Sporting Kansas City continued its inauspicious start to March with a 2-1 Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal loss Wednesday to Panamanian side Independiente.
SKC’s first-leg match in Panama came just days after its Major League Soccer debut Sunday, a 2-1 loss to LAFC.
Independiente took advantage in the first half, and SKC equalized with an Ilie Sanchez penalty kick in the 51st minute. But an Alexis Corpas goal in the 59th minute put Independiente over the top for good, and SKC left Panama down one in aggregate scoring.
SKC’s strength this year may indeed be its depth. But Wednesday, its new lineup wasn’t clicking, especially initially.
The first half was characterized by a general sense of disconnect for Kansas City, who fielded a starting lineup wildly different from its typical one. Only three players who started the weekend loss to LAFC – Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler and Ilie Sanchez – maintained their starting roles. Otherwise, Peter Vermes plugged in several new faces, including Rodney Wallace, who made his club debut on the back line. SKC has now played four matches in 14 days, changes to the lineup were expected.
Independiente took advantage of a more-porous-than-usual SKC back line to put the pressure on early. Kansas City goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas saved a couple of dangerous chances. But he couldn’t get to the one that Romeesh Ivey fired deep in the 39th minute after finding space all around him to get off a shot.
Sanchez briefly gave SKC hope early in the second half. The officials awarded a penalty kick after Jaylin Lindsey crashed into the boards from a defender’s challenge near the end line. Sanchez, who took most of SKC’s PKs last year, stepped to the spot and converted with his shot into the corner.
Still, that wasn’t enough to counter Corpas’ shot from distance in the 59th minute. He launched the go-ahead shot while he was still mid-stride in the midst of a counter, and Zendejas couldn’t stop it.
Despite play that often looked disorganized – and despite an Independiente team that has looked impressive all tournament – SKC can still take a positive from its loss Wednesday. It will take a precious away goal into the second leg of the competition, down 2-1 on aggregate. Independiente will travel to Kansas City next Thursday to complete the series, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT.