The quirks of a schedule will keep Sporting Kansas City outside its home venue for a month. So as the calendar turned to June with the club in its worst mid-season standing in nearly a decade, a climb back up the table will require points on the road.
It got one Saturday.
But missed out on a couple more.
Playing for the third time in seven days, Sporting KC took a second-half lead but couldn’t make it stick, settling for a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.
“We talked yesterday and today about a specific plan we wanted to put in. I thought the guys executed it — better than I expected, to be honest with you,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. “So many things with a lack of rest, a short turnaround in games and all that. For us to be able to come in here and really we (could’ve gotten) three points, that was big for us. We played very well.”
Sporting KC grabbed a 1-0 lead with a remarkable individual effort from Yohan Croizet in the 63rd minute. It stood for all of six minutes before Alberth Elis equalized, a defense unable to clear a crossing pass that remained in the air for quite some time.
In the end, Sporting (3-5-6) will wake up Sunday below the playoff line in the Western Conference — only the second time in the past eight seasons it has done so in June or later.
Croizet offered a glimpse of narrowing what began as a four-point gap entering the weekend. After Ilie Sanchez chipped a pass to skip a line, Croizet took his initial touch with his head, bumping it past a defender. As Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis came out to greet him, Croizet sent a nifty chip over his head that took one bounce before crossing the goal line.
“Excellent,” Vermes said. “He was very good. He keeps getting better every game that he plays.”
The game-tying tally didn’t take long. Houston defender Maynor Figueroa lofted a long pass toward the penalty area. Sporting KC failed to attack the aerial ball, and A.J. DeLaGarza sent a pass to Elis, who stood open in the middle. Sporting had adequately contained the speedy Elis in the initial hour — enough that Vermes called defender Seth Sinovic the man of the match.
Three points turned to one.
“We actually dealt with all that stuff really well for the majority of the game,” Vermes said. “That was more of falling asleep for a second and the other team taking advantage.”
With more road trips on the horizon. Sporting KC will make trips to Toronto, Columbus and Salt Lake City this month, and it also travels to Minnesota on June 12 for its first game of the U.S. Open Cup. Afterward, a date with red-hot LAFC awaits at Children’s Mercy Park on July 3.
Sporting KC gave captain Matt Besler and winger Johnny Russell a break from the lineup. Both players traveled with the team but were not available for selection on game day. Russell was kneed in the back of the leg during Wednesday’s loss to the LA Galaxy. Besler felt a tweak during training Friday and was held out.