KC Breakdown: A stomach-punch loss in Seattle

Result…

1-0 defeat on Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders (4-3-5, 17 points) at Qwest Field

Table position…

Ninth in the Eastern Conference with four points (1-6-1) with 26 games remaining

Three things to take away…

1) When will Sporting Kansas City finally catch a break?

At this rate, that break may not come until June 9 at the earliest when the team finally moves into its own digs at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. For the second consecutive season, Kansas City were on the receiving end of extra-time heartbreak in Seattle as Jeff Parke headed home the winner in stoppage time, stretching Sporting’s losing streak to five games and sapping even more energy from a club that was already depleted from two-plus months spent playing exclusively on the road.

With morale at a season low, a little luck would go a long way for a squad currently mired at the bottom of the league table.

2) Kansas City may not have any points to show for it, but they still took a step forward.

A week after embarrassing themselves in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, Sporting improved considerably in almost every respect, most noticeably on the defensive end of the field. Manager Peter Vermes’ side was organized and stingy, two words that have seldom been used to describe SKC this season, and kept Seattle from registering more than a few fleeting scoring chances before Parke scored the winner just seconds from the final whistle.

As much as losing their first shutout had to hurt, Craig Rocastle did an admirable job anchoring the midfield and the return of Matt Besler into the starting lineup was another bright spot for Sporting. Now comes the part they’ve struggled with all season: maintaining that effort from game to game.

3) After a red-hot start, Sporting’s attack has faded considerably.

Kansas City scored eight goals in its first three games, garnering praise as an attack-minded squad with an explosive, young offensive nucleus. Five games and three goals later, that praise is beginning to look like it was a little premature. Vermes trotted out a lineup that included all of Sporting’s big guns on Saturday night — Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara, Ryan Smith and Omar Bravo — but the group could only manage seven shots (four on goal) and failed to seriously test Kasey Keller.

Without a revival from the front four, Kansas City are going to have serious problems making up the ever-expanding ground between themselves and the rest of the pack. Their form should improve as Smith and Bravo integrate themselves back into the group after recovering from injuries, but Sporting can ill afford to wait too long for them to come around with results at such a premium.

Two players who stood out…

Defender Matt Besler

Besler started the first five games of the season at center back before being relegated to the pine as Vermes tinkered with a central partnership of Júlio César and Aurélien Collin. After some questionable performances from Júlio César, Besler found himself back in the starting lineup against Seattle and didn’t miss a beat.

He was strong in the air when he needed to be, distributed the ball effectively and wasn’t afraid to push up and make a challenge when the situation dictated it. Most importantly, he didn’t make any glaring mistakes of the type that have defined Kansas City’s back line all season long.

Forward Omar Bravo 

Bravo wasn’t spectacular in his first appearance since undergoing sports hernia surgery, but it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Playing 75 minutes on Seattle’s unforgiving turf was a huge step forward for the talented striker, upon whom Kansas City will be relying down the stretch to help them claw back into the MLS Cup Playoffs race.

Vermes used Bravo as an attacking midfielder against the Sounders after playing him as a left forward in his two previous games for the club. Whether that’s foreshadowing or just a one-game experiment remains to be seen, but the most important thing for Sporting is that Bravo is finally back on the field and healthy.

One play that changed the game…

For 92 minutes, Kansas City managed the game perfectly, setting themselves up for a much-needed point in a game that seemed destined to finish 0-0. Unfortunately, the game was 93 minutes long, and one lapse erased Sporting’s efforts. Parke lost his marker on a corner kick and rose majestically to flick Tyson Wahl’s cross inside Jimmy Nielsen’s back post, leaving Vermes and his players to lick their wounds once again after another disappointing defeat.  

Final verdict…

All in all, it was a dull affair, though one from which Kansas City deserved a point. But no matter what Sporting deserved, they ended up with nothing, which is the lone constant from their last five matches. At some point, things have to turn around.

Next up...

Wednesday against the New England Revolution in the final round of US Open Cup qualifying. With the regular-season campaign currently in shambles, Kansas City have the opportunity to put some of their eggs in another basket this week. The winner of this game at Blue Valley District Activities Complex will advance to the tournament proper, giving themselves an opportunity at silverware on two fronts. Desperately in need of some confidence, Sporting could use the pick-me-up that defeating the Revs and moving on in the competition would bring. A little success in front of the home fans couldn’t hurt their currently fragile psyches, either.