Sporting Kansas City suffered a last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Los Angeles Football Club on Sunday night in the team’s MLS season opener at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
Krisztian Nemeth gave Sporting (0-1-0, 0 points) an early lead with his third goal in as many matches, but LAFC (1-0-0, 3 points) rallied in the second half behind a 47th-minute strike from Diego Rossi and a 94th-minute winner from substitute Adama Diomande to hand Manager Peter Vermes’ side its first loss in eight trips to the state of California.
Three days removed from a momentous 2-0 triumph at Deportivo Toluca FC in the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16, Vermes fielded an unchanged lineup from the side that dominated on Mexican soil. Sporting’s cohesion was on display early, as a pair of intricate exchanges involving Gerso Fernandes and Johnny Russell resulted in strikes from Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez that were saved by LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller within the first 10 minutes.
A vibrant atmosphere at Banc of California Stadium did little to deter the visitors from asserting early supremacy, and Sporting took a deserved lead in the 16th minute. Nemeth collected a pass at the top of the box and spread the ball right to Russell, who played it back to his Hungarian teammate near the penalty spot. Nemeth expertly picked out the far corner on first touch, slotting low across Miller for his third goal of the young campaign.
LAFC responded brightly and utilized Mexican international Carlos Vela as the focal point of their attack. Vela’s curling effort in the 22nd minute was blocked in a crowded penalty area by Sporting center back Andreu Fontas, and although the play underwent video review, referee Robert Sibiga deemed that Fontas did not commit a handball infraction inside the box.
Another foray from Sporting midway through the first half culminated in a thunderous volley from Graham Zusi that dipped just over the crossbar before LAFC threatened twice more. Eduard Atuesta squeezed a clever through ball into space for Vela, but his ensuing cross was hammered clear by captain Matt Besler, who was making his franchise-leading 300th career start for Sporting in all competitions. Shortly thereafter, Jordan Harvey marauded down the left side and found an open Mark-Anthony Kaye, whose low drive was smothered by goalkeeper Tim Melia.
An absorbing first half saw five Sporting players receive yellow cards, with the final chance before intermission falling to Zusi. The defender pounced on a failed LAFC clearance and fired marginally wide of Miller’s right-hand post from 22 yards.
The hosts restored parity less than two minutes into the second period, breaking Sporting’s 237-minute shutout streak to start the season. Rossi corralled a looping ball over the top from Atuesta, cut centrally on the left wing and sent an impressive curler inside the far post to make the score 1-1. Seth Sinovic spared Sporting’s blushes in the few minutes that followed, clearing upfield following a Melia save that thwarted Eddie Segura and then retreating to block Vela’s shot on the breakaway.
Center back Botond Barath was summoned into action for his Sporting debut on 69 minutes and helped his team stem LAFC’s momentum for the next quarter-hour. The push for a road draw was complicated, however, when Roger Espinoza was sent off for his second bookable offense in the 84th minute. Ten minutes later, Diomande drifted into a pocket of space, received a pass from Harvey and blasted high into the roof of the net from 15 yards to decide the match in dramatic fashion.
With a high-intensity MLS opener in the books, Sporting will conclude an unprecedented three-game road trip on Wednesday against Panamanian side Independiente in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals. Vermes’ men will fly 3,000 miles from Los Angeles to Panama on Monday ahead of the pivotal matchup at Estadio Agustin Sanchez in La Chorrera, which will stream live in English onYahooSports.com with a Spanish-language telecast on Univision Deportes.