Nearing seven full weeks without a victory, Sporting KC let another three points slip away Saturday. It held onto a 1-0 lead until stoppage time, when Vancouver’s Derek Cornelius’ shot tied it up moments before the final whistle.
Sporting KC hasn’t won a match since its 7-1 thrashing of Montreal on March 30.
Playing a man down for nearly 45 minutes Saturday, SKC initially held a lead it took off a Krisztian Nemeth first-half goal.
“I feel actually really good,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “I think our team played excellent tonight. I don’t know what else we could do. We went down a man, we managed it incredibly well, we worked hard, we gave nothing away, we cleared everything. The goal at the end is just a lucky break for them because they didn’t deserve to get a point.”
Saturday’s match also saw the return of veteran defender Matt Besler, who’s been out for weeks with a hamstring injury. And it was the first home match for midfielder Benny Feilhaber, making his return to the team last week after a trade with Colorado. Feilhaber, who played on SKC’s 2013 MLS Cup champion team, received a huge ovation during player intros.
And those cheers only got louder when Feilhaber set up Kansas City for its only goal of the night.
From the midfield in the 37th minute, Feilhaber launched a ball up to Johnny Russell, who had miles of space on the right wing. Russell’s shot went straight into Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau’s body. But the ball popped off him, right to where Nemeth waited just a couple feet from the goal line. He took a calm second to set up the simple shot and converted easily.
“Johnny just made a darting run, so I just hit it as hard as I could right towards him,” Feilhaber said. “The goalie made a really good save, I think with his foot, but Krisztian did a really good job to follow up and keep his composure and settle it and let the defender run by him and finish it. It was a good goal.”
SKC held onto that sliver of a lead for the rest of the second half, despite being a man down from the 51st minute on. Nemeth went in for a challenge on Vancouver’s Felipe in the midfield. His studs caught Felipe mid-ankle, and the official handed out a straight red card.
“From where I’m standing, I think it’s a straight leg and I think it’s a red card,” Vermes said.
That red card will keep Nemeth, Kansas City’s leading goal scorer, off the field next Sunday, when the Seattle Sounders come to town.
Despite SKC keeping its composure and holding onto its one-goal lead for so long without all 11 players on the field, it didn’t matter in the end. After a scramble in the box in stoppage time, Cornelius found himself open and his last-minute strike served as the equalizer.
“Fluke situation there at the end,” Vermes said. “They were pumping a lot of balls in the box, and you want to try to clear every one of them, but listen, I don’t blame the guys for that tonight. They gave a great effort and I think we made another big step forward.”