midfielder’s roller trickled wide of the far post by a few feet.
Four minutes later, Dynamo forward Calen Carr bombed down the left flank and sucked three Sporting KC defenders toward him before laying off a centering pass for an unmarked Bruin, whose one-time volley might have effectively wrapped up the series.
“We weren’t paying attention off the throw-in,” Vermes said. “We weren’t concentrated enough, so Carr got in behind us and played a good ball back. (Bruin) just wrapped around a finished a good ball.”
Needing to win by at least two goals to advance, Sporting KC will play host to the Dynamo at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park.