It’s become a familiar blueprint for Chivas USA on the road this season: Try to hang tough and find that one break to possibly return home with a stolen point.
That game-changing moment arrived early in the second half on Sunday at Sporting Park. But it went against Chivas in the worst way.
Already down 1-0, goalkeeper Dan Kennedy appeared to make slight contact with Sporting Kansas City’s Paulo Nagamura as the Brazilian charged into the box in the 54th minute.
Official Baldomero Toledo showed Kennedy a red card and whistled for a penalty kick – that Claudio Bieler converted on his replacement, Patrick McLain – thus putting Chivas USA in an insurmountable position that ended in a 4-0 defeat.
“My angle was that it was a bit harsh,” defender Bobby Burling told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “I don’t know if there was contact or not. I told Patrick McLain it was a tough game to come into. You hate to see a kid get his debut like that and you hate to see Dan get a red card like that. It’s the worst of both worlds.”
That play was the moment, the team says, that broke their backs. The Goats, who have earned only one point in their last four matches, did not get off a single shot on goal Sunday. They lost the possession battle, 64-36, and had only three shots as a team.
“It affected us a lot,” forward Julio Morales told reporters of losing their captain. “He is our main guy. He keeps our head up. We tried our best, but we just couldn't get it together.”
As a result, Chivas USA have now gone winless in four straight – with three losses – and, for the first time since opening weekend, they have slipped out of the top five in the Western Conference standings.
“Nothing went our way and we take full blame for that,” Burling said. “If you look at every position, we got played off the field. We talked about winning the 50-50 battles before the game. We lost those at every part of the field and, anytime that happens, it’s going to be a tough game. We have to have a short memory because it doesn’t get any easier.”
Now Chivas face the prospect of heading to red-hot Portland in a week’s time without Kennedy. That means 24-year-old McLain, who made his first MLS appearence in Sunday's loss, will have to step in and replace Chivas’ most consistent player in a game where the Goats’ resolve will be heavily tested.
“If the league reviews [Kennedy’s red card], great,” Burling said. “But if not, we’re confident in the young kid. He’s been getting better each and every week in training. It’s a long season. The best thing we can do is have a short memory.”