KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A match that started with a disorganized Sporting Kansas City side going down 3-1 by the half ended in near-complete collapse from the New England Revolution. SKC charged back to draw 4-4 in a match that saw two Revs players sent off, two second-half penalty kicks, and a heap of Major League Soccer weirdness.
But the feeling in the Kansas City locker room was one of disappointment and frustration at the hole they had dug themselves into in the first place.
“I think what we need to focus on is the fact that we are still a really good team, and we’re not showing it for long enough stretches of time,” SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia said. “We’re making schoolboy errors that are allowing us to give up multiple goals.”
The Revs struck early with a Juan Fernando Caicedo goal in the 18th minute. Andreu Fontas missed on a tackle, and Caicedo had an easy shot waiting on him when the ball arrived in the box.
Momentarily, SKC stifled the damage with an equalizer. Two minutes earlier, Krisztián Nemeth had badly misfired on a wide-open shot. But he made up for it with his 33rd-minute header off a Graham Zusi cross inside.
SKC was lucky, though, to be tied at that point as the team’s first half-hour was punctuated by disorganization.
Kansas City has depth. But the reality is SKC started Saturday’s match missing captain and long-time defender Matt Besler, as well as midfielders Roger Espinoza and Ilie Sanchez. And with that many cogs missing, SKC looked disorganized and confused. Passes didn’t connect. New England continually cut through the back line to get point-blank shot opportunities.
The Revs closed the first half making Kansas City pay for that discombobulation.
Two minutes after Nemeth’s equalizer, the Revs again took advantage of an ineffective SKC back line. Fontas kept pace with the Revs’ Tajon Buchanan on his run toward goal, but couldn’t clear the ball. Buchanan used the space to cross into Caicedo, who again had an easy chance waiting on him.
New England doubled its lead in the 42nd minute after a failed clearance from Abdul Rwatubyaye. Juan Agudelo was there to clean it up, tallying another goal from near point-blank range for the Revolution. It headed into the half with a 3-1 lead, amid an uncharacteristically quiet crowd at Children’s Mercy Park.
“I just said (at halftime), if you don’t feel like we can come back, then raise your hand and I’ll take you off,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “I said I feel like if we get the first goal they’ll start to bend, and if we get the second goal, we can break them. I have a lot of pride for the fact that they fought, they got back into the game, all of that. I am not happy with the four goals, because they’re all just very, very – they’re just not goals you should give up. So from that point of view, I’m frustrated.”
Apr 27, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City and New England Revolution go up for a header after a corner kick during the second half of the MLS match at Childrens Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
To start the second half, SKC re-integrated its calming presence in the midfield, Sanchez, who has been dealing with an injury this week and didn’t start.
Kansas City made up some room with a penalty kick in the 58th minute. Gerso Fernandes streaked into the box, but got pulled down by his defender. Gutierrez converted the ensuing PK, pulling SKC within one.
Still, the Revolution – who had scored three goals in its previous six matches – weren’t done scoring. They took their turn at the spot, after the official called a Johnny Russell handball (a play that Vermes called “100% not a handball”). Tim Melia saved the PK, but in the pinball action in the box afterwards, New England found the back of the net. It took a 4-2 lead in the 65th minute.
Another Gutierrez goal pulled SKC within one yet again. After a long header into the box from Sanchez, Nemeth chested the ball to Gutierrez, who put it away in the 70th minute.
With the Revs clinging onto their 4-3 lead, Kansas City earned a corner in the 83rd minute. Johnny Russell sent a perfect ball into the box, and Nemeth’s header tied it all up.
With “we want five” chants echoing around the sellout crowd of 18,541, SKC scrambled to find the winner. For all of stoppage time – more than seven minutes – SKC played with a two-man advantage. New England’s Jalil Anibaba earned his second yellow in the 90th minute and was sent off. Still, SKC couldn’t take advantage.
As the final whistle blew, several SKC players crouched down on the ground for several moments. Kelyn Rowe slammed his fist into the grass.
“This team has a sense of fight, even in the worst of moments, such as tonight,” Melia said. “We’re down multiple goals and we find a way to come back and get a result at home. It’s not a positive one – it’s not a situation we should be in at all, and we have to all work on that individually and as a group.”
Despite the comeback, SKC falls to 2-2-4 on the season.
“There’s some times where you see teams, they lose games and tie games and they don’t care and they just go to the next game like nothing happened,” Sanchez said. “Maybe we ask ourselves too much. We put too much pressure on ourselves. … That comes from who we are as players, and that’s good. But sometimes if we do it too much, that can play against us. We need to try to get the balance to get back to who we are.”