The Vancouver Whitecaps looked primed to build their first-ever MLS winning streak on Saturday, but they instead failed to hold onto an early lead and fell to Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The loss comes on the heels of a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union last weekend at Empire Field, and was a sharp reminder that the ‘Caps still have some work to do ahead of a busy and critical week for the club.
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“This game was hard to explain,” said captain Jay DeMerit, who came out at halftime as a precaution to a recurring groin injury. “I thought we started well, that was our goal going out. After that, we got a bit flat.”
DeMerit was whistled for a foul in the Vancouver penalty box on Sporting striker Omar Bravo in the 32md minute, and the Mexican striker promptly buried the ensuing penalty kick to erase a goal from Camilo and a rare early lead on the road for the Whitecaps.
Sporting added another goal in the 40th minute, and the Whitecaps never found the equalizer.
“The penalty changed the game,” DeMerit said. “We’ll look at that and hopefully learn from these types of things, and how we can get back into games and continue our energy because we didn’t do that tonight. We have two important games coming up.”
The Whitecaps return to action on the road in league play against rival Toronto FC on Wednesday, and then take on the Reds in a rematch of the all-important Nutrilite Canadian Championship at BMO Field on July 2.
Playing on the road hasn’t been easy for Vancouver this season. The ‘Caps came into the match Saturday with only three points through nine MLS matches away from home, and had yet to register a victory.
The Whitecaps took the lead behind Camilo’s fifth goal of the season in the 15th minute and looked surprisingly likely to buck their trend against Sporting, but the Bravo goal and the game-winner just before the break from Júlio César helped seal Vancouver's fate.
“In the first half, we wanted to get the early goal and force them to come out,” Vancouver interim head coach Tom Soehn said. “What we didn’t do well was pressure them the right way. We let them get inside our house and didn’t make play predictable, and I thought that really accounted for putting us on our heels, and putting our defenders in bad spots.
“In the second half I thought we did a better job by making play more predictable, but the damage was done already,” he added.
With the next week possibly defining their season, the ‘Caps vow to perform better.
“We came out extremely flat, sat back a little bit too deep and we were second to almost every ball tonight — that’s the equation for losing a game,” winger Shea Salinas told TEAM 1410 radio after the match. “We’re a better team than we showed. You’ll definitely see a different team come out Wednesday. There are no excuses for how we played tonight and we’re going to turn it around for sure.”