The moments of vehemence arrived in the form of gestures, words and expressions, Sporting Kansas City’s trip to New York City defined by its irritation. In one sequence Friday, midfielder Benny Feilhaber yelled toward a pair of teammates, who offered literal pushback in response.
The five-second progression offered an encapsulation of Sporting’s season, let alone Friday’s outcome.
New York City further buried Sporting KC in the Western Conference, dealing its visitors a 3-1 defeat Friday at Yankee Stadium.
With time serving as an increasingly large obstacle to prolonging the league’s third longest playoff streak, Sporting (6-9-7) remained five points shy of the playoff line. After back-to-back losses, it will require a red-hot final third of the season to escape an early offseason.
The team finished with 10 men Friday after midfielder Roger Espinoza was ejected for the studs of his cleat planting in Maxime Chanot’s right knee. But the damage had already arrived, with New York City using goals from Anton Tinnerholm (41st minute) and Heber Araujo dos Santos (54th) to build a 2-0 lead.
“They’re a very good team. They’re very organized. Those guys defend really hard,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview after the match. “They’re not an easy team to break down, especially on this field when it’s so small. That was a big difference — they defended really well. Gotta give them credit.”
The second goal arrived after a New York City goal kick, when replays showed Sporting KC should have been awarded a corner kick instead, a sticking point with players at the time and with coaches afterward. NYCFC already had a one-goal lead.
Sporting KC actually showed some of its best play down a man, resulting in its lone goal. Ilie Sanchez headed in a goal in the 72nd minute, connecting on a pass from Feilhaber to trim the lead to 2-1. Minutes later, winger Gerso Fernandes hit the side netting on an attempt to draw even. But with Sporting chasing a game-tying goal down to 10 men, New York City pounced on an abundance of space, Alexander Ring pushing the margin back to two.
“The guys fought. I give them a lot of credit,” Vermes said. “It’s unfortunate about the red card. It obviously put us in a hole at that point. But the guys did a good job to fight back at minus-1. We just unfortunately didn’t find enough in the end.”
The first half entailed those aforementioned displays of emotion. On multiple occasions, teammates were spotted yelling at one another and pointing out mistakes, the frustrations boiling over for a team in an unfamiliar position. Sporting KC is increasingly fading from a playoff race in which it has failed to firmly be a participant over the last three months.
Although injuries played a significant role in Sporting’s descent, the club enjoyed nearly a full allotment of options Friday. Espinoza started a match for the first time since April 14 after a knee injury prompting a three-month absence. But he will sit next week in Seattle after the red-card ejection.