Sporting Slips to 1-0 Loss at Orlando City SC
Sporting Kansas City (7-11-7, 28 points) slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Orlando City SC (9-11-6, 33 points) on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. Tesho Akindele struck in the 21st minute to give the hosts all three points and deliver Sporting their second straight loss.
The result keeps Sporting in 10th place in the Western Conference standings heading into Saturday's pivotal clash against the San Jose Earthquakes (11-8-5, 38 points) at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the match are available at SeatGeek.com and the first 7,500 fans through the stadium gates will receive a free wall decal courtesy of Dairy Farmers of America. Supporters can also catch the action live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Faced with a quick turnaround from Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake, Manager Peter Vermes reshuffled his starting lineup to the tune of three changes. Jimmy Medranda's versatility was put to use in his first MLS start of 2019 as the diminutive Colombian took center forward duties in place of Erik Hurtado.
Medranda was flanked on the wing by 17-year-old Gianluca Busio, who replaced the suspended Daniel Salloi, while Andreu Fontas made way for Graham Smith in central defense. Elsewhere, veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza notably logged his 273rd appearance for the club across all competitions, moving into a tie for fourth-most in team history.
The Lions carved out a clean look within two minutes of kickoff, but former Sporting striker Dom Dwyer headed wide from close range after latching onto a Chris Mueller cross. At the opposite end, Medranda called Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe into action with a 25-yard blast off his left boot.
The game's next major opportunity fell to Orlando, and Akindele took full advantage in the 21st minute. Carlos Ascues barreled down the right channel and unleashed a cutback pass that Akindele ran onto near the penalty spot and slotted into the low left corner for his team-best ninth goal of 2019.
Sporting gained a gradual foothold and Seth Sinovic nearly connected with Johnny Russell on the half-hour mark, whipping in a teasing cross to the far post that Russell was unable to steer on target. Akindele then made an unsuccessful bid for his brace by poking wide off Nani's clever lobbed pass into the penalty area.
Medranda outfoxed first-half substitute Shane O'Neill along the left channel in the 40th minute and picked out Graham Zusi on the opposite side of the box, but Rowe sprung low to smother the bouncing volley and force a corner kick that Orlando successfully defended.
Hurtado entered for Medranda as a halftime substitute and Benny Feilhaber made a 59th-minute cameo of his own, relieving Busio and prompting Rowe into a lunging stop with a low piledriver nine minutes later.
Portuguese Left back Luis Martins earned his Sporting debut as a 71st-minute replacement for Sinovic. It was Feilhaber, however, who manufactured a huge chance on 77 minutes with a bouncing service across the face of goal that Espinoza back-heeled straight at Rowe. Espinoza then turned provider for Feilhaber, brilliantly settling a long ball inside the box and spreading a pass to the left, but the ensuing shot fizzed inches wide of the frame.
Felipe Gutierrez saved Sporting's blushes in the penultimate minute of normal time, racing back to clear Sacha Kljestan's chipped effort off the goal line. The Lions nonetheless preserved their 1-0 lead to the full-time whistle, condemning the visitors to a grim defeat amidst wet and humid playing conditions.
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