Sporting's Omar Bravo takes down Gaston Puerari and sees red
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KC Breakdown: Bravo red card dooms Sporting


3-2 defeat on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Fire (1-0-1, four points) at Toyota Park

Table position…

Tied for third place in the Eastern Conference on three points (1-1-0) with 32 games remaining

Three things to take away…

1) Omar Bravo experienced the flip side of his week one brilliance.

Bravo was Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week last week. Needless to say, Bravo won’t be receiving similar plaudits after Week 2. The validity of the red card shown to Sporting Kansas City’s star forward is a matter of debate and perspective, but there’s no arguing that Bravo’s dismissal and the ensuing penalty kick goal was the turning point in the club’s 3-2 defeat. Maybe just as disappointing is the fact that Sporting will be without their leading scorer next weekend as well, since Bravo is now suspended for the club’s trip to Empire Field to face the Vancouver Whitecaps.

2) With a lineup decimated by injuries and international call-ups, chemistry was a little lacking on the defensive end.

Kansas City made three changes on the back line, and the positional shuffling showed. Roger Espinoza was forced into playing in the middle, a far cry from his normal deployment at left back, while Chance Myers and Scott Lorenz each made their first appearances this season. That left Jimmy Nielsen to direct a group likely playing together for the first time. For the most part, Sporting defended admirably and wholeheartedly, but the lack of significant time together and Chicago’s man advantage led to three goals – two certainly avoidable – making it almost impossible for the visitors to sneak out with a result.

3) Sporting may have walked away empty-handed, but they outplayed the Fire for much of the game.

Kansas City fell short of a result but showed the kind of resolve and mental toughness against Chicago that will go a long way this season, especially over the remaining eight road games before LIVESTRONG Sporting Park opens on June 9. Apart from the 10-minute period in the first half in which Bravo was shown red and the Fire scored twice, Sporting largely outplayed the home team, coming up just short of a epic draw in front of 300 of their own traveling fans who made the trip from Kansas City. If Vermes can channel that commitment and drive and combine it with a full roster, Sporting should be able to keep themselves in just about any game this season.

Two players who stood out…

Forward Teal Bunbury

[inline_node:332295]Bunbury only played 45 minutes, but it’s plain to see what he will bring to Kansas City once completely healthy and back in the starting lineup. His goal may have been the result of some dreadful defending by the Fire, but Bunbury made himself a nuisance during the second half and stretched the home team with his pace, ability to combine with his teammates and nose for goal. With Bravo providing a creative spark on the left and Kamara marauding on his right, Bunbury could very well reach his self-professed target of 15 goals in 2011.

Defender Roger Espinoza

Espinoza is on his way to establishing himself as one of the better left backs in MLS, but he certainly had his struggles when necessity shifted him into a central position. The Honduran international overcommitted on the Fire’s second and third goals, missing two tackles and opening space behind the defense that left Gastón Puerari and Marco Pappa with room to maneuver and score. Those errors surely stung Espinoza, who is one of the most competitive, committed players on Kansas City’s roster. He should return to his hard tackling, dynamic self once back in his customary spot on the left.

One play that changed the game…

Bravo gave Puerari the slightest of pushes, but that was all it took for referee Jasen Anno to reach for his back pocket and turn the game on its head. Instead of a goal on the other end after Myers narrowly missed getting on the end of Bravo’s free kick, Kansas City found themselves down 1-0, playing with 10 men and without the services of their most influential offensive player.

Final verdict…

This one was hard to swallow for Vermes and his charges, but there are plenty of hidden positives buried in the disappointment. Sporting have scored five goals in two games, two of those playing with 10 men, and very nearly snatched a point from this game without the services of Kei Kamara, Michael Harrington, Júlio César, Luke Sassano, Ryan Smith, Korede Aiyegbusi and Shavar Thomas. Considering the fact that at least three of those players are obvious first choices, Kansas City can look ahead to the rest of the season knowing they have the horses to stay in the Eastern Conference race.

Next up...

Saturday April 2 at Vancouver (1-1-0). Both clubs' Designated Players had explosive first weeks, combining for four goals and earning two victories in the process. Unfortunately, Week 2 wasn’t nearly so positive for either. Even though Bravo will miss the match against the Whitecaps because of suspension, so will Vancouver DP Eric Hassli, who earned a red card after picking up two yellows against Philadelphia. With Kamara back in the fold and the back line expected to be mostly back to normal, Kansas City will see this game as a prime opportunity to get back on track.

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