First-place Sporting Kansas City stumbled to a frustrating 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Colorado defender Kortne Ford headed home the decisive goal in the 11th minute, giving the hosts all three points despite Sporting Kansas City’s marked domination in possession and shot attempts.
In a match that saw the last-place Rapids (3-8-1, 10 points) knock off the Western Conference leaders, Sporting Kansas City (6-4-4, 22 points) enjoyed 73 percent possession and held a 25-6 edge in shots, including an MLS-record 20 attempts from outside the box during the Opta era (2010-present). Colorado’s set piece deliveries proved decisive, however, as Ford’s early goal was one of three free-kick situations throughout the night that tested Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Manager Peter Vermes made three changes to his lineup from last weekend’s 2-0 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps FC as defender Ike Opara, midfielder Benny Feilhaber and winger Jimmy Medranda reprised their respective starting roles. Forward Dom Dwyer notably missed his third consecutive away game with a knee injury and remains day-to-day.
Sporting Kansas City’s territorial control reflected the teams’ opposite positions in the Western Conference table, but the game’s first chance would fall to the Rapids when Opara was whistled for a foul on Dominique Badji 30 yards from goal on the left flank. Ford connected with Shkelzen Gashi’s resulting set piece to cushion a header low into the left corner of the net, giving the Olathe, Kansas-born rookie his first career MLS goal.
A ceaseless offensive barrage promptly ensued from the visitors, beginning in the 13th minute when Roger Espinoza’s audacious 20-yard chip floated over goalkeeper Tim Howard and faded inches beyond the far left post. Seven minutes later, Medranda curled a free kick over Colorado’s four-man wall and narrowly wide of the frame.
Gerso saw a long-range attempt deflected behind for a corner kick in the 23rd minute before Graham Zusi came agonizingly close to restoring parity near the half-hour mark. The U.S. international found a pocket of space on the right side of the penalty area and clipped the ball over the onrushing Howard, but Bobby Burling was stationed to make the goal-line clearance and preserve Colorado’s lead.
The Rapids remained dangerous on set plays, and another teasing ball from Gashi caused further trouble for Sporting KC as Melia lept to save Kevin Doyle’s goal-bound header in the 34th minute. Just before halftime, Ford connected with Gashi’s corner to force Melia into yet another stop.
Medranda spurned an opportunity in the 39th minute, firing high from 15 yards off a delivery from Gerso after the Designated Player navigated a tight space inside the box. Sporting KC’s frustration was compounded on the stroke of halftime when Feilhaber’s low strike deflected off Seth Sinovic and skipped well wide of goal.
Vermes’ side kept its proverbial foot on the pedal after intermission, as Espinoza’s 25-yard piledriver beat a fully-extended Howard but screamed marginally wide of the post. Besler and Medranda tried their luck from distance shortly thereafter, then Blessing’s eight-yard bullet was palmed away by Howard following a cunning buildup between Feilhaber and Gerso.
The diminutive Blessing was an unlikely recipient of Feilhaber’s precise corner kick in the 74th minute, but the unmarked Ghanaian was unable to steer his header on target in a central position. Seven minutes later, Espinoza teed up Feilhaber for an excellent look atop the box that was blocked amidst a swarm of bodies.
Sinovic — who scored his first MLS regular season goal in Sporting KC’s 3-1 win over Colorado on April 9 — nearly pulled his side level in spectacular fashion in the 92nd minute, but the left back's knuckling drive from 25 yards caromed off the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
An exasperating night served up a sour twist deep in second-half stoppage time when Espinoza was ejected for his second bookable offense of the match. The midfielder will serve a one-game suspension when Sporting Kansas City welcomes Minnesota United FC next weekend.
Having played four of their previous five matches on the road, Sporting Kansas City will return to Children’s Mercy Park for a three-game homestand to kick off the month of June. The swing begins next Saturday, June 3, when Vermes’ men host Minnesota before an ESPN audience at 4 p.m. CT. Tickets for the Western Conference clash are available at SeatGeek.com, and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive free Sporting KC sunglasses courtesy of match sponsor Mark One Electric.
Sporting Kansas City currently boasts a club-record 15-game home unbeaten streak in the regular season, which doubles as the longest active run in MLS.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 14 of 34
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
Weather: 55 degrees and partly cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (6-4-4, 22 points)||0||0||0|
|Colorado Rapids (3-8-1, 10 points)||1||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Benny Feilhaber; Gerso, Latif Blessing, Jimmy Medranda (Soony Saad 74)
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Igor Juliao, Soni Mustivar, Cameron Porter, Daniel Salloi
Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard (C); Marlon Hairston (Mekeil Williams 86), Bobby Burling, Kortne Ford, Eric Miller (Mike da Fonte HT); Micheal Azira, Dillon Powers, Shkelzen Gashi, Mohammed Saeid (Josh Gatt 76); Dominique Badji, Kevin Doyle
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Dillon Serna, Sam Hamilton, Alan Gordon
|Shots on Goal||2||3|
COL -- Bobby Burling (caution; unsporting behavior) 19
COL -- Eric Miller (caution; unsporting behavior) 22
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; unsporting behavior) 41
COL -- Tim Howard (caution; time wasting) 86
COL -- Kevin Doyle (caution; unsporting behavior) 89
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (second caution/ejection; unsporting behavior) 93+
COL -- Kortne Ford 1 (Shkelzen Gashi 1) 11
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi