Sporting KC turn to Toronto FC test without key starters Espinoza, Salloi

SANDY, Utah – Sporting Kansas City might wish to forget about Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Real Salt Lake, but the two late red cards to Daniel Salloi and Roger Espinoza ahead of a weekend match against Toronto FC make that impossible.

With those suspensions, plus injuries and a recent drop in defensive form, Kansas City face a daunting task against the defending MLS Cup champions, even if Toronto aren’t playing their best at the moment either.

“We have to put a team on the field to try and get it done,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said on Wednesday. “This time of year, that’s the way it goes a little bit. We’ll do our best to put something together and hopefully get a result.”

A late meltdown prompted ejections for Salloi and Espinoza took a game within SKC’s reach at 3-2 and turned it into a track meet for Salt Lake.

“I thought we were still in it until Roger got carded; after that, a ball is going to have drop the right way [for us],” Vermes said.

It didn’t, and now Kansas City must find a way to get three points at home without Espinoza and Salloi – who have combined for 32 starts this year and are the team’s assist and goalscoring leaders, respectively – while also fixing a suddenly leaky defense. Sporting have allowed multiple goals in each of the past three games after not allowing more than one in any of their previous eight matches.

They went 63 days between losses from the end of April to last weekend. Now they’ve lost twice in five days.

“You have these ups and downs throughout the season; we are certainly in the down part,” goalkeeper Tim Melia said. “That said, we’re still in a position to control our destiny.”

Kansas City entered Wednesday tied for the top spot in the Western Conference with FC Dallas. The loss in Utah leaves them in second place, just a point ahead of LAFC, but hopefully it also serves to knock them back on track.

“It’s nothing to do with ability, formation, tactics, it’s us as individuals,” Melia said. “We are not connecting as a group right now. I hope this game is a wake-up call. We all, all of us, need to play much better.”