The two teams didn't take long to live up to the hype, with the first of a steady stream of chances coming to Octavio Rivero in the 6th minute. Kekuta Manneh lofted a lovely through ball up to the Caps' lone striker, but Rivero seemed to have more space than he knew what to do with and only managed a toe punt into Tim Melia.
In the 9th minute, Manneh beat a sliding Kevin Ellis to the ball and dribbled into the box, foregoing various passing options for a composed finish into the bottom right corner.
The opening Whitecaps goal evoked a steady pushback from Sporting Kansas City. David Ousted was forced to come up with big save on Paolo Nagamura in the 17th minute, and a string of scrambling last ditch saves from Ousted and Jordan Harvey were all that kept Sporting at bay in the 21st.
After enduring a period of sustained pressure, a fantastic cross from Steven Beitashour resulted in a second goal for Manneh (a header, uncharacteristically). Beita did incredibly well to battle and win the ball, and although the right back may not have had a great game on the whole, he showed his quality when it mattered most.
Immediately after kicking off the second half, the Caps found themselves under the cosh. Hemmed into their own end by a persistent and skillful Kansas City attack, it didn't take long for the ball to find its way behind David Ousted. In a familiar looking goal, Kevin Ellis smashed in a header to pull Sporting back into the match.
Five minutes later, it looked as though the Whitecaps were about to regain their two goal cushion. Yet again, Kekuta Manneh found himself with acres of space, but this time elected to pass off the finishing duties to a wide open Octavio Rivero. The seemingly snakebitten striker hesitated just a little too long, and had his chance saved by Tim Melia.
In the 75th minute, there was a moment of magic at Sporting Park. Pedro Morales outdid himself with a screamer of a free kick into the top left corner. The game seemed effectively over, but minutes later Dom Dwyer pulled a goal out of thin air to bring Kansas City within one.
In typical Sporting Kansas City fashion, the home team brought their fans to their feet with an 87th minute equalizer. For the following seven minutes, the game played like a pure adrenaline rush. Inevitably, after squandering yet another counter-attacking chance, the Caps found themselves crushed by a fourth Kansas City goal.
It was a riveting match, and an absolutely heartbreaking game for any Whitecaps fan to witness. Though the game was surely testing for all involved, the real mental and emotional struggles of losing such a pivotal match will come in the weeks and matches to follow. Time will tell whether this is the match that makes or breaks the Whitecaps' season.
Sporting Kansas City 4 Vancouver Whitecaps 3
9' Kekuta Manneh (VAN)
41' Kekuta Manneh (VAN)
53' Kevin Ellis (SKC)
75' Pedro Morales (VAN)
81' Dom Dwyer (SKC)
87' Paolo Nagamura (SKC)
90+4 Paolo Nagamura (SKC)