KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Twenty shots. Four on frame. One in the net.
Sporting Kansas City had no trouble creating chances in Wednesday night's home leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Houston Dynamo, but struggles to convert those openings into goals meant the end of their season.
Sporting needed two goals to make up the deficit from Sunday's away loss, but despite outshooting Houston 20-3 and controlling 71 percent of the possession, they could manage only left back Seth Sinovic's 64th-minute header. They won the 90-minute battle 1-0, but came up on the short end of a 2-1 aggregate.
“It was just a complete game, other than getting the second goal,” manager Peter Vermes said in the postgame news conference. “We created some chances, just missed a few opportunities. It's unfortunate, but I'm proud of the players.”
In addition to Sinovic's first career goal, which came on assists from Graham Zusi and Kei Kamara, Sporting had two other chances when the ball seemed destined to go in the back of the net.
In the 26th minute, spot-on passes from Zusi and Chance Myers found Kamara in space in the penalty area – only to see his shot blocked by defender Bobby Boswell.
“Boswell was running away, and it just hit his heel,” Kamara said. “We had so many chances, but it did set the tone and show them that we were ready to play.”
And in the 73rd, after Sinovic had pulled Sporting within one goal of forcing a minigame, center forward C.J. Sapong ran onto a perfectly weighted cross from Kamara but fired over the bar under pressure from Dynamo keeper Tally Hall.
“I just tried to flick it over him,” Sapong said. “It didn't feel like I hit the ball that hard, but it kind of flew off my foot, and obviously I missed it. It's not an easy shot, but as a forward, it's an opportunity and you try to take advantage of opportunities when you get them.”
Sporting finished the regular season with 42 goals – the fewest of any playoff team – despite leading MLS with 542 shots. But with a league-best 15 shutouts in 34 games, Sporting still made a run to a second straight finish atop the East standings.
“We always got the results we needed,” Sapong said. “Because of our stingy defense, we were never in a position where we had to score so many goals. It definitely is a concern when the ball doesn't roll your way so many times, but at this point all we can do is train hard in the offseason and try to make a run again next year.”