Sporting Kansas City came into Saturday’s match at Columbus just three days removed from the worst home loss in club history. It was also the final leg of a brutal stretch of five matches in 15 days.
Tired or not, injured or not, Sporting KC needed to show something to rebound from its previous performance.
The 3-2 loss to the Crew at MAPFRE Stadium wasn’t ideal, especially considering Sporting KC allowed two Columbus goals in the final 10 minutes.
However, coach Peter Vermes recognized the circumstances and was pleased with what he saw.
“The effort was fantastic. For what they’ve had to deal with and the number of games we played, and the different lineup, it was a tremendous effort by the boys,” Vermes said. “A tremendous effort.”
Sporting KC’s lineup had a different look and feel to it. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, an MVP candidate, was serving a one-match suspension after being given a red card in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to San Jose. Marcel de Jong, normally a defender, started up front.
Graham Zusi, who returned to the starting lineup after suffering a calf injury, dropped to more of a defensive midfield role instead of an offensive role.
Zusi finished on a clinical counter-attack that gave Sporting KC the lead in the 62nd minute.
Matt Besler lofted the ball ahead for Zusi, who made a run to the top of the 18-yard box, cut to his right and unleashed a laser inside the far post.
“It was a great goal,” Vermes said. “It was a fantastic goal and put us into a good position. We were solid at that point.”
The second half, however, belonged to Columbus — before Zusi’s goal, and especially after.
The Crew equalized for the second time in the 80th minute, when Tony Tchani put home a cross.
Columbus’ game winner came in the 88th minute. Federico Higuain got off a shot that Sporting KC keeper Tim Melia was able to deflect wide. Unfortunately the rebound went right to Jack McInerney, who tapped home the game-winner.
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 15th minute.
Saad Abdul-Salaam made a deep run, just outside the right post of the Columbus net. He cut the ball in and found a wide-open de Jong, who tucked the ball under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead. It was Abdul-Salaam’s first career assist and de Jong’s first career goal.
Columbus pulled even in the 40th minute, when Ethan Finlay chested home a cross from former Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara.
The play started when Higuain’s shot caromed off the crossbar. Kamara was offside when the shot was taken, and play should’ve been stopped when Kamara touched the ball.
The flag stayed down and the goal counted. Vermes protested at the time, and wasn’t happy about it after the match.
“Did you see the first goal? I think you guys all know, right?” Vermes said.
Sporting KC fell to 11-6-7 after its second consecutive loss. It was the club’s first loss in Columbus since October 2012.
Crew 3, Sporting Kansas City 2
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Marcel De Jong (Krisztian Nemeth, 90th), Paulo Nagamura, Jimmy Medranda (Amadou Dia, 57th), Graham Zusi, Mikey Lopez, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson (Chance Myers, 78th).
COLUMBUS: Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful (Hector Jimenez, 70th), Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram (Jack McInerney, 64th), Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain, Tony Tchani, Kei Kamara (Cedrick, 72nd).
Kansas City: 1, De Jong 1 (Abdul-Salaam, Dwyer), 14th minute. 3, Zusi 2 (Besler), 62nd. Columbus: 2, 8 (Kamara), 35th. 4, Tchani 5 (Wahl, Higuain), 80th. 5, McInerney 5, 88th.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: Dwyer (unsporting behavior), 33rd; Medranda (unsporting behavior), 39th; Lopez (unsporting behavior), 79th.
Columbus: McInerney (time wasting), 90th+.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Chris Penso.
Assistant referee: Jeff Muschik.
Assistant referee: Andrew Bigelow.
4th official: Kevin Terry.
Announced attendance: 20,018.