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Sporting Kansas City lose their way in San Jose

Poor defense, a still-stalled attack, and a red card at San Jose Earthquakes keep Sporting Kansas City reeling.



Erik Thommy | Credit: Thad Bell

A San Jose Earthquakes’ goal, an overzealous piece of defense, and a high-flying host posed an early challenge for Sporting Kansas City Saturday night. They were challenges that the struggling side surely did not embrace. But Sporting has never begun a season like this one.

The match, like every 90 minutes for a struggling side with a bristling fan base, was critical for winless Sporting Kansas City (0-4-3). An away win against a San Jose Earthquakes (3-2-2) side on the way up was unlikely; however, progress in the form of goals and players coming back to form was on the table.  Yet, possibility is why games are played, why athletes strive, and why fans tune in.

A goal and a win at PayPal Park would put a merciful end to a 265-minute scoreless streak, a 10-match away winless streak, and an eight-match regular season winless streak for Sporting Kansas City. Kansas City manager Peter Vermes put out the following lineup for the challenge:

The lineup was unchanged from last week’s 1-0 home loss to Colorado Rapids. Eighteen shots, eight corners, but only two shots on goal were the numbers produced by the attack then. Would the story be different in Northern California?

Sporting swarmed the Earthquakes’ goal in the first four minutes, looking eager to put the recent past quickly behind them.

However, recent US National Team callup Cade Cowell received just outside the left side of Sporting’s box in the 9th minute. Sporting Right Center Back Dany Rosero was pulled out to Cowell who then played for Cristian Espinoza at Melia’s back post. The ball barely beat a stabbing Robert Castellanos and then the ball and the man beat left back Robert Voloder, giving Espinoza a tap-in for his third goal in as many matches.

Johnny Russell gave Sporting fans further heart palpitations in the 30th minute. The captain played an errant pass back for Rosero that San Jose’s Jeremy Ebobisse latched onto just inside Sporting’s half and flighted an attempt on goal. Melia, rushing back, saw the ball fly just over his crossbar and out to safety.

Five minutes later, Zusi laid into a poor ‘Quakes’ clearance from 26 yards only to see San Jose ‘keeper JT Marcinkowski save the swerving shot.

A season of frustrating moments added another moment in the 38th minute via left center back Robert Castellanos. Catching up to Ebobisse, who had ran in behind, Castellanos harassed the attacker with pulls on the shoulder. Ebobisse took to the turf inside the box, compelling referee Timothy Ford to not only point to the spot, but also to pull out the red card. Ebobisse baited Melia for an easy penalty tally to make it a 2-0 lead for the hosts.

Vermes put on center back Andreu Fontas for striker Alan Pulido in the aftermath. After the half mercifully arrived, Vermes subbed on striker Willy Agada for midfielder Felipe Hernandez.

Injury turned to insult six minutes into the 2nd half. The ‘Quakes’ Paul Marie penetrated deep on the left side of Sporting’s box off a feed from Cowell Looking for the diagonal drop pass, Marie found Ebobisse sneaking behind Fontas and Rosero. The capped US attacker found the net under Melia for the 3-0 lead.

All that was left for Kansas City after a typical attacking display and a relatively atypical defensive performance was to salvage some positives.

Agada, played in by a dynamite long ball by Zusi, failed to get a shot off in the ensuing minutes. Moments later, though, Russell hit the woodwork from close range.

Marinos Tzionis, Khiry Shelton, and Cam Duke were the last substitutes for Sporting, removing Russell, Salloi, and Zusi in the 70th minute.

No significant steps towards progress were made in the last 20 minutes of the 3-0 loss and Jeremy Ebobisse had joined Jordan Morris as opposing attackers who had bagged two or more goals against Kansas City in the last four games.

Looking forward, Sporting will travel to Gillette Stadium to take on a top MLS Eastern Conference side in New England Revolution (5-1-2) next Saturday.

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