The bench production is just shy of a league-record pace, elevating Sporting Kansas City to the best point total in the Western Conference. A flurry of goals from late-game subs have directly altered the outcome of five matches this year.
But unlike a week prior, the reserves couldn’t bail Sporting KC out of a first-half flop Saturday.
Montreal dismissed Sporting KC 2-0 at Saputo Stadium in Quebec, a static outing ending the road club’s nine-game unbeaten streak.
“We just didn’t have it,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview after the match. “We didn’t have enough today. We were slow with everything, and that was really the difference in the game.”
Sporting KC (9-3-5) had not lost a match since April 28. It remains tied for first place in the West, though counterpart FC Dallas has played one fewer match.
The performance Saturday lacked substance from the outset, Sporting KC failing to test Montreal keeper Evan Bush in the opening half. Montreal (7-11-0) has furnished three consecutive shutouts. Bush needed to make only three saves for the latest one, none qualifying as a high degree of difficulty.
On a humid night in Montreal, the distressed product eventually spilled over to the defense. Montreal Impact forward Ignacio Piatti broke the scoreless tie in the 54th minute, and forward Alejandro Silva doubled the advantage in the 70th from the penalty dot. Both goals were a result of some idle movements within Sporting KC’s structure — the first on its failure to close the distance in Piatti’s shooting lane and the second on its inability to clear a ball from danger.
“The first goal should have never happened, and the second one shouldn’t have as well,” Vermes said. “Missed tackles. Missed clearances. It was kind of the way the game went.”
A week earlier, on its home field, Sporting KC similarly lacked cohesion in the opening half, but an about-face changed the discourse of the match in the second half. Substitutes Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final five minutes of a 3-2 win against Houston. Sporting KC has already broken a club record with eight goals from subs this season.
Both came off the bench in the second half Saturday — allowing Daniel Salloi to continue his string of starts at center forward. Vermes also sent Wan Kuzain into the match. But the collective impact of the three attacking players was absent in the scoreline.
“We were slow with the way we moved the ball, which basically never pulled them out of any position,” Vermes said. “They were organized, but we never disorganized them because we were slow with the ball.”
Captain Matt Besler returned to the lineup after a two-week absence with a hamstring injury. That represented the only change from a lineup that produced the comeback last weekend.
The schedule will take Sporting KC to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday before it returns home to face Toronto FC, the defending MLS Cup champion, on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.