Soccer can be a cruel and merciless game. Just ask Sporting Kansas City.
With stoppage time ticking down on a deserved and desperately needed scoreless draw in soggy Seattle on Saturday night, Jeff Parke lost his marker, planted his feet and rose high above the pack. The Sounders defender flicked a header inside the back post to score the only goal of the 1-0 game, extending Sporting’s losing streak to five games and winless streak to seven.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
After 92 minutes of blood, sweat and tears, once again Kansas City (1-6-1) had nothing to show for their efforts. For a team already mired at the bottom of the league table, the experience was, in a word, heartbreaking.
“One hundred percent,” manager Peter Vermes said after the match.
All in all, Vermes used the word “disappointed” to describe his feelings about the loss no less than five times, a count that seemed more than fitting following a game that appeared destined to end nil-nil until Parke delivered the crushing blow in stoppage time.
“When I saw a quick replay, it looked like he was open,” Vermes said. “[Parke] is supposed to have a mark, so we’ll have to go back and look at it. Every play you’ve got to be ready.”
Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that Kansas City were seemingly prepared at every turn leading up to the final, critical moment. Neither side produced many true scoring opportunities, and Sporting’s defense seemed to have found some solid footing after an embarrassing 4-1 loss in Los Angeles last weekend against the Galaxy.
Unfortunately, all that progress went out the window with one short lapse on a set piece, snatching the points and, potentially, Kansas City’s first shutout this season in one fell swoop.
“It’s something that we still could have prevented,” Vermes said, “and we didn’t do it. The game is as long as until the whistle blows. It’s just disappointment for us in the fact that everything was on for us tonight. We defended well. We were organized. We had moments of getting forward and getting at them.”
A big reason for that improvement was the near full-strength lineup that Vermes had the luxury of running out in Seattle. Injuries and suspension had hampered player selection for the better part of the club’s first seven games.
Matt Besler returned to the starting 11 in central defense in place of Júlio César. More importantly, striker Omar Bravo made his first start and appearance since sports hernia surgery six weeks ago, and Ryan Smith made his first start of the season after undergoing knee surgery this offseason.
Both Bravo and Smith were subbed before the 75th minute as each works toward 90-minute fitness, but their inclusion in the proceedings was significant.
“Both of them were a big help to us on the field,” Vermes said. “With the work they put in along with the rest of the guys, we deserved to walk away with a point. But here we are. Obviously, we don’t have one.”
Unfortunately, one poorly defended set piece was all it took to decide that.
“It was one of those games,” Vermes said. “We didn’t have much. They didn’t have much.”
But, in the end, Seattle has the only thing that truly matters: all three points. Sporting, meanwhile, face yet another dejected flight home wondering what could have been.