Monday, August 11, 2014

Sporting KC's eight-game unbeaten run ends with 2-0 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps

Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-0 loss at Vancouver on Sunday, snapping an eight-game unbeaten run and five-game road winning streak for the reigning MLS Cup champions.

The Whitecaps struck twice in the first half, first on an own goal in the 17th minute and again via Darren Mattocks in the 39th minute.

Despite the defeat, Sporting KC remains in first place in the Eastern Conference and amidst a three-way tie in the Supporters' Shield race will 11 games remaining in the regular season.

The home side threatened early and often in the opening 45 minutes at BC Place. Mattocks did well to turn and unleash a shot in the fourth minute but Aurelien Collin was up to the task to deflect the attempt over the endline.

Sporting Kansas City responded on the opposite end in the 10th minute. Benny Feilhaber, the reigning MLS Player of the Month, whipped his shot toward the far post from 25 yards only to see it curl narrowly wide.

Gruenebaum made his first of three first half saves in the 13th minute, racing off his line and getting his hands to a first-time shot from Erik Hurtado. Gruenebaum injured his right shoulder on the play and would play through the half before exiting at halftime.

The Whitecaps pressure paid off with the game's opening goal in the 17th minute when an entry ball from Morales led to an own goal by right back Igor Juliao. The Brazilian directed his header back toward net for the goalkeeper to collect, however Gruenebaum had come off his line and was unable to recover.

Vancouver's attack made the most of the momentum and would have doubled the lead if not for saves from Gruenebaum in back-to-back minutes. Mattocks' left-footed shot from 15 yards away was smothered in the 30th minute and Morales' free kick was turned away superbly one minute later at the near post.

The scoreline went to 2-0 in the 39th minute as Mattocks scored his sixth goal of the season and fourth in the past five games. Morales led the counter -- en route to earning his ninth assist of the year, second most in MLS -- and found Mattocks in the 2-v-1 situation for his 16th career goal.

Sporting Kansas City entered halftime down by two goals for just the second time this season and needed a goalline clearance from Aurelien Collin in first half stoppage time to prevent the team from trailing by three. Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin started the second half in net for his MLS debut, becoming the 30th different player to appear in an MLS match for Sporting Kansas City in 2014 (most among all teams).

After going without a shot on goal in the first half, Sporting Kansas City tested Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted in the opening minute of the second half. Jacob Peterson hit a well-struck effort on target but straight into the arms of Ousted.

In the 64th minute, Graham Zusi's corner kick connected with Aurelien Collin at the top of the six-yard box but the Frenchman was falling away from goal and his header carried inches over the crossbar. The Whitecaps took their turn to threaten on a corner six minutes later as Johnny Leveron's header was goalbound until headed off the line by Feilhaber.

The Sporting KC playmaker made his presence felt on both sides of the ball, bravely getting on the end of a cross from Graham Zusi three minutes later. Ousted reacted alertly, shuffling to his left to hold onto the header.

A stronger second half showing from Sporting Kansas City defensively meant only one save was required from Kempin but it would prove to be a memorable first MLS stop for the Leawood, Kansas native -- who was named the MVP of the 2014 Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game on Monday. The 21-year-old goalkeeper dove strongly to his right to push a Mattocks penalty kick into the post after referee David Gantar awarded the PK in the 84th minute.

The visitors came close to salvaging a consolation goal in the game's closing minutes however were twice turned away in stoppage time as Vancouver earned their first win in over a month and remained unbeaten against Eastern Conference opponents (4-0-5). Feilhaber's initial shot from the top of the area was blocked by Leveron, who then deflected the follow-up attempt from C.J. Sapong to preserve the shutout.

Sporting Kansas City returns home to host three straight MLS matches beginning with Toronto FC at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday, August 16 at Sporting Park. A limited number of tickets are available for the match and can be purchased online at