Sporting Kansas City’s 24-game home unbeaten streak was snapped in a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
Vancouver forward Erik Hurtado scored against the run of play in the 53rd minute, ending the third-longest home undefeated streak in MLS history as Sporting KC suffered a regular-season home loss for the first time since May 27, 2016.
The result lifts Vancouver (15-10-6, 51 points) four points clear of third-place Sporting KC (12-7-11, 47 points) at the top of the Western Conference table heading into the final month of the 2017 regular season campaign.
Manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the Sporting KC lineup from last Sunday’s 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy. Gerso replaced Cristian Lobato in attack, while homegrown center back Erik Palmer-Brown stepped in for captain Matt Besler, who was sidelined Saturday after sustaining a face injury six days earlier against LA.
Both sides traded scoring chances within the first three minutes, as Vancouver’s Tim Parker headed narrowly high off a free kick from Brek Shea before Graham Zusi’s delectable far-post cross was volleyed wide by Seth Sinovic.
The hosts were awarded a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 10th minute when referee Baldomero Toledo conducted a video review to confirm that Vancouver defender Kendall Waston fouled Daniel Salloi just inside the box. Diego Rubio’s ensuing penalty kick struck the base of the left post, giving Whitecaps FC a major reprieve in the early stages.
Zusi continued to wreak havoc down the right wing, running onto a long diagonal pass from Ilie to swing a superb cross into the path of Rubio, but Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic produced a fine reflex save to keep his side level. Rubio would rue his luck yet again midway through the first period, rifling inches wide off a clever cutback from Sinovic.
Espinoza was next to try his luck in the 25th minute, but his low drive took a deflection through traffic and sizzled marginally off target. Rubio then forced a pair of saves from Marinovic—the first off which from long range and the second a header off Zusi’s corner kick. Vancouver’s final threat of the half came on the cusp of intermission when Shea nodded a Jordan Harvey cross over the bar on the edge of the six-yard box.
Vancouver made Sporting KC pay for their missed first-half chances in the 53rd minute when Harvey floated a long ball behind the defense to Hurtado, whose excellent one-time volley beat goalkeeper Tim Melia and nestled into the far right corner of the net. The strike would prove decisive in a match that saw Sporting KC hold a 74-percent edge in possession.
Sporting KC went agonizingly close to drawing level only two minutes later, but Zusi’s wonderfully hit 22-yard free kick smacked off the crossbar, drawing gasps of frustration and disbelief from a sold-out crowd at Children’s Mercy Park.
Vermes’ men remained on the front foot as the second half unfolded, asking further questions of the Vancouver defense in the 77th minute when Zusi’s out-swinging corner was nodded high by Espinoza. Whitecaps FC rarely forayed into Sporting KC’s half of the field, but did so in the 82nd minute as Melia made a pair of crucial stops to thwart Hurtado and Alphonso Davies on the counter-attack.
Lobato, who entered as a halftime substitute, was on the receiving end of Sporting KC’s final opportunity in the 90th minute. Benny Feilhaber’s driven corner kick to the far right side of the penalty area was volleyed goalward by the Spaniard, but a slight deflection carried the ball inches over the woodwork.
A fiercely contested affair boiled over in second-half stoppage time as Zusi and Christian Bolanos received straight red cards — Zusi for toppling Yordy Reina from behind on a clear breakaway and Bolanos for violently raising his hand to Feilhaber’s face.
Sporting KC will quickly shift their focus to next Saturday’s fixture at regional rival Minnesota United FC (9-16-5, 32 points). The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 30 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 67 degrees and clear
|Sporting Kansas City (12-7-11, 47 points)||0||0||0|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC (15-10-6, 51 points)||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Erik Palmer-Brown, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza (C), Ilie, Jimmy Medranda (Benny Feilhaber 57); Gerso (Cristian Lobato HT), Diego Rubio (Latif Blessing 78), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amer Didic, James Musa
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Stefan Marinovic; Jakob Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Aly Ghazal, Marcel de Jong, Alphonso Davies (Russell Teibert 84), Nicolas Mezquida (Yordy Reyna 68), Brek Shea (Christian Bolanos 60); Erik Hurtado
Subs Not Used: David Ousted, Aaron Maund, Fredy Montero, Bernie Ibini-Isei
|Shots on Goal||7||3|
VAN -- Alphonso Davies (caution; time wasting) 69
SKC -- Graham Zusi (ejection; denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity) 91+
VAN -- Christian Bolanos (ejection; violent conduct) 93+
VAN -- Erik Hurtado 3 (Jordan Harvey 1) 53
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referee: Adam Garner
Assistant Referee: Kevin Klinger
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic