KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Through the first quarter of the 2013 season, two things were constant for Sporting Kansas City: They didn't lose a lead, and they didn't concede at home.
All that has changed now, after Sporting blew a pair of one-goal advantages in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Portland, and they'll spend this week trying to right the ship before Chivas USA visit Sporting Park on Sunday.
“We’ve been begging for teams to come here and come at us,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said after Sporting's first home loss since a 2-1 defeat to Columbus last July 28 (which was also the last time Kansas City conceded more than one goal at home). “They did, and we didn’t have an answer for it.”
Sporting have given up five goals in their past two matches, both losses – and while their 2-0 away blanking by the LA Galaxy came just three days after a hard-fought 1-0 road win at New York, Saturday night's loss came with the squad fully rested.
“There's no excuse. We've just got to be better,” said right back Chance Myers, who scored the first two goals of his career in the loss. “We gave up a goal on a set piece, which we usually don't do, and we got caught on the counter at home, which we usually don't do. So there's no excuses. We've just got to go back to the drawing board.”
Before Saturday night's match, Kansas City had taken four leads this season and made all four stand up for victories. Myers' goals put Sporting up 1-0 on the Timbers the first minute and 2-1 in the 29th, but each time Portland responded with an equalizer in a 2-all first half.
In his postmatch news conference, manager Peter Vermes blamed Sporting's inability to keep the lead on bad giveaways in crucial parts of the pitch. Later, in the locker room, midfielder Graham Zusi concurred.
“It was on us for allowing all those chances,” Zusi said. “Our lack of movement didn’t allow us to spread the ball around. They just caught us in bad spots. It wasn’t really anything that they did to throw us off our game. We just didn’t play well enough. It’s especially disappointing and unacceptable to take the lead twice and let them back in it.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.