Stop us if you've heard this one before:
* Sporting Kansas City comes out roaring from the opening whistle.
* Scores an early goal.
* Looks as though they'll score plenty more.
* An inferior opponent ties the game up and stalls out Sporting KC's momentum.
* Sporting KC ends up not winning a game it should have in front other another sellout crowd at Sporting Park.
That familiar refrain played out on a humid Tuesday-night game on national television for Sporting KC, which ended its tilt against the New York Red Bulls with a 1-1 draw. Sporting KC has now gone four games without a victory and sits in second place in the Eastern Conference.
To be fair, Sporting KC continues to make do with a patchwork lineup due to injuries and two of its best players - Graham Zusi and Matt Besler - tending to international duty for the United States team. But that threadbare roster didn't stop Sporting KC from rocketing out to an opening 15 minutes of play where it looked like not a matter of if the team would score, but how many goals it would score.
In the opening eight minutes, teenage defender Igor Juliao from Brazil had New York goalkeeper Luis Robles beat on what looked to be a certain goal, only to have the ball cleared away by a Red Bulls defender at the last second. That was followed by Spanish forward Toni Dovale scoring his first Major League Soccer goal for Sporting KC, notching a goal in the ninth minute off a slick pass from midfielder Benny Feilhaber. Moments later, Feilhaber almost had a goal of his own when a free kick just outside New York's 18-yard box struck the goalpost.
But as Sporting KC has the tendency to do, it let the struggling Red Bulls regain grasp of a game that the home team should have won in a landslide.
New York coach Mike Petke must have looked at the halftime stat sheet and realized many of Sporting KC's key midfield and defensive personnel were missing from his opponent's lineup, because the Red Bulls came out strong in the second half.
They tied the game when former international star Thierry Henry poked a soft pass beyond Sporting KC's defense to find a wide-open and onside Red Bull striker Bradley Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips beat Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg easily for the equalizer. Wright-Phillips' goal was his 11th this season, breaking the tie he had with Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer for the league lead.
Wright-Phillips almost scored again minutes later, but this time Kronberg saved the day.
It would be that kind of night for Sporting KC. Soccer is a game best played by teams that are familiar with their other teammates' tendencies and patterns of play. Sporting KC won't have that luxury this year. Zusi and Besler will miss about six games for World Cup duty, and other mainstays like Aurelien Collin and Oriol Rosell have been injured on and off. Bad news got worse over the weekend when Sporting KC revealed that defensive stalwart Chance Myers would miss the rest of the season with an Achilles-heel injury. It's meant important minutes for youngsters like Juliao and Dovale.
"All of that has accelerated their entrance into the team," said Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes after the game. "My feeling is over the long term, it's going to benefit us."
In the short term, it may mean strings of games where Sporting KC can't quite finish off teams it would ordinarily beat.