For the second game in a row, a red card in the 21st minute reduced Minnesota United's opponent to 10 men. But as happened last game, Minnesota couldn't make that advantage pay off, as Sporting Kansas City held United to a scoreless draw at a packed Allianz Field.
The Loons had plenty of chances to score, but their finishing ability has gone missing during this pivotal stretch of their playoff chase.
"We created a lot of opportunities. Unfortunately, it comes back to bite you when you don't take those chances," Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
In both Tuesday's game at San Jose and Saturday's game at home, the Loons played more than 70 minutes with a man advantage. Wil Trapp scored almost immediately after the red card in San Jose, but since that strike, Minnesota has played 11 men against 10 for more than two hours without scoring.
It was a disappointing end to a frustrating week for the Loons. Minnesota earned two points from three games, but felt it should have earned a better result in each one.
"I look at the week, we should be sitting on seven points," Heath said. "Given the chances we've had compared to the opposition, possession, crosses, corners — every stat you want to think of. To only get two points is very disappointing. We should have got six, maybe seven."
The red card came in the 21st minute. Sporting central midfielder Rémi Walter was sent off for a wild, high challenge on Emanuel Reynoso, as he tried to prevent Minnesota from breaking out after a SKC corner kick was cleared.
After that, Minnesota began to pile up scoring chances. Ethan Finlay had a chance to poke a cross past Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, but Melia's onrushing dive got just enough of the ball to send it over the bar. Two minutes into the second half, Reynoso smacked the base of the post with a drive from outside the area. Juan Agudelo, who came on as a second-half substitute, fought his way into another one-on-one with the keeper, but couldn't find the net.
Even center back Michael Boxall got in on the act, but he lifted his opportunity over the bar from 7 yards out.
"Given the circumstances in San Jose, and you're up a man for that amount of time and the same amount today, we need to do a lot better — especially at home, especially against Kansas City," Boxall said. "We need to finish our chances, myself included."
Starting striker Adrien Hunou has been particularly snake-bitten in front of goal. It was his ninth consecutive game without scoring, and he had several golden opportunities: a one-on-one against Melia, a close-in rebound from a Hassani Dotson shot, and an open left-foot volley from the top of the penalty area.
None found the net, and Hunou's search for his confidence after his April arrival from France continues.
"As we say to players, the only confidence I can give you is if I keep picking you," Heath said. "I've been there, I know what it's like when every chance seems like it's very, very difficult, and it's not really, and you start double-guessing yourself."
Sporting Kansas City's one and only big chance of the game came midway through the second half. A two-on-one counter-attack led to an open shot for winger Khiry Shelton in the United penalty area, but his shot skewed far wide of the goal. It was Sporting's best opportunity on a day where they, understandably, had very few.