Reduced to 10 men for the final 70 minutes on Saturday night, Sporting Kansas City (10-14-7, 37 points) suffered a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rapids (11-15-6, 39 points) in a drama-filled battle at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Gerso Fernandes fired the hosts into a third-minute lead and a Tommy Smith own goal made it 2-0 just 11 minutes later, but Colorado gained a man advantage when Sporting captain Matt Besler was sent off for his second bookable offense in the 20th minute.
The Rapids would eventually cash in, drawing level through former Sporting attackers Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio, before Smith atoned for his early blunder by nodding home the match-winner on 85 minutes.
Seeking a positive response to last week’s road loss against the LA Galaxy, manager Peter Vermes made two changes to Sporting’s lineup on Saturday.
Hungarian international duo Botond Barath and Krisztian Nemeth both earned their first starts since July, replacing center back Graham Smith and striker Erik Hurtado. Joining Barath in central defense was Besler, who became the first Sporting player to log 300 career MLS appearances including playoffs.
Sporting wasted no time landing the first punch, seizing the initiative when Felipe Gutierrez sprayed a lovely ball down the right channel for Graham Zusi to chase.
The right back swung in a low, driven cross that Keegan Rosenberry nearly cleared successfully, but Gerso stuck out his leg to redirect the ball past Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin for his sixth goal of the year in all competitions.
The Rapids were pegged back and took another blow in the 14th minute, succumbing to pressure off a Sporting set piece.
Luis Martins’ searching delivery into the penalty area was headed back across the face of goal by Ilie Sanchez, intended for the lurking Nemeth at the far post. In a bid to prevent the ball from reaching his marker, Smith inadvertently toe-poked the ball into his own net to double Sporting’s cushion.
The game’s complexion changed drastically when Besler was given his marching orders by referee Nima Saghafi for his second yellow card of the evening.
On their heels throughout the early stages, the Rapids gradually gained a foothold and grabbed a goal back three minutes shy of halftime. Jack Price’s corner kick took a hop before reaching Kamara, who expertly chested the ball before sending a well-struck bicycle kick bicycle kick beyond goalkeeper Tim Melia to record his 12th goal of the MLS campaign.
A delicately poised second half unfolded, with the Rapids enjoying the lion’s share of possession while Sporting remained dangerous on the counter attack.
Colorado found its equalizer in the 76th minute on a breathless sequence ignited by Sam Nicholson’s hopeful cross into a crowded box. The ball fell to the feet of Smith, and although Ilie was there to block the initial attempt, Rubio was on hand to slam a venomous blast into the roof of the net to level terms.
Colorado completed its comeback nine minutes later when Smith latched onto Price’s corner kick and steered a powerful header inside the near post for his third goal of 2019, condemning Vermes’ men to a heartbreaking defeat.
Seven points shy of playoff positioning with three regular season matches still to play, Sporting will look to bounce back Wednesday when they travel to face regional rival Minnesota United FC (14-10-6, 48 points) at the new Allianz Field.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO.
- Story from Sporting KC