Saturday night was indicative of Sporting Kansas City’s 2019 season in all the wrong ways.
It lost one forward to an early injury and his replacement to a late red card. Good offensive opportunities were squandered, including a penalty kick. Two defensive breakdowns were penalized.
The result: another loss at Children’s Mercy Park, the latest being a 2-1 setback to Western Conference rival Real Salt Lake.
Sporting KC (7-10-7) seemingly took a step toward a ninth consecutive playoff berth with last week’s big road victory at Seattle. Saturday night was another step back, and now one less opportunity remains.
“It’s frustrating that we’re not able to build on any momentum,” Sporting KC defender and captain Matt Besler said. “We dig really deep and find a way to get a big result, and we come and miss a big opportunity here tonight. We can look and analyze the game and talk about what we could or should have done and make excuses. But at the end of the day it’s on us, and it’s a missed opportunity.”
Real Salt Lake’s Corey Baird was the beneficiary of two Sporting KC defensive miscues and capitalized on both. He equalized the game in the first half, pouncing on the rebound of a missed free kick. He put Real Salt Lake (11-9-4) ahead in the 70th minute, when he was left alone on the left side and calmly slotted the go-ahead goal into the net to give Real Salt Lake just its third road victory of the season.
“It’s terrible by us,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said of the second goal. “Before that guy even hit the ball, (defender Andreu Fontas) should’ve already been shadowing toward that side. (Baird) never should’ve been alone like he was.”
Vermes also expressed his displeasure with the equalizing goal that let Real Salt Lake into the match.
“I’m embarrassed for the first goal, because we’re not ready. We talk about these things all the time, shot’s taken ball goes past you, you turn around and get ready for the rebound. We’re snoozing. We’re snoozing. It’s stuff that this team does not do, and unfortunately we’re doing it.”
Sporting KC has now lost five of its last 10 matches at Children’s Mercy Park after only losing three of the previous 45.
Gerso Fernandes got the start but took a hard hit on his ankle in the second minute. He tried to stay in the game, but ultimately couldn’t go. Vermes didn’t have an update on the severity of the injury after the match.
Gerso was replaced by Daniel Salloi, who was shown a straight red card in the 84th minute and will be suspended for Wednesday’s match at Orlando City SC.
Sporting KC’s lone goal came in the 31st minute off a thunderous free kick from Johnny Russell. Felipe Gutierrez drew a foul just outside Real Salt Lake’s 18-yard box, and Russell converted with a laser that cleared the wall and snuck inside the left post.
Unfortunately for Sporting KC, that was the lone highlight of the night. And it was once again left searching for reasons why it can’t generate any momentum.
“I wish I could answer the question. I really don’t have the answer. It’s right there in front of us,” Vermes said. “Tonight was a great example. We do a great job in Seattle, we were disciplined. We come home. When you look at the first half, it’s all there for you. We have to finish and put it away, and we don’t.”
The good news for Sporting KC is that it gets a midweek opportunity to rebound. The bad news is it can’t afford another night like Saturday if it hopes to keep its playoff streak alive.
“Every single game from now on out is a playoff game for us. It’s a must-win opportunity for us. Home and away,” Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi said. “It’s got to be a win-or-go-home playoff mentality for us from now on.”
Real Salt Lake 2, Sporting Kansas City 1
Real Salt Lake
REAL SALT LAKE: Nick Rimando, Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Donny Toia, Nick Besler (Sam Johnson, 64th), Kyle Beckerman, Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnák (Brooks Lennon, 90th+4), Corey Baird (Nedum Onuoha, 77th), Damir Kreilach.
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia, Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontàs, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Jimmy Medranda, 82nd), Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sánchez, Felipe Gutiérrez (Gianluca Busio, 90th+3), Johnny Russell, Erik Hurtado, Gerso Fernandes (Dániel Sallói, 6th).
Real Salt Lake: 2, Baird (unassisted), 38th minute. 3, Baird (Savarino), 70th minute. Kansas City: 1, Russell (unassisted), 31st minute.
Shots on goal
Real Salt Lake: N. Besler (unsporting behavior), 29th; Beckerman (dissent), 45th+2; Baird (unsporting behavior), 76th; Herrera (unsporting behavior), 90th+5. Kansas City: Gutiérrez (unsporting behavior), 29th; Fontàs (dissent), 45th+4; Hurtado (unsporting behavior), 90th+2.
Real Salt Lake: None. Kansas City: Sallói (serious foul), 84th.
Referee: Fotis Bazakos. Assistant referees: Corey Rockwell, Matthew Nelson. Fourth official: Michael Radchuk. Video assistant referee: Jorge Gonzalez.