Sporting Kansas City (2-4-0, 6 points) slipped to a 1-0 road loss at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1-3-1, 4 points) on Saturday night at BC Place. An evenly contested battle was decided in the 73rd minute when Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Raposo slotted home from close range, condemning Sporting to a sixth straight away defeat dating back to last October.
Manager Peter Vermes deployed a lineup that featured two changes from Sporting’s 1-0 triumph over rivals Real Salt Lake seven days earlier at Children’s Mercy Park. Holding midfielder Uri Rosell returned to the pitch after missing a month with a hamstring injury, pushing Remi Walter into an advanced midfield spot and dropping Roger Espinoza to the bench. In attack, meanwhile, center forward Khiry Shelton replaced Nikola Vujnovic for
his first start since March 5, having recovered fully from a calf ailment.
Shelton was involved early and often, conjuring the first threat of the night in the 14th minute by finding a pocket of space in a central area, receiving a pass from Walter and unleashing a low drive that fizzed marginally wide from 25 yards.
The visitors remained on the front foot and asked further questions of the Vancouver backline three minutes shy of intermission. A lovely buildup saw Felipe Hernandez surge into the attacking third, slip past a defender and spread the ball right to Graham Zusi. Sporting’s all-time appearance leader cut the ball onto his left foot and pulled the trigger on the edge of the box, but his effort took a deflection before looping into the
thankful hands of Vancouver goalkeeper Thomas Hasal.
The game’s first shot on target fell to Vancouver two minutes into the second half. Jamaican international Javain Brown floated a long ball over the top to Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld, whose flick-on header was comfortably collected by Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia. Shortly thereafter, Zusi did well to spread himself and block a close-range attempt by Deiber Caicedo.
Sporting tested Hasal for the first time in the 52nd minute on a brilliant combination between wingers Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi. The former slalomed past a pair of Vancouver tacklers and spun a pass to Salloi, who drove goalward only to see his shot atop the box smothered by the Whitecaps keeper.
Canadian international and Vancouver Designated Player Lucas Cavallini entered as a 58th-minute substitute and his presence was quickly felt, as he forced Melia into a save near the hour-mark.
At the opposite end, fellow substitute Roger Espinoza was on the end of a golden opportunity for Sporting. Left back Ben sweat galloped down the flank and delivered a pinpoint cross to the 35-year-old veteran, whose side volley from the penalty spot lacked the pace and direction to beat Hasal.
The contest continued to gain steam as both sides traded jabs, with the Whitecaps nearly landing a haymaker on 68 minutes when Russell Teibert’s long-range curler missed the target by a matter of inches.
The hosts finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute off the foot of Raposo, who opened his MLS scoring account with an opportunistic finish from a tight angle on the left edge of the six-yard area. The play gave Vancouver its first second-half goal of the year and broke Sporting’s 180-minute shutout streak dating back to March 19.
Diminutive winger Marinos Tzionis, who bagged his first career goal for the Cyprus Men’s National Team in a 2-0 win over Estonia on Tuesday, provided a noticeable spark off the bench in the late stages, dashing forward and combining with Espinoza before seeing his left-footed drive corralled by Hasal with 82 minutes on the clock.
Having played four of their first six matches away from home this season, Sporting will host three of their next four in the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park. That stretch will begin next Saturday, April 9, when Vermes’ men welcome Nashville SC (2-2-1, 7 points) for a 7:30 p.m. CT showdown on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and
SportingKC.com. Tickets for the cross-conference fixture are available at SeatGeek.com.