For the third straight year, Sporting Kansas City bowed out of the playoffs at the first hurdle, losing 1-0 on the road to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference wild card round. It was a return to old nightmares for Kansas City fans as the Sounders scored another late goal to lift them to the win over KC. The goal, and game as a whole was not without controversy as Seattle's game winning goal scorer, Nelson Valdez was shown to be offside. Meanwhile earlier in the game on a much tighter call Matt Besler had a goal (rightly) ruled out due to an offside call. Trying not to be a story in the game, referee Ismael Elfath and his assistants became a story of the game as well for fouls and cards not given.
For all the refereeing issues though, Sporting's struggles to find the back of the net cost them just as much as they controlled the play and couldn't capitalize on the chances that they created. KC started the game flying, pinning the Sounders back in their own end with high pressure. Capitalizing on the mistakes, KC created a number of chances for themselves, but were denied by Stefan Frei or the post. A couple of those chances fell to Paulo Nagamura who was playing as high as Benny Feilhaber much of the game. Both times Frei made a diving save to deny Nagamura. The second time the rebound fell to Graham Zusi who fired a shot to the far post, but the ball hit the post and bounced back into play. After the early run by KC, Seattle started to come into the game more and were able to pin Kansas City back in their end, some good footwork along the end line after a corner almost allowed Nicolas Lodeiro to create an own goal. Collecting a pass out wide he cut inside on the KC defense, dribbled along the end line and hit a shot off Matt Besler that wrong-footed Tim Melia, but the KC goalkeeper was able to stop the ball with his foot and recover. KC had another effort that Nagamura cleared off the line, but was called back on a foul by Chad Marshall, but Seattle was certainly in control of the match for the middle of the first half.
The half then turned again though as KC took over again for the final portion of the half. KC continued to create chances and forced another good save out of Frei during this stretch as a Benny Feilhaber free kick was flicked on goal by Kevin Ellis but Frei made a diving save to tip the ball away and keep the game scoreless as the teams headed into the break.
The second half saw Kansas City continue to be the more aggressive side as they tried to capitalize on all their play. For a split second they thought they had in the 52nd minute when Besler headed a free kick past Frei and into the net but Besler was slightly ahead of the last defender and was correctly ruled offside. Seattle had their chances too as Roman Torres missed the goal by inches on a Seattle free kick as Melia scrambled across his goal to cover the far post where Torres had made his run.
The chippiness of the game reached a tipping point around the 70th minute when Sporting KC was breaking on the counter through Feilhaber. Sounders captain Osvaldo Alonso came sliding through Feilhaber to break up the counter, taking Feilhaber out in the process. Right in front of the Kansas City bench, Peter Vermes and his staff were furiously wanting a second yellow card for Alonso on the play to send him off, but Ismael Elfath didn't see anything wrong with the challenge. Seconds later after Feilhaber returned to the field he was given a yellow card by Elfath after he berated the referee before a goal kick, Feilhaber had to be pushed away by Graham Zusi and other teammates. The incident seemed to fire Feilhaber up more, which was helped as he was rained with boos by Seattle fans every time he touched the ball the rest of the game. Feilhaber though put Kansas City on his back last night and almost scored a wonder goal, beating a number of Seattle defenders as he slalomed through the Seattle defense before hitting a shot with the outside of his right foot that Frei had to knock away.
Unfortunately for KC, something that has been the story over the years has been an inability to capitalize on chances and made to pay for it. Seattle did just that. Kansas City had started to sit a little deeper looking to get to extra time and Seattle pushed forward. After a ball was partially cleared to Joevin Jones, the outside back got into the box and fired a ball across the face of goal that Valdez headed past Melia. Replays showed that Valdez was as far, if not further offside than Besler had been earlier in the night, but the assistant referee kept his flag down as Seattle and their fans celebrated.
After the goal Kansas City threw numbers forward trying desperately to find an equalizer, but Seattle's defense packed in and held firm keeping Kansas City from getting any clear looks on goal. When the final whistle blew, Feilhaber again had to be restrained as he again gave Elfath a piece of his mind before leaving the field. Another disappointing end to the season for Kansas City as they couldn't get past the Sounders despite out playing them for long stretches.
Wizards Man of the Match - Benny Feilhaber - Feilhaber may have either sealed himself a new deal, or SKC will earn themselves some very, very upset fans if they don't re-sign Feilhaber. Last night Feilhaber was on the top of his game, in the form that he was throughout his MVP finalist season last year. The only thing that was missing for him was a goal scorer that could put away the chances he created. With Dwyer blanketed by Torres and Marshall, KC's lack of a second option for Feilhaber to work with kept KC off the board.
Player Ratings - Melia 6, Sinovic 7, Ellis 7, Besler 6, Abdul-Salaam 6, Mustivar 6, Nagamura 6, Feilhaber 9, Espinoza 6, Dwyer 5, Zusi 5. Subs Medranda NR, Peterson NR.