Sporting Kansas City midfielder Kevin Oliveira earned his senior debut for Cape Verde on Saturday, entering as an 85th-minute substitute in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Senegal in the Cape Verdean capital of Praia.
Seeking their first-ever appearance in the FIFA World Cup, Cape Verde battled resolutely against a heavily favored Senegal side before conceding an 82nd-minute strike to West Ham United forward Diafra Sakho. The deficit prompted Cape Verde head coach Lucio Antunes to summon Oliveira as another playmaking source in the final moments. The Blue Sharks pushed forward for an equalizer, but Senegal struck on the counter to double their lead through Cheikh Ndoye in stoppage time.
The defeat could prove costly for a Cape Verde outfit that falls to third place in Group D of CAF Qualifying. Only the top finisher will advance to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer.
Oliveira and Cape Verde will end their qualifying campaign on Monday Nov. 6, traveling to face Burkina Faso at Stade du 4 Août in the capital city of Ouagadougou.
2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
CAF Third Round – Group D
Oliveira, 21, signed an MLS contract for Sporting KC on Sept. 15 and made his top-flight debut a day later in a win against the New England Revolution. He has spent most of 2017 with the Swope Park Rangers, where he has tallied three goals and five assists for the playoff-bound USL club.
Oliveira is one of two SPR players who have broken into their respective senior national teams in senior months. Defensive midfielder James Musa, who inked an MLS contract with Sporting KC on Aug. 11, featured twice for New Zealand last month as the All Whites defeated Solomon Islands on aggregate to advance to a two-legged World Cup playoff in November.
Musa, 25, was an unused substitute in New Zealand's 2-1 friendly loss at Japan on Friday in Toyota, Japan. Yuya Osako's penalty put the hosts ahead in the 50th minute, but Burnley forward Chris Wood drew the All Whites level eight minutes later. Shu Kurata's 87th-minute strike ended up separating the sides in a match that served as New Zealand's tune-up for their all-important playoff next month, coming against the fifth-place finisher in South America's CONMEBOL qualifying region.