In their first-ever match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-7L-8D) fell to a 2-1 defeat at Eastern Conference club Sporting Kansas City (4W-6L-5D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday evening.
Though Camilo gave Whitecaps FC an early lead with a well-taken headed goal, Sporting KC claimed their second straight victory in their brand new home with two first-half goals. Mexican international Omar Bravo equalized from the penalty spot before Brazilian defender Julio Cesar struck the winner for the American Midwest outfit just before halftime.
Saturday's result leaves Whitecaps FC still in search of their first away victory as an MLS club, with the weekend defeat wrapping up a very challenging first half to their inaugural season in the league. The win for Sporting KC, meanwhile, extends their unbeaten run in MLS to seven matches and maintains their unbeaten record at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park since formally moving into their new home earlier this month.
"In the first half, we wanted to get the early goal and force them to come out," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "What we didn’t do well was pressure them the right way. We let them get inside our house and didn’t make play predictable. I thought that really accounted for putting us on our heels and putting our defenders in bad spots. In the second half, I thought we did a better job by making play more predictable, but the damage was done already."
After seeing his side perform well in last weekend's victory over Philadelphia, Soehn played the same starting XI that faced the Union at Empire Field. It was the first time this season that the Blue and White were able to start the same starting line-up in consecutive matches.
While it was logical for Soehn to stick with the same starting line-up in Kansas City, the performance was not at the same level from the visitors on Saturday, as Sporting KC looked the stronger side in the first half. Despite playing their third league match in just over a week, the five changes that Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes made to his starting XI seemed to make the difference.
There were early chances for Sporting KC's C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi, with 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Joe Cannon making saves from both attack-minded players. The best of those stops came on 10 minutes, as Cannon needed to block Sapong's shot at point-blank range after the Kansas City striker got on the end of a Chance Myers cross from the right.
Yet, as it seems to happen so many times in soccer, the team that has the run of play tends to fall behind. That is what occurred to the hosts on the quarter-hour mark, as Whitecaps FC opened the scoring from a set-piece. Davide Chiumiento cleverly played the ball into the Sporting KC box, where Camilo eluded the attentions of fellow Brazilian Julio Cesar. The winger's neat header flew past a sprawling Jimmy Nielsen in the Kansas City goal for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 Whitecaps FC lead.
It was a great start for the visitors, but the Vancouver goal seemed to spur on Sporting KC, who turned the game back in their favour before halftime. On 32 minutes, Kansas City were awarded a penalty by match referee Edvin Jurisevic after Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit took down Bravo in the 'Caps box. The Mexican star stepped up to take the spot kick with his right foot and beat Cannon for his third goal of the season two minutes later.
Now back on level terms, Kansas City looked the more confident side. After Milos Stojcev forced another good save from Cannon, Sporting KC struck their winner on 40 minutes from a Zusi corner. Again, it was Bravo that was involved in the goal, as he headed Zusi's set-piece back across the face of Vancouver's goal at the far post. The ball found Julio Cesar unmarked and the South American hammered his shot through the legs of Cannon and into the net to make it 2-1 to Sporting KC at halftime. It was the Brazilian's first goal of the season.
Searching for an equalizer, striker Eric Hassli had three opportunities to strike at goal after the restart, with his best chance coming on 53 minutes. The big Frenchman took Alain Rochat's forward ball on the edge of the Kansas City box, but his low strike was well blocked away by the legs of Nielsen.
While their attacking intent was not as sharp in the second half, Sporting KC kept Vancouver honest, as Cannon needed to make saves from Sapong and Roger Espinoza to keep the scoreline within reach for Whitecaps FC.
For the majority of the second 45 minutes, a defensive Kansas City were able to keep Vancouver at bay, as the visitors tried to press forward as much as possible. Despite a Rochat free-kick opportunity on 90 minutes and substitute Nizar Khalfan striking a shot that was blocked in the three minutes of time added on, the 'Caps could not break through, as Sporting KC held on for another home win.
Whitecaps FC will look to put Saturday's disappointing result behind them, as they head to Southern Ontario for the first of two meetings with Canadian arch-rivals Toronto FC. The first match comes in MLS at Toronto's BMO Field on Wednesday night. Sporting KC, meanwhile, play another expansion club next Saturday night, as they visit Portland Timbers.
15' - VAN - Camilo (Davide Chiumiento)
34' - KAN - Omar Bravo (penalty)
40' - KAN - Julio Cesar (Omar Bravo, Graham Zusi)
Shots: Kansas City 20 - Vancouver 12
Shots on Goal: Kansas City 8 - Vancouver 3
Saves: Kansas City 2 - Vancouver 6
Fouls: Kansas City 10 - Vancouver 14
Corners: Kansas City 3 - Vancouver 2
Offsides: Kansas City 4 - Vancouver 1
32' - VAN - Jay DeMerit
84' - VAN - Bilal Duckett
89' - KAN - Kei Kamara
Sporting Kansas CIty
1.Jimmy Neilsen; 7.Chance Myers, 78.Aurelien Collin, 5.Matt Besler, 16.Seth Sinovic; 55.Julio Cesar, 8.Graham Zusi, 15.Roger Espinoza; 88.Milos Stojcev (22.Davy Arnaud 69'), 17.C.J. Sapong (23.Kei Kamara 81'), 99.Omar Bravo (2.Michael Harrington 85')
Subs not used: 18.Eric Kronberg, 9.Teal Bunbury, 20.Birahim Diop, 32.Luke Sassano
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon, 25.Jonathan Leathers, 2.Michael Boxall, 6.Jay DeMerit (3.Bilal Duckett,45'), 4.Alain Rochat, 22.Shea Salinas, 7.Terry Dunfield (16.Nizar Khalfan 77'), 12.Jeb Brovsky, 37.Camilo; 20.Davide Chiumiento (31.Russell Teibert 45'), 29.Eric Hassli
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 14.Greg Janicki, 16.Nizar Khalfan, 17.Omar Salgado, 28.Gershon Koffie