The last-place Montreal Impact are not making things easy on themselves.
Montreal made two defensive mistakes, one early and one late in the game, to hand Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 victory at Saputo Stadium on Saturday.
The game was tied 1-1 in the 89th minute when striker Dom Dwyer fired home his second of the evening to lead Kansas City to its third victory in its last four games.
A seemingly straightforward defensive play quickly turned into bedlam for the Impact when defender Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Troy Perkins failed to clear a slow-rolling ball away from the 18-yard box.
With just 90 seconds remaining in the game, Kansas City sent a harmless cross towards Montreal's final third. Pearce let the ball bounce a couple of times, then turned to face Perkins as the ball rolled past him. Perkins tentatively left his net, and both players hesitated, expecting the other to clear it away.
The brief uncertainty allowed substitute C.J. Sapong to poke the ball away from the Impact players and right into the path of a streaking Dwyer. The 23-year-old pounced on the loose ball and side-footed home the game winner for his 14th goal of the season.
"I don't know [what happened] to be honest," said Perkins. "When [Pearce] turned, I wasn't expecting it. Just miscommunication, I guess, and it cost us. In the ideal situation, the ball is cleared, and he doesn't even turn with it. It was a mess from the beginning."
Dwyer also took advantage of another mistake early in the game, beating Perkins with a header in the fourth minute of play. Dwyer walked in all alone, unmarked, and connected with a long throw-in from the corner flag after Impact defender Matteo Ferrari blew his coverage.
In the basement
The Impact (3-9-5) are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with Major League Soccer's worst record. Montreal has now been outscored 9-1 in its three losses to Kansas City this season.
"We gifted them the two goals," said captain Patrice Bernier, who could only watch as his team lost a second straight game in the dying minutes. Last week, Montreal gave up a goal in stoppage time to Chivas USA. "There was nothing saying this game wouldn't finish 1-1. I didn't see anything that was going to make them win the game against us in the end.
"These are small mental errors that are costly. We have to be vigilant all game-long. We hurt ourselves, simple as that, and we're making it even harder for us for the rest of the season."
Second-place Kansas City (8-5-5) has now won its last three games on the road, and has only lost once in its last seven.
Dwyer's brace against Montreal is a recurring storyline this season. The Englishman scored twice in each of Sporting's three victories over Montreal this year. His team-high 14 goals are second best in Major League Soccer.
"We should have probably scored a couple of more goals," said Dwyer, whose team has yet to lose this season when scoring first. "We want three points every single game. We're not going to come somewhere and play for a draw. That's the team we are, and we're one of the best teams in the league. We should prove that every week when we come out."
Striker Marco Di Vaio answered Dwyer's opening