The weekend trip to Houston was billed as The Return of Brad Davis.
Only four months ago, the World Cup veteran departed Houston as the club’s all-time leader in starts, assists and appearances. On Saturday, he walked into BBVA Compass Stadium donning a Sporting Kansas City uniform.
But on a night reserved for Davis, his former teammates stole the spotlight.
Houston struck twice in the opening half Saturday and defeated Sporting KC 2-0, capturing only its second victory of the season.
Sporting KC, 4-5-2, has not won since April 9, a time frame that extends over six matches.
“Is there frustration? Sure, there should be. When you don’t play well, there better be frustration,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview after the match. “If you think it’s happy-go-lucky time and you’re OK with getting your ass beat, then you’re not only in the wrong profession, you’re on the wrong club.”
Sporting KC has failed to score more than one goal in any of its past six matches.
Saturday represented an enticing opportunity to change the trend. But ultimately it was a missed opportunity.
Houston, 2-5-2, operated with the worst defense in Major League Soccer over the first two months of the season and entered the match having allowed 2.0 goals per game.
But Sporting KC fizzled in its attempt to couple quality possessions with movement in the attacking third, and Houston recorded its second shutout of the season.
“I think there were certain players that absolutely hindered us throughout the game,” Vermes said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the kind of moves that I wanted to make because people got a little tired. (But) there were certain people that really hurt us in the game tonight. They lacked a competitiveness that you need in this league to keep yourself in the game.”
Houston grabbed its first goal in the 30th minute, when Giles Barnes punctuated a counter attack with a shot toward the far post, beating keeper Tim Melia. In the final seconds before halftime, Andrew Wenger squeaked a shot under the crossbar to double the advantage.
The latter put a different spin on the second half, allowing Houston to place numbers behind the ball to protect the lead.
Sporting KC attempted 17 shots Saturday, but only three of them required a save from Tyler Deric. None of the three were particularly dangerous, continuing an alarming trend for a club searching for offense. In its 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy last Sunday, Sporting KC took 17 shots and placed only one on target.
“I thought in the first 25 minutes, we had the game. We never put anything away,” Vermes said. “They got one chance; they scored. They got a second chance; they scored. Two mistakes, two goals.
“They completely put the game in their favor in (terms) of being able to drive at that point.”