Sporting Kansas City (1-2-0, 3 points) slipped to a 2-0 road defeat against the Colorado Rapids (2-1-0, 6 points) on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The hosts struck on both sides of halftime through Diego Rubio and Mark-Anthony Kaye, snapping a six-game winless drought in the series by claiming victory against a Sporting side that had four different players make their club debuts.
Two attacking changes highlighted the Sporting Kansas City lineup as debutant striker Nikola Vujnovic spearheaded the frontline and fellow European newcomer Marinos Tzionis earned his first MLS start on the left wing. Forwards Daniel Salloi and Khiry Shelton missed out with calf problems, having featured in Sporting’s 1-0 home win over Houston Dynamo FC seven days earlier. In defense, center back Andreu Fontas notably logged his 50th regular season start in a Sporting uniform.
Rubio put his former club to the sword in the 21st minute, firing the hosts into a 1-0 advantage. Rapids left back Lucas Esteves made an incisive run into the attacking third, cut centrally and played a scoop pass to the feet of Rubio, who took a touch and slotted home for his second goal in as many matches.
Only two minutes later, Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia did brilliantly to prevent Colorado from doubling its lead. Kaye lifted a pinpoint long ball over the top for diminutive winger Michael Barrios, who raced through on goal unimpeded. His shot on target was cast aside, however, as Melia dropped low for a vital reflex stop.
A choppy first half-hour for Sporting was further complicated when Felipe Hernandez was forced off through injury. Fellow homegrown midfielder Cam Duke was summoned as his replacement and almost pulled Sporting level in the 38th minute. Belgian left back Logan Ndenbe marauded down the flank following a neat exchange with Tzionis and cut the ball back to Duke, whose first-time effort near the penalty spot deflected off outstretched Colorado defender Auston Trusty and sailed marginally over the crossbar.
Sporting went close once more shortly before the break, testing Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough for the first time. Remi Walter’s corner kick nearly found the head of captain Johnny Russell but instead caromed off Colorado defender Keegan Rosenberry. The ball was bound for the back of the net but Yarbrough sprawled out to smother it on the goal line.
Colorado went ahead 2-0 six minutes into the second half. After Sporting center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin defended heroically to cut out a cross and force a corner kick, Jack Price’s subsequent delivery was steered back across the face of goal by defender Steven Beitashour. Kaye was on hand to smash a simple finish past Melia for his first goal of the 2022 campaign.
Duke remained a bright spot in the center of the park and was unlucky not to cut into Sporting’s deficit in the 54th minute, darting past a pair of defenders before seeing his shot under duress lift over the woodwork from 18 yards. Espinoza was next to threaten for the visitors, hammering a shot to the near post that Yarbrough palmed away after the Rapids failed to clear from Russell’s blocked free kick attempt.
Sporting Manager Peter Vermes made a triple substitution with less than 10 minutes remaining, giving club debuts to MLS veterans Kortne Ford and Ben Sweat and a second career MLS appearance for 20-year-old homegrown Jake Davis. Shortly thereafter, 19-year-old homegrown defender Kayden Pierre landed his MLS debut with a late cameo in place of Russell.
Vermes’ men will look to bounce back next Saturday, visiting Chicago Fire FC (1-0-2, 5 points) in a 5 p.m. CT kickoff at Soldier Field. The inter-conference clash will be shown live on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.