KANSAS CITY, KAN. ------ Sporting Kansas City fell 1-0 at the Seattle Sounders on Saturday in the opening match of the 2014 Major League Soccer season.
Three months after winning MLS Cup 2013, Sporting Kansas City returned to MLS action and nearly struck for the game's opening goal within two minutes of first kick. Graham Zusi's shot from 25 yards out was spilled by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who recovered in time to turn away Dom Dwyer's follow-up effort.
On the opposite end, Sounders forward Kenny Cooper sent his shot wide of the near post a minute later. Eric Kronberg, making his debut as the team's No. 1 goalkeeper, made a diving stop to his left in the 31st minute to deny Marco Pappa's attempt from outside the penalty area.
Dwyer did well to find space at the top of the box and forced a sprawling stop from Frei in the 33rd minute. The third-year striker threatened again minutes later as his shot was deflected and skipped inches wide of the far post.
With a steady rain continuing to pour down on the artificial surface, Seattle asserted its attack in the second half. Lamar Neagle broke through on the right side in the 53rd minute only to see his shot kicked away by Kronberg. Cooper came close to breaking the deadlock in the 69th minute, collecting a header from Djimi Traore and trying a tightly-angled attempt that carried just wide of the far post.
In a match that featured 40 fouls whistled by referee Alan Kelly, Sporting Kansas City threatened to capitalize on a free kick from Benny Feilhaber in the 78th minute. His service was whipped toward the back post with Lawrence Olum looming, however the Sounders defense did just enough to clear from danger.
With the clock ticking toward full time, Barrett's left-footed shot was saved in the 88th minute and Sporting Kansas City - missing Seth Sinovic, Chance Myers and Paulo Nagamura due to injury -- were minutes from earning a result on the road to start the season. Instead, it was the Sounders who again left it late to manufacture the game-winning goal in a series that has seen similar scripts play out over the past five seasons.
Clint Dempsey started the scoring sequence with his header off the crossbar leading to a scramble inside the six-yard box. Dempsey was first to the rebound, sending the ball back toward goal with an acrobatic attempt and setting up Barrett, surrounded by six Sporting Kansas City players, to squeeze his shot over the goalline.
Sporting Kansas City will open the team's 2014 home schedule at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday against Cruz Azul in the opening leg of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals live on FOX Sports 2 (English) and the Univision Deportes Network (Spanish).
A limited number of tickets are available and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com.