Sporting KC’s season ends with missed opportunities

By staff and wire reports
Sporting Kansas City defender Jaylin Lindsey (26) reacts on the field while Minnesota United players celebrate after a 3-0 upset in the MLS Western Conference semifinal Thursday night at Children's Mercy Park.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City failed to take advantage of several good chances early in Thursday’s Major League Soccer Western Conference semifinal against Minnesota.

It ended up costing it a chance to advance shortly thereafter.

Kevin Molino scored twice in the first half in a quick three-goal barrage in a 12-minute span as Minnesota United advanced to the MLS Western Conference finals with a 3-0 win over top-seeded Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park.

In the first two minutes, Johnny Russell looped a kick over Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, but Minnesota defender Michael Boxall had retreated to clear it off the goal line with a header.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez, left, and Minnesota United midfielder Marlon Hairston battle for the ball in the air during the second half of their MLS Western Conference semifinal Thursday. Minnesota scored three goals in a 12-minute span in the first half to claim a 3-0 win over top-seeded Sporting KC.

Russell had another major chance to fire his side ahead in the 14th minute, dashing onto Khiry Shelton's through ball and driving goalward, but his side-footed effort was repelled by St. Clair. Only a minute later, the keeper denied Sporting center back Roberto Puncec on the doorstep by turning away his close-range header by getting a hand on the ball as it was about to cross the goal line.

“We had great chances. We had unbelievable chances,” said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes, whose team was playing without star forward Alan Pulido because of an injury. “Up until that, they had nothing even at our goal. If we scored one of those, it's different.”

Emanuel Reynoso had assists on all three Minnesota goals.

Molino opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a run up the left side to finish a feed from Reynoso. Eight minutes later, Molino wrapped his right foot around Reynoso's chip pass with just enough pace to get it past goalkeeper Tim Melia into the left corner of the net.

Bakaye Dibassy made it 3-0 with a header to finish Reynoso's corner in the 39th minute.

“We gave up three goals. That's never good,” Vermes said. “It was for us to try to come back in the second half and try to get the first goal and see if we could chip away at the three. If we did, it would be a hell of a comeback. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it.”

Fourth-seeded Minnesota will play at No. 2 seed Seattle on Monday night for a spot in the MLS Cup finals.

“We started in the right way, but their first goal was punishing for us and we couldn't come back,” Russell said. “They played their game, and we knew exactly what they wanted to do and what they are good at and it happened again.”