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Match Recap: SKC lost at home to Whitecaps; winless streak reaches two months

Sporting KC’s losing streak continues at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps who leave CMP with all three points behind a Ryan Gauld brace.

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Credit: Thad Bell

A new look Sporting Kansas City took the field at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a midweek matchup to try and break the two-month long winless streak. Alenis Vargas, Stefan Afrifa and Willy Agada made up the starting attacking trio with Felipe Hernandez, Jake Davis and Nemanja Radoja manning the midfield.

Khiry Shelton earned the start at right back and Dany Rosero, Roberto Castellano and Zorhan Bassong made up the rest of the defense. A makeshift lineup due to the long list of injuries (and suspension in Memo Rodriguez’s case) in the midfield.

READ: Sporting KC Have a Midfield Problem Against Vancouver

First Half

SKC started off on the front foot, dominating possession with pace and forward play. Vargas and Afrifa were a handful for the Vancouver defense but struggled in their decision making in the final third. As the game went on, they started earning more confidence.

The young Honduran found himself on the worse end of a strong collision with Bjorn Utvik that earned the Norwegian the game’s first yellow card. It could have been a red card.

Agada found himself on the receiving end of two Vargas’ crosses early in the half but was unable to finish either effort past Yohei Takaoka.

The Shelton experiment at right back was interesting to say the least. A few miscues and misguided passes gave up a few attacking changes for the Whitecaps. Davis was forced to track back and cover despite starting in the midfield.

Hernandez was dangerous over the ball on free kicks and corners. One of his lobs into the box was meant for the on-running Shelton who doesn’t get a touch on it, but still forced a save out of Takaoka ending in a corner.

Davis and Hernandez as a midfield duo are an intriguing one-two punch for a more exciting-than-usual build-up play than we have seen from Sporting throughout the season.

“This is a lot more entertaining. I love this,” my wife talking about the Davis-Hernandez midfield.

Agada and Rosero were unable to capitalize on a few headers they connected on set pieces and in the run of play.

Vancouver struggled to get shots on target when they managed to break SKC’s pressure when trying to play out of the back.

With just about five minutes remaining in the first half, goalkeeper John Pulskamp’s forced ball out of the back ended in a turnover and eventually a Radoja deflection for a Vancouver throw in in an effort to avoid a corner.

That same throw in ended in what would feel like a bucket of ice water over a promising SKC performance when the ball pinballed around the penalty box, eventually finding the feet of Ryan Gauld who snuck it past Pulskamp for the lead.

Perhaps undeservedly, but Whitecaps lead.

SKC’s failure to be decisive has them trailing short of half time. A stain on what was, up until the goal, a good half of football from the youngsters. Another unforced error from RB Khiry Shelton ends with a turnover and a foul in transition earning him a yellow card. Things began to unravel. SKC needed half time.ย From the time of the goal until the half time whistle, Sporting struggled to keep possession and Vancouver started taking over.

Second Half

To start the second half, Peter Vermes made his first substitution of the night, bringing on Daniel Salloi for Afrifa.ย Before Salloi could even get his first touch on the ball, Whitecaps (and former SKC) left back Luis Martins nearly forced an own goal off Rosero.ย Moments later, the Whitecaps nearly doubled their lead again off a set piece that just barely misses the on-running Javain Brown.

As Vermes prepared to make a trio of subs, SKC had begun forcing passes and losing possession of the ball in their own half giving the Whitecaps a few more opportunities that luckily did not end with another goal.

The 57th minute brought on Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell and Tim Leibold for Agada, Vargas and Bassong respectively.

A few times throughout the game, Rosero was seen yelling forward to his teammates in what looked to be frustration to the eye but will have to wait and see if post-game comments suggest otherwise. After one of his outbursts, he lobbed a ball forward that found no one.

Radoja who is typically solid in the holding midfield has let a few touches get away from him and has given up possession in compromising situations. A bit sloppy from the Serbian.

Despite the subbing on of the typical trio of Salloi, Pulido and Russell up front, Davis remains the most active attacking threat.ย In the 79th minute, Vermes took Davis off the field for Marinos Tzionis.

Minutes later in the 83rd minute, Vancouver double their lead off another sloppy pass from Tim Leibold who could be credited with an assist as he gave the ball away to Gauld who earned his brace as he slid the ball past Pulskamp.

As the stands Children’s Mercy Park emptied, Shelton finally made his mark on the game as he ran full steam ahead into the Vancouver penalty box, eventually sliding a cross to the oncoming Tzionis who opens his 2024 regular season account and cut the deficit 2-1 in the 92nd minute.

The referee brings the game to a halt after six minutes of stoppage time and SKC’s winless streak extends to two complete months in regular season play.

Bright spots: Jake Davis in the midfield, Felipe Hernandez’s first half aggressiveness.

Not-so-bright spots: Pretty much everything else.

Next up: Sporting travel to Allianz Field to take on Minnesota United who sit in third place in the Western Conference.

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