Sporting Kansas City’s home unbeaten run was snapped at 10 regular season matches in a 3-0 defeat to Atlanta United FC on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. Josef Martinez scored twice and Ezequiel Barco added a goal and two assists as the reigning MLS Cup champions (3-3-2, 11 points) handed Sporting (2-3-4, 10 points) their first regular season home loss since July 2018.
With eight players out injured and midfielder Gianluca Busio joining the United States U-17 Men’s National Team for the Concacaf U-17 Championship, Manager Peter Vermes fielded a reshuffled lineup against the reigning MLS Cup champions. Among the four changes from last weekend’s 4-4 draw against the New England Revolution was 23-year-old center back Graham Smith, who earned his first appearance of the season and the third of his MLS career. Veteran Seth Sinovic returned for his first league start since March 31, while Hungarian duo Botond Barath and Daniel Salloi also stepped back into the fray.
An early foray from the hosts saw Graham Zusi unleash a long-range curler that carried marginally beyond goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s right-hand post. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta’s Pity Martinez cut centrally onto his left foot and dragged a low shot wide of the near post.
Krisztian Nemeth entered the night with a team-best 10 goals for Sporting in all competitions and could have recorded his 11th off a Johnny Russell corner kick in the 13th minute, but his glancing header on the edge of the six-yard box missed the mark.
A cagey first half saw neither side gain a foothold until Atlanta surged ahead on 39 minutes. An incisive pass from Darlington Nagbe set Ezequiel Barco free in the attacking third, where the Argentine youngster exploited space and pulled the trigger from 25 yards. The venomous blast was palmed into the air by Melia, but Josef Martinez was on hand to slot home the rebound from close range.
Sporting probed twice in quick succession on the cusp of intermission, but Kelyn Rowe’s thunderous effort from the top of the box was blocked and Nemeth’s 22-yard curler skimmed over the woodwork.
Atlanta doubled their advantage two minutes after the restart. Sporting failed to clear a loose ball at the top of the penalty area and a shot fell invitingly to Barco, who made no mistake with a low laser into the left corner. Melia did well to thwart the 20-year-old nine minutes later, then produced another reflex stop on a Miles Robinson strike.
Russell provided Sporting’s best look of the night in the 73rd minute, weaving onto his favored left foot and forcing Guzan into a leaping save with a bending drive that was destined for the top left corner. Less than a minute later, substitute Ilie Sanchez lifted an open shot over the bar from 18 yards.
Josef Martinez bagged his second of the night and the 58th of his prolific three-year MLS career in the 76th minute, settling Barco’s pass and hammering high into the net to round out a bitter evening for Vermes’ side.
Another Eastern Conference opponent awaits next Sunday as Sporting visits Audi Field for the first time to battle English soccer legend Wayne Rooney and D.C. United (6-3-2, 20 points) in the nation’s capital. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT on FS1.
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 9 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 69 degrees and clear
|Sporting Kansas City (2-3-4, 10 points)||0||0||0|
|Atlanta United FC (3-3-2, 11 points)||1||2||3|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi (C), Botond Barath, Graham Smith, Seth Sinovic; Felipe Gutierrez, Yohan Croizet (Ilie Sanchez 65'), Kelyn Rowe (Gedion Zelalem 65'); Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Nicolas Hasler, Abdul Rwatubyaye
Atlanta United FC: Brad Guzan; Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst (C); Eric Remedi (Jeff Larentowicz 71'), Darlington Nagbe; Julian Gressel, Pity Martinez (Tito Villalba 71'), Ezequiel Barco; Josef Martinez (Brek Shea 81')
Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Florentin Pogba, Dion Pereira, Jon Gallagher
ATL -- Josef Martinez 3 (unassisted) 39'
ATL -- Ezequiel Barco 4 (unassisted) 47'
ATL -- Josef Martinez 4 (Ezequiel Barco 1) 76'
ATL -- Eric Remedi (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 66'
|Shots on Goal||3||8|
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referee: Logan Brown
Assistant Referee: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
Fourth Official: Rosendo Mendoza
VAR: Geoff Gamble
AVAR: Joshua Patlak