Joy is fleeting as Sporting KC twice blows 2-goal leads on road, falls to Austin FC

·3 min read
Nick Tre. Smith/file photo/Special to The Star

For the second week in a row, Sporting KC scored three goals before halftime.

But a loss of control in the second half of Saturday night’s match at Austin FC sealed the visitors’ fate as the tenacious hosts turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 win over a shell-shocked Sporting side.

“We just lose our concentration on the three set pieces, which puts us in a tied game,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “That’s basically it. Then they score their fourth goal because, again, we’re sleeping at the back side. Unfortunately, it’s a lack of concentration on big moments in the game.”

Sporting (6-15-5) led early thanks to an unlikely goal from defender Andreu Fontás, who slammed home a rebound on a free kick. It was Fontas’ third goal in Major League Soccer.

Sporting doubled the lead through Willy Agada, who got enough on the rebound of a Roger Espinoza attempt to get the ball past Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver.

The pass that Graham Zusi played to spring Espinoza for the initial shot was incredible and represented the second week in a row that Zusi created a goal.

Austin got one back when Cam Gallagher volleyed a shot low and hard through a tight space to catch Sporting keeper John Pulskamp off-guard. With the score 2-1, Sporting got its third goal when Erik Thommy got fouled inside the box — captain Johnny Russell converted the penalty to make it 3-1.

That was the score at halftime.

But Austin got another goal back in the 63rd minute when Julio Cascante converted off an odd deflection. And the hosts continued to impose their control from there, both in possession and in terms of chances.

Austin FC star and leading Major League Soccer goal-scorer Sebastian Driussi scored the game-winner in the 94th minute.

Sporting’s best chance of the second half came from Agada, who could’ve made it 4-1 at one point. Instead, Austin got the equalizer when Ben Sweat failed to jump with the rest of his defensive line and kept Danny Hoesen onside to volley one home.

“The third one was complete laziness on our part, the tying goal,” Vermes said. “Whichever group is last is supposed to get up to the top of the box and keep the (Austin) players offside. He would have been offside and it wouldn’t have been a goal. We don’t get out, he’s free and he gets a free shot.”

Not only did the lack of a cohesive backline and offside trap frustrate Vermes, so too did the lack of reaction to the play regardless of whether or not the players thought it was offside.

“First, we don’t get out,” Vermes said. “Second, if you don’t get out, at least go win a ball in the air. The guy lets the ball come over his head and he hits it side-volley. That means the ball is about three feet off the ground. We don’t have anybody that can’t clear the ball at that height.”

For Sporting KC, it was an opportunity lost, for sure. Sporting will attempt to get back on track next Sunday, Aug. 21, with a 6:30 p.m. match against the Portland Timbers.