KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The streak is finally over for Sporting Kansas City. And it ended in heartbreaking fashion.
Fifteen games after a late Seattle goal and subsequent defeat kick-started Sporting’s 14-match unbeaten streak, the Sounders struck again Saturday night at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Clinging to a 1-0 advantage through 90 minutes and down a man for a half-hour following a red card to Omar Bravo, Kansas City couldn’t quite make it to the finish line in front of a riled up crowd hoping to see their side take another leap up the Eastern Conference table.
This time it was Kansas City that was on the wrong end of late heroics as Mauro Rosales scored the equalizer in the 90th minute and substitute Lamar Neagle added insult to injury two minutes later to send Sporting to a 2-1 defeat, their first since May 21 against the Sounders.
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“It seems like Seattle just finds a way to get something out of us in the last minute or two,” Kei Kamara, who scored Kansas City’s only goal, said.
Even more frustrating from manager Peter Vermes’ perspective was the fact that he felt Jair Marrufo’s decision to send Bravo off was overzealous, to say the least. Vermes began his postgame press conference by taking the officiating performance to task, an issue he said has been at the forefront this season.
Bravo’s dismissal was his second of the season and Kansas City’s seventh red card overall, tying the club with New England for the most in MLS.
“It’s extremely frustrating when your team works as hard as we did and for it to be tainted, for it to be taken away by a bad call,” Vermes said. “At that point in the game, we are playing well. We are in control of the game. We are pushing on their doorstep to score another one.”
One thing that wasn’t in doubt, though, was that Sporting seemed destined for another three points right up until Bravo was sent off.
Seattle had been so lackluster going forward — zero shots on goal and zero corners in the first half — that manager Sigi Schmid removed Álvaro Fernández and Fredy Montero after just 55 minutes.
Sporting, on the other hand, picked up where they left off against Real Salt Lake, applying pressure high up the field and creating enough chances to score more than the one goal they managed in the first half. Their lone goal came off a Matt Besler long throw for the second time in four days, as Kamara rose to nod the ball past Kasey Keller 20 minutes into the game.
“From the opening whistle, I thought that we owned the game,” Vermes said. “We were dominating not only defensively and not giving anything away, but, more importantly, we were also creating chances.”
But, in the end, it just wasn’t enough. Sporting bravely stood up to the Sounders’ pressure for 90 minutes, then Rosales found a tiny parcel of space to tuck a shot by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and set up Neagle for the winner, ending the run now tied with the Galaxy’s — which ended at Portland earlier in the week — for longest of the season.
“It’s been a good run,” Kamara said. “We can be disappointed about the whole thing, but when it comes down to it, we just have to move on. We can’t change anything about it.”
Still, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
“This one is tough,” Besler said. “It’s really hard to describe the feeling really. Pretty empty. Deflated.”