KANSAS CITY, Kan. — This was Sporting Kansas City’s opportunity to exorcise their late-game demons, a chance to put previous hiccups behind them.
In the end, it just felt like déjà-vu.
Down a man and clinging to a 2-1 lead entering stoppage time against what should have been a knackered FC Dallas squad, Kansas City’s inability to close out a close game reared its ugly head for the second time in two weeks at Livestrong Sporting Park.
This time, FC Dallas' Brek Shea was the last-gasp assassin, curling two pinpoint crosses to the back post for Maicon Santos and Bobby Warshaw to head past Jimmy Nielsen and give Dallas a 3-2 victory that smacked of past disappointments just two weeks after Seattle did roughly the same thing.
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“It was a wake-up call the first few times it happened,” SKC midfielder Graham Zusi said. “If we want to get anything out of this season, we’ve got to be able to hold on to a lead. That’s the bottom line.”
Kansas City have now given up leads against Vancouver, New England, Seattle twice and Dallas to account for 12 points that were, at one time, firmly in hand but ended up in the bush.
Red cards played a role in three of those games, including Saturday night when Teal Bunbury was sent off for two cautions. But goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said Kansas City simply have to perform better in the face of adversity.
“When we go, we go really down,” he said. “We have to react better when things go against us. You can’t expect that 90 minutes will go your way.”
And as much as the defeat itself stung, the playoff implications of going from three points earned to three points lost may have been even more damaging.
With Columbus losing 6-2 in Seattle, Sporting were just seconds away from closing the gap with the Eastern Conference leaders to one point heading into the season’s final two months. Instead, they were left to wonder where they could be if they hadn’t dropped so many points this season after taking what seemed to be secure leads.
“We don’t deserve to be in first if we let opportunities like these get lost,” captain Omar Bravo said. “We have to take care of it when we have the opportunity to take care of it.”