Two calls in two minutes left Peter Vermes fuming – and Sporting Kansas City on their way to a third straight loss.
Sporting led the Chicago Fire 1-0 at the hour mark on Saturday night, only to see that lead evaporate with Sebastián Grazzini’s 61st-minute penalty kick. One minute later, Roger Espinoza was given a straight red for elbowing Grazzini in the face, and Chicago capitalized on the momentum shift to take a 2-1 win.
In a sideline television interview immediately after the match, Vermes harshly criticized referee Jose Carlos Rivero, saying "the game's not about him." It was Rivero's first MLS game as the primary referee.
In a later phone call with MLSsoccer.com, Vermes softened his tone, but said that Sporting would likely appeal Espinoza’s red card – the club’s first ejection of the year – and the mandatory one-match suspension that comes with it.
“We’re going to look at the tape,” Vermes said. “The guy embellished on the play.”
HIGHLIGHTS: CHI 2, SKC 1
Grazzini went down writhing after catching Espinoza’s elbow and had to be helped off the pitch, but trotted back onto the field shortly after the ejection and played into the 81st minute.
Vermes didn’t excuse his team’s own lapses, though, on the plays that led to Chicago’s goals.
Aurélien Collin’s penalty-kick foul on Dominic Oduro, which set up Grazzini’s score, was the French defender’s second in as many games. Similar to the penalty against Montreal in last week’s 2-0 loss, the foul came after a breakdown in the backline created a one-on-one opportunity in the box.
“We played very well for 60 minutes, executed our game plan, had the game locked down,” Vermes said. “Then we got out of position, didn’t read the situation, didn’t cover well enough. One little situation like that allowed Oduro to get behind us.”
Oduro’s 81st-minute winner goal also came courtesy of a defensive breakdown by Kansas City as right winger Kei Kamara lost the ball to Patrick Nyarko just outside the six-yard box. The Ghanaian found his countryman Oduro, who put away an easy tap-in.
“It was a mistake,” Vermes said. “He should have cleared the ball. The other player stole it, squared it up in the goal, and that was it.”
The loss all but eclipsed left-winger Bobby Convey’s 31st-minute goal, his first since joining Sporting in the offseason in a trade from the San Jose Earthquakes, and the steady buildup through Kamara and Espinoza that led to the score.
“It was good for him to finally get on the board,” Vermes said. “That whole play was fantastic, a great buildup from our point of view.”
But, unfortunately for Sporting, still not great enough to shake them out of their slump.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.