Sporting Kansas City’s club-record eight-year playoff streak was snapped Wednesday night in a late 2-1 loss to Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Botond Barath opened his MLS scoring account to give Sporting (10-15-7, 37 points) an early lead, but Minnesota (15-10-7, 52 points) responded with a 70th-minute equalizer from veteran Osvaldo Alonso before substitute Hassani Dotson struck in the 90th minute to seal the comeback and officially eliminate manager Peter Vermes’ side from postseason contention.
Sporting entered the night needing a victory in order to preserve their slim playoff hopes.
Wednesday’s result — the fourth straight loss in which Sporting scored first — means the club will miss the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The Loons, meanwhile, have clinched their first postseason berth in club history with two regular season matches to spare.
Vermes’ men will now turn their attention to Sunday’s home finale at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Kickoff against the Portland Timbers is set for 6:30 p.m. and tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com, with the first 5,000 fans through the stadium gates receiving a free headband.
The Western Conference clash will also air live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.
Four days removed from a 3-2 home defeat to the Colorado Rapids, Sporting rolled out three lineup changes against the Loons.
With Matt Besler serving a red card suspension, Ilie Sanchez took the captain’s armband and dropped from midfield into central defense. Academy product Gianluca Busio filled the resulting gap in the middle of the park, while forwards Erik Hurtado and Daniel Salloi replaced Krisztian Nemeth and Gerso Fernandes up top.
The visitors started brightly and needed just seven minutes to draw first blood.
Johnny Russell played a short corner kick to Zusi before settling a return ball with space on the right flank. The Scottish international whipped a teasing cross into the six-yard area, where Barath was on hand to poke home past Loons goalkeeper Vito Mannone for his first goal in a Sporting uniform.
Minnesota wasted a brilliant opportunity to draw level six minutes later when Mason Toye blasted high from point-blank range off a pinpoint Kevin Molino feed.
An equally big change went begging at the opposite end shortly thereafter, with Erik Hurtado latching onto Luis Martin’s superb service only to see his first-time effort carry inches wide of Mannone’s left-hand post.
Mannone produced a pair of fantastic saves in the 26th minute to prevent Sporting from doubling their advantage.
The Italian first dove at full extension to get his mitts to Zusi’s 22-yard piledriver, then reclaimed his footing to turn aside Busio’s deflected volley on the rebound.
Russell was next to take attacking initiative, splitting two defenders on 39 minutes and lacing a shot narrowly over the bar.
Two minutes shy of halftime, Busio flashed his undeniable skill by heading the ball past former Sporting defender Ike Opara and forcing Mannone into a reflex stop at his near post.
A half-chance would then present itself for Minnesota, but Darwin Quintero’s header lacked the power and placement to beat Melia.
Sporting remained on the front foot after the restart, and the increasingly confident Busio smacked the woodwork off a cushioned header from Daniel Salloi in the 64th minute.
The next good look fell to Russell, who muscled through a slew of defenders and prompted Mannone to sprawl low and make yet another save.
Minnesota made Sporting pay for its profligacy in the 70th minute. Jan Gregus’ corner was glanced across the face of goal by substitute Abu Danladi, allowing Alonso to stab home from close range to restore parity.
Agonizing misfortune continued to bedevil the visitors, as Ilie’s header off a Busio corner caromed off the crossbar just before Romain Metanire intervened heroically to prevent Gerso’s cutback pass from finding an open Busio near the penalty spot.
The final sting in the tale delivered all three points to Minnesota, as Dotson sliced into the box and uncorked a left-footed shot that deflected off Barath and past Melia in the 90th minute to send Allianz Field into euphoric celebration.
– Story from Sporting KC