Darren Mattocks scored for the fourth time in the last five games Sunday as the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0.
Vancouver (7-4-11) also took advantage of an own goal by Sporting defender Igor Juliao to hand Kansas City (11-6-6) its first loss in Major League Soccer since May 31.
Vancouver was just 1-2-6 over its last nine, including four straight ties, and won for the first time since July 5.
The Whitecaps took the lead in the 17th minute when Juliao and Kansas City goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum got their signals crossed after Vancouver’s Pedro Morales lofted a long ball towards goal. Juliao tried to head a pass back towards Gruenebaum, but it instead dribbled over the line for a 1-0 lead.
Vancouver doubled the advantage in the 30th minute when Morales and Mattocks pounced on a Kansas City turnover in midfield and broke back the other way. Morales drew a defender towards him before squaring the ball to Mattocks, who made no mistake in slotting a low shot past a helpless Gruenebaum for his sixth of the season.
It could have been 3-0 in first-half stoppage time, but Vancouver’s Sebastian Fernandez saw his effort cleared off the line by Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin.
The Whitecaps — who entered play with just six goals in their last eight games — had a few other great chances that also went begging in the opening 45 minutes, including a pair from Mattocks and another for Fernandez.
Kansas City’s only real threat was an effort from outside the box that flashed wide of David Ousted’s goal from the boot of Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
Mattocks also had a penalty saved in the 85th minute after Collin fouled second-half substitute Omar Salgado in the Kansas City 18-yard box.
The game marked Vancouver’s first-ever victory over Kansas City in five all-time meetings (1-2-2) and moved the Whitecaps back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Sporting sits first in the East and had won five straight road games, one short of the MLS record during the non-shootout era, but were on the backfoot from the start.
The visitors replaced Gruenebaum with Jon Kempin in goal to start the second half, and had a good chance in the 46th minute when Jacob Peterson tested Ousted with a stinging shot, but the Vancouver ’keeper was rarely under much duress in picking up his second straight shutout.
Morales had a half chance from outside the Kansas City area in the 62nd minute, while Collin headed wide at the other end a few moments later off a corner kick.
Mattocks had a chance at his second of the game in the 66th minute, but Kempin scooped up his header in front of the goal.
Whitecaps defenders Johnny Leveron and Jordan Harvey then almost linked up for another chance off a Vancouver corner in the 70th, but Kansas City survived to keep the score at 2-0.
Feilhaber then headed towards Ousted’s goal three minutes later, but the Whitecaps’ No. 1 made a comfortable save to help preserve his sixth clean sheet of the season.
Kempin kept the scoreline at 2-0 by pushing Mattocks’ 85th-minute penalty onto the post before Kansas City was able to clear.
Notes: Morales picked up his ninth assist of the season to tie a club record. ... Vancouver defender Andy O’Brien played his first game since June 25. ... The Whitecaps signed Kendall Waston this week, but the six-foot-five centre back was not in the lineup. ... Collin, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and striker Dom Dwyer all represented Sporting in Wednesday’s MLS all-star game against Bayern Munich. ... Vancouver plays at Chivas USA next Saturday, while Kansas City hosts Toronto FC. ... Attendance at B.C. Place Stadium was 20,183.