Sporting Settles for 1-1 Draw with Vancouver
Sporting Kansas City (2-4-5, 11 points) settled for a 1-1 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3-6-4, 13 points) on Saturday night in the 150th MLS match played at Children's Mercy Park.
Krisztian Nemeth fired the hosts ahead after 37 minutes with his team-best 11th goal of the season in all competitions before receiving a red card early in the second half. Ten-man Sporting nearly held on for all three points, but Vancouver salvaged a last-gasp equalizer when substitute Derek Cornelius bagged his first career MLS goal in the 94th minute to ensure a share of the spoils.
Working with an injury-hit squad, Sporting Manager Peter Vermes was without the services of 10 players but welcomed defender Matt Besler back into the starting XI after a four-week absence due to a hamstring strain. The captain was one of two lineup changes from last weekend's 1-0 loss at D.C. United, replacing Graham Smith in central defense, while Kelyn Rowe was deployed as a winger in place of the injured Daniel Salloi.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber made his highly anticipated return to Children's Mercy Park on Saturday, having previously starred for Sporting from 2013-2017, and he offered a prompt reminder of his playmaking abilities in the fourth minute with an impudent diagonal ball into the path of Felipe Gutierrez. The Chilean managed to poke an acrobatic shot on target, but Maxime Crepeau sprawled low for his first of six saves on the night.
The hosts moved the ball with sharpness during a dominant first-half display, with Feilhaber and Ilie Sanchez both seeing shots blocked through traffic to culminate sharp buildups in the attacking third. Forward Johnny Russell was also active and involved, cutting past multiple defenders in the 29th minute and swinging in a cross that narrowly evaded Rowe at the far post.
Sporting's superiority paid off eight minutes prior to halftime when Feilhaber won a firm tackle at midfield and set Russell free down the right channel. The Scot's left-footed effort was saved by Crepeau, but Nemeth was on hand to settle the ball and stab home the rebound for his seventh league goal of the campaign and the 19th of his MLS career.
Nemeth's evening soured in the second half, however, as he was sent off in the 51st minute for an aggressive challenge on Vancouver's Felipe near midfield. The ejection drastically changed the complexion of the match and lessened Sporting's stranglehold on proceedings.
Despite holding a man advantage, Vancouver struggled to create clear-cut chances and nearly fell behind by two in the 71st minute. Rowe galloped forward on the breakaway and uncorked a sizzling strike that Crepeau tipped over the bar. Two minutes later, Gutierrez exploited a pocket of space and pulled the trigger from 18 yards, forcing the Vancouver keeper into another stop.
The Whitecaps looked consigned to defeat as the match ebbed and flowed into second-half stoppage time, but head coach Marc Dos Santos' side would have the last laugh. With 94 minutes on the clock, Ali Adnan delivered a clever cutback into the middle of the penalty area, where Cornelius hammered a first-time shot past goalkeeper Tim Melia to silence the Children's Mercy Park crowd and leave Sporting in stunned disbelief.
The goal was Cornelius' first since joining Vancouver in January, ultimately extending Sporting's winless run to seven MLS matches and nine games across all competitions since the start of April.
With a frustrating stalemate behind them, Sporting will resume their three-game homestand next Sunday, May 26, with a high-profile matchup against Seattle Sounders FC at 5 p.m. CT. Tickets for the Western Conference clash-slated to air live nationally on FS1-are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On his team's performance...
Our guys played really well and they fought really hard. They played a man down for almost a whole 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the game was changed by the red card, but we did a great job of managing the man down. We were just a little unlucky there at the end, but I don't have any complaints. These guys fought with everything they had.
On Benny Feilhaber's contribution...
He's been great. He did everything that the game needed today. He was tremendous.
On takeaways from the game...
Each game we keep getting better and better and we just keep building from them.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Kelyn Rowe
On the Vancouver goal...
We're devastated. I thought we should have come out with three points. It's not just the last two minutes that we're going to look at, we're going to look at the whole game. I had two chances myself to put the game away 2-0, and I didn't finish them. We can't go out blaming the refs or the one play at the end, we have to look at the whole game. It's going to take 90, 95 or 100 minutes - whatever it's going to take to get this result and get out of this slump, but I have no doubt this team is going to do it.
Positives from the team's performance...
We had a lot of positives. We're going to go back and look at the whole game. We're not going to just look at the negatives. We're going to learn from the negatives but we're going to continue on the positives going forward. I thought defensively we were really sound for about 93 minutes. We're happy to have some big guys back like Matt Besler to captain us through this. We're not out of this. We're going to continue to fight and we're going to be back next week.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber
Thoughts on the match...
It's frustrating. We had a good game plan going in. We had a good first half. We got the goal. It's silly by Krisztian (Nemeth). I think, obviously, he didn't mean to do something like that but then we're down a man for 40 minutes or so. We hang on until the last couple minutes and we give something up. It's frustrating. There's nowhere to look but forward. We've got to keep on fighting, get some more bodies back, keep trying to get better on the field and start getting some three points.
On setting up the goal...
It was a 50-50. I think it was a little bit of a sloppy pass from them and I was able to kind of body away Felipe in the midfield. Johnny was wide open because their center backs were playing as if they have the ball. I just slipped Johnny (Russell) in. The goalie made a really good save on Johnny but Krisztian follows it up and has the composure to finish it.
On positive takeaways...
In the first half, there were a lot of positives. Second half, it's hard to take too much other than that the fight was there. We just missed on two minutes of it. The first half is where we can really look at the things that we did well. We had some good moments there. We defended pretty well when we didn't have the ball and we were dangerous with it. I'm sure we'll take a look at that and emulate more of that for the next game.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos
Thoughts on the match...
