Sporting fell for the first time in the 2014 preseason, and did so in grand fashion getting thoroughly dismantled by the Columbus Crew in the final of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, 4-1.
Sporting suffered an early blow as left back, Seth Sinovic left after only seven minutes after suffering a hip injury. His replacement, Josh Gardner ended up having a very poor night replacing him. In the 20th minute, Gardner ended up bringing down Hector Jimenez in the box after a through ball found him. Jairo Arrieta stepped up and buried the penalty kick to Eric Kronberg's right. The Crew continued to have the better of play in the first half and should have doubled their lead in the 35th as Tony Tchani cut through KC's central defense and fired a shot just wide of Kronberg's post. KC's best chance of the first half came when Graham Zusi played a ball in to Paulo Nagamura who had gotten into a good position behind his defender. Nagamura though put his shot just wide of the post. The two teams went into the half time break with the Crew up 1-0.
The second half saw Sporting come out with a renewed pressure. They kept the Crew pinned back in their own end. And when the Crew did get forward they ended up getting called offside. Gardner had a good opportunity at the offensive end, taking a shot that took a deflection off the head of a Crew defender. The ball floated over Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark, but the ball struck the ball and bounced back into play. Shortly after, Oriol Rosell played a great ball through to Dom Dwyer who fired a shot first time, but Clark came up with a fantastic save to keep the Crew in front.
Shortly after that opportunity, KC made five changes, including three quarters of the back line. The Crew took advantage of the disorganization. First Jimenez found space down KC's left against Gardner and played a great pass into the middle for Bernardo Anor who headed the ball past Kronberg to make it 2-0. Jimenez picked up another assist in the 74th as he played the ball through to Justin Meram, who beat the offside trap, rounded Kronberg and slotted the ball home to make it 3-0. The Crew rounded out their scoring 10 minutes later when Meram played a ball through to Federico Higuain who again beat the offside trap and chipped an on rushing Kronberg to make it 4-0. Three minutes later, Sporting spoiled Clark's shut out as Claudio Bieler fired a volley from outside the box into the far lower corner to make it 4-1. While KC pressured the rest of the way they were unable to find any more goals.
While the loss is disheartening, especially right before the beginning of preseason, it was still a preseason game. The hope continues to be that Gardner isn't going to see much of the game time. Now if Sinovic gets hurt and is out for a period of time that could cause KC a number of problems on the left as there continue to be questions about Gardner's play when replacing Sinovic.
We're under a week now though before the regular season starts.