Sporting Kansas City ended the first leg of the club’s 2017 preseason with a 2-1 defeat to the New England Revolution on Tuesday at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.
Nansel Selbol — a 19-year-old product of the Sporting KC Academy — came off the bench to score Sporting KC’s first preseason goal in the 80th minute, but first-half strikes from Josh Smith and Kei Kamara paced New England to victory.
Manager Peter Vermes distributed minutes evenly for the second straight game, utilizing 24 players and handing preseason debuts to defender Matt Besler, midfielder Ilie Sanchez and forward Soony Saad. Besler and Sanchez logged 32-minute shifts as starters, while Saad played the whole second half.
Roger Espinoza wasted no time trying his luck from distance, sending a long-range strike wide of goal within the first minute. Sporting Kansas City enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the early stages and carved out another shooting opportunity in the 17th minute when forward Latif Blessing teed up Jimmy Medranda, whose 20-yard curler sailed just over the bar.
New England converted its first chance of the afternoon to take the lead after 22 minutes. Veteran Chris Tierney lofted a free kick to the back post where Smith — an unsigned fourth-round selection in the 2017 SuperDraft — cushioned a header past Tim Melia.
Blessing nearly produced an instant response for Sporting KC with a well-struck side volley off a set piece, but goalkeeper Cody Cropper made the save.
At the opposite end, Kamara’s header off a Tierney cross slammed against the woodwork in the 28th minute. The former Sporting KC forward would not be denied a second time, however, and doubled New England’s lead just before halftime with a low drive inside the far post.
Vermes fielded an entirely new lineup in the second period, with Benji Joya — who replaced Sanchez — the only holdover from the first half. Sporting KC began brightly and almost equalized in the 50th minute when Gerso Fernandes’ free kick found Colton Storm, but the rookie defender’s glancing header rattled the underside of the crossbar.
Another bid to cut into the deficit was denied on the hour mark when goalkeeper Brad Knighton sprawled low to push Saad’s header wide of the goalmouth. A few minutes later, Fernandes and Christian Duke both fired off target.
Selbol entered the fray in the 75th minute and impacted the match almost immediately, settling a cross from Duke and blasting into the back of the net to give his team a lifeline. Sporting Kansas City applied late pressure in search of an equalizer, but the Revolution preserved their lead to the final whistle.
Sporting KC will return to Kansas City on Wednesday for a brief recuperation period before traveling back to Tucson on Sunday to begin leg two of the 2017 preseason, presented by Children's Mercy. The club will play four games at Kino Sports Complex from Feb. 15-25 in the Desert Diamond Cup.
NE – Josh Smith 22’
NE – Kei Kamara 44’
SKC – Nansel Selbol 80’
Sporting KC Lineups
First Half: Tim Melia; Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler (Oumar Ballo 32), Seth Sinovic; Ilie Sanchez (Benji Joya 32), Jimmy Medranda, Roger Espinoza; Latif Blessing, Christian Volesky, Daniel Salloi
Second Half: Adrian Zendejas; Colton Storm, Amer Didic, Ike Opara, Tyler Pasher; Soni Mustivar, Benji Joya, Christian Duke; Gerso Fernandes (Nansel Selbol 75), Cameron Porter, Soony Saad