We knew that we were coming into a place that I know very well. It's very, very difficult to get something here. You could say that Sporting is going through a phase A or B but it's always Sporting Kansas City. It's always a very strong side at home. We knew we needed to be very disciplined in our play but not be afraid of playing. When you build up a lot, and you try to build up your play, there's always the risk of losing possession in some areas. It's unfortunate that we lost the ball in an important area. (They) transition. The defensive cover wasn't good. And then (Johnny) Russell and (Krisztian) Nemeth had a good play and finished it well.
At halftime, we felt that if we cleaned up some stuff and we changed tactically. We felt that the way we changed better addressed what they were doing. We had an idea of a sub that we wanted to do at the 70th minute or 75th minute if it was still 1-0. We explained to the players what we wanted to do there. But then comes the send off. Then it's a game where we have a lot of the possession with the threat being (Johnny) Russell and the counter attack. In a moment like that, you have to keep very focused and being very patient on the ball.
Then I felt as a coach, I tried to put a lot of numbers up - attacking pieces. That's why we took Jake (Nerwinski) off to put Lucas (Venuto) on the right side and (Joaquin) Ardaiz closer to Fredy (Montero). But maybe that sub I did it too early. You learn and you have to admit is a coach. I think maybe that sub came early, because you always run the risk of an injury and it's 10v10.
The positive thing of that is with the 10v10, the guys kept pushing. The guys kept believing. The guys had the mentality of there's no way we're getting out of here without anything. So the full mentality of the group and the way they fought and the spirit of what our team has been about was fantastic. This point is deserved at the end of the day.
On the team's halftime adjustments...
We felt that Seth (Sinovic) was very high up the field and they were creating an overload on the left side. Every time that we released Jake (Nerwinski) to press, there was a space for (Kelyn) Rowe to attack in behind Jake. We felt that there was not enough pressure on the center backs coming with two forwards to press the centerbacks. Adding a third center back, now you could release Jake higher and you always have Erik Godoy that could slide on Rowe. You would have the opportunity, if Seth is so high, to exploit the space in behind them. Having Lucas (Venuto) already so high, we thought now we could exploit that. That was decision in doing that.
There's two formations that we work. It's good that we always have them because in moments that you have to change as coach, you can't be afraid. The players have to have the confidence to do it.
On the play of Derek Cornelius...
He did his job. He was solid. He was able to release Ali (Adnan) higher. Because of always being the cover, Ali was able to get much higher on the field. At the end of the day, Derek is just waiting for chances to play. And then there's the game in Houston, that sometimes it's still in his head and is slowly getting out. He's stronger from it. He deserves the goal. And the reason why he deserves the goal has nothing to do with Sporting or the game today, but he's been an incredible teammate. He's understood very well the form that Doneil (Henry) and Erik (Godoy) are in. He's worked in training. He's a good teammate. Again, I love it when good people get rewarded. It's fair. The guys are happy for him. It was a great play on the goal.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Russell Teibert
Thoughts on the match...
That was a wild one. We deserved a point and we got one. We know we needed to score. It was almost like, with 10 minutes to go, we knew we were going to score. We had the chances. I think we were just getting impatient. I'm so happy for Derek (Cornelius). That kid has put so much work in the gym behind the scenes that no one sees. What I told him after the game is that's the reward for all that work that he's been doing. I'm super proud of him.
On playing a 3-5-2 in the second half...
The tackle was deserving of a red card from what we saw after watching it in the locker room. It changed the way we played a little bit. We went with two holding midfielders and one attacking with (Hwang) In-Beom on the field. I think that he was a release for us in there. Credit to all the guys that were on the field when Doneil (Henry) goes down. That's some adversity that you have to push through. It's easy to crumble and say, 'Oh, that's just our luck.' But we pushed through and we were deserving of that result.
On the importance of the road result...
Coming to KC and getting any point, one point or three, is a win for us. It's a win for any team because Kansas City is a great home team. Great atmosphere. Great place to play. You know when you play Kansas City, you're going to play a tough game. Three points are vital in each game, but coming here and getting a point - that's big for any team and it was big for us tonight.
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (2-4-5, 11 points) 1 0 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3-6-4, 13 points) 0 1 1
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Nicolas Hasler, Botond Barath, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Ilie Sanchez (C), Benny Feilhaber, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell (Yohan Croizet 82'), Krisztian Nemeth, Kelyn Rowe (Gedion Zelalem 90+2')
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Graham Smith, Wilson Harris
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Maxime Crepeau; Jakob Nerwinski (Joaquin Ardaiz 72'), Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Ali Adnan; Andy Rose, Felipe (Inbeom Hwang 53'), Russell Teibert; Lucas Venuto, Fredy Montero (C), Victor Giro (Derek Cornelius HT)
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Brett Levis, Scott Sutter, Theo Bair
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth 7 (unassisted) 37'
VAN -- Derek Cornelius 1 (Ali Adnan 2) 90+4'
VAN -- Felipe (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 8'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth (red card; serious foul) 51'
VAN -- Inbeom Hwang (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 56'
SKC -- Kelyn Rowe (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 62'
SKC -- Tim Melia (yellow card; time wasting) 87'
VAN -- Lucas Venuto (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+5'
Stat SKC VAN
Shots 15 11
Shots on Goal 7 3
Saves 2 6
Fouls 12 8
Offsides 1 1
Corner Kicks 3 3
Referee: Timothy Ford
Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell
Assistant Referee: Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Michael Radchuk
VAR: Sorin Stoica
AVAR: Jonathan Johnson
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