VANCOUVER, BC - In the first of two home matches on Bell Pitch at BC Place this week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-2L-2D) suffered their first home defeat of the season after a 3-1 loss to Major League Soccer leaders Sporting Kansas City (7W-0L-0D) on Wednesday evening.
A first-half goal by Aurelien Collin set up the Eastern Conference leaders for a seventh straight win to start their 2012 MLS campaign, with the match winner coming as a result of a second-half own-goal from Whitecaps FC defender Martin Bonjour. Kei Kamara scored Kansas City’s third goal before Sebastien Le Toux struck a late consolation for the Blue and White.
“Congratulations to Kansas City, they put on a textbook road performance. They defended well and scored on set-plays and the counter-attack," said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. "It wasn’t a lack of effort or desire, but there were a lot of technical breakdowns where it cost us goals, both for us and against us, so it’s disappointing from that perspective. Over the course of a season, you’re going to have games like that, but the most important thing for us is to see how much character we have in our team and you’re only going to find that out when you have disappointing results. I believe we do have good character and I’m excited to work on that over the next couple of days and see how much belief we have going into our game with Dallas.”
Rennie made one change to the side that started Vancouver’s defeat at San Jose Earthquakes earlier this month. Atiba Harris returned from suspension to play in midfield and in place of Jun Marques Davidson, with the home side set out in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Though they played versus Real Salt Lake on Saturday, Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes kept faith with his in-form starting XI, having been forced into only one change. Paulo Nagamura replaced fellow Brazilian Julio Cesar, who was out with a hamstring injury.
Under the closed roof at BC Place, Wednesday’s match started out in a competitive and untidy fashion in front of a crowd of 15,382. In fact, the most eventful moments of the opening quarter were bookings to Whitecaps FC striker Eric Hassli and Kansas City defender Collin.
As luck tends to go with sides in form, Sporting KC opened the scoring on 24 minutes, as the ‘Caps failed to clear a Graham Zusi cross. The ball fell to Honduran international Roger Espinoza, whose shot took a couple of deflections and landed kindly to Collin in the ‘Caps six-yard box. With an open net to aim for, the French centre back scored his second goal in as many matches for the visitors.
The goal from the MLS leaders prompted a positive response from Vancouver, with Young-Pyo Lee getting forward down the left flank and playing some dangerous crosses into the Sporting KC box. The former South Korean international’s best effort was on 28 minutes, but Le Toux directed Lee’s fine delivery straight at Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. A minute later, Gershon Koffie could not keep his first-time shot on target after Harris did well to cut the ball into the midfielder’s path in the Sporting KC box.
The first half ended with a couple more chances from Whitecaps FC, with Le Toux striking wide from close range, while Jordan Harvey just missed connecting with Hassli’s dangerous cross in front of the visitors’ goal. Sporting KC took a one-goal advantage into the break.
Whitecaps FC were keen to get back on level terms once the second half got underway, but those aspirations took a blow when Bonjour unfortunately chested Matt Besler’s throw into the Vancouver box past Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon to give Kansas City a two-goal lead on 51 minutes.
The second Sporting KC goal opened up the match, with good chances created at both ends. Then on 65 minutes, the American Midwest outfit ensured they would take all three points from Canada’s west coast, as Kamara played a give-and-go with Sporting KC right fullback Chance Myers before finishing past Cannon at the near post for his fourth goal of the season and a 3-0 Kansas City lead.
‘Caps fans remember well that Vancouver were three goals down to Sporting KC at Empire Field last year, and it was that same spirit to fight back that resulted in an eventful late stage of the match. Substitute Camilo Sanvezzo had two free-kick opportunities, while Hassli was unfortunate not to hit the target with a turn and strike from Lee’s forward ball. The home side would break through on 79 minutes, as Le Toux headed home his team-leading third goal of the season on the rebound after Camilo struck the Sporting KC crossbar with a powerful header from Omar Salgado’s cross, which came just seconds after the young striker had come into the match.
There was a late flourish from Whitecaps FC, as Nielsen had to make saves from Camilo, Hassli, and substitute Long Tan, but Sporting KC held on to maintain their 100 per cent record in what was their 500th MLS regular season match in club history. Whitecaps FC will look to bounce back quickly, as they host FC Dallas in an important Western Conference clash on Saturday night. As for undefeated Kansas City, they now travel down to Oregon to face another Pacific Northwest club in Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Gershon Koffie
24' - SKC Aurelien Collin
51' - SKC Martin Bonjour (own-goal)
65' - SKC Kei Kamara
79' - VAN Sebastien Le Toux
Shots: Vancouver 19 - Kansas City 8
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 7 - Kansas City 2
Saves: Vancouver 0 - Kansas City 7
Fouls: Vancouver 13 - Kansas City 14
Offsides: Vancouver 6 - Kansas City 3
Corners: Vancouver 5 - Kansas City 4
6' - VAN - Eric Hassli
18' - SKC- Aurelien Collin
38' - SKC Paulo Nagamura
67' - VAN Jay DeMerit
80' - SKC Jimmy Nielsen
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 15.Martin Bonjour (23.Long Tan 87'), 6.Jay DeMerit, 3.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 11.John Thorrington (37.Camilo Sanvezzo 60'); 9.Atiba Harris (17.Omar Salgado 79'), 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 29.Eric Hassli
Substitutes not used: 18.Brad Knighton, 16.Matt Watson, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 27.Jun Marques Davidson
Sporting Kansas City
1.Jimmy Nielsen; 7.Chance Myers, 78.Aurelien Collin, 5.Matt Besler, 16.Seth Sinovic; 6.Paulo Nagamura (13.Lawrence Olum 77'), 15.Roger Espinoza, 8.Graham Zusi; 23.Kei Kamara, 17.C.J. Sapong (9.Teal Bunbury 62'), 11.Bobby Convey (37.Jacob Peterson 52')
Substitutes not used: 21.Jon Kempin, 2.Michael Harrington , 22.Soony Saad, 32.Luke Sassano