BRONX | The intensity was there, but the result unfortunately wasn’t for New York City FC.
Ike Opara scored a header off Matt Besler’s throw in near the corner flag in the 12th minute as Sporting Kansas City handed New York City FC their first-ever loss – 1-0 defeat in front of a sold-out crowd of 27,545 on a chilly Saturday evening at Yankee Stadium.
Besler, the Sporting KC captain, lofted his throw-in to the middle of the box as Opara, a defender, out-jumped New York City FC defenders to get his head on it as the 2013 MLS Cup Champions won their first match of the season.
New York City FC is now 1-1-2 (5 points), while Sporting KC improves to 1-1-2 (5 points).
“Matt Besler has a very long throw-in and Kansas City loves to take advantage of it,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “It was not a surprise to us. We talked about it yesterday in the preparation meeting, we showed a lot of video about it. It’s also very clear Opara is the target for them. We put our tallest guy on him to mark him but unfortunately Opara beat him to the ball. The throw in was inch perfect and ended up in the back of the net.”
Added midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy: “We gave it everything we had and it was unfortunate to lose on a throw-in. That’s probably the most frustrating part when it happens after Jason called it. Besides that, I thought we moved the ball very well, we played overall much better than they did. It was unfortunate we lost on a throw-in.”
New York City FC had three players make their first-ever start and another trio make their team debut. The Club was without captain David Villa, midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and defender Josh Williams due to injury. Forwards Khiry Shelton and Adam Nemec were unavailable due to international call ups.
Head coach Jason Kreis gave debut starts Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Javier Calle and Patrick Mullins, while subbing on Tony Taylor, Poku and Tommy McNamara for their first appearances of the season.
The Club played with added motivation in the second half vying for the equalizer.
In the 51st minute, Calle served a ball over the top to an onrushing Mullins, but the forward couldn’t control it as the ball ended up in the grasp of Sporting KC goalie Luis Marin.
Mullins was instrumental in another New York City FC opportunity, chipping a dangerous ball across the 6-yard line in the 77th. A host of players ran toward it, but it went for naught and took a deflection as it trickled out of bounds for a corner kick.
New York City FC had a pair of scoring chances in stoppage time – both headers – but neither found the back of the net. McNamara crossed the ball from the left side in the 93rd minute and Jeb Brovsky tried to latch onto it, but it went wide of the goal. A minute later, Taylor’s low cross from the right was met by Ned Grabavoy, but his diving attempt went wide of the far post.
“Obviously nothing’s promised on the night,” said Grabavoy, who wore the captain’s armband in Villa’s absence. “I thought the energy, effort and fight were there from the opening whistle. We got hurt on a set piece which we talked about all week.
“It’s about having a positive response going forward so we have a little bit of a break now, which I think comes at a good time for this team, then we’re right back into it. Hopefully we’ll use the time wisely and come out with a positive response the next match.”
Sporting KC had the better of the pressure and chances in the first half.
Jalil Anibaba latched onto a cross from the left wing and chipped his shot up toward the middle of the goal but Saunders out-jumped a defender for an easy catch in the 10th minute.
Graham Zusi, who was subbed off in the 39th minute due to an apparent injury, received a nifty backheel pass from Benny Feilhaber, but the midfielder’s curling attempt toward the far upper corner went over the net.
Jimmy Medranda blasted a left-footed effort from outside of the area in the 43rd minute but it went over the net.
The visitors held the one-goal advantage at halftime.
New York City FC returns to the field on Saturday, April 11 at Philadelphia.
“I was really pleased again with the second-half response after going a goal down,” Kreis said. “The effort the guys put forth in the second half and the commitment level they showed to try to do anything they could to get that tying goal is important. I’m a little bit perplexed as to why we seem to be taking an entire half to figure that out.
“We need to improve in all phases. This is our fourth game ever with a brand new team. There still are signs in every single game I can walk away and say, ‘We’re going to be a good team.’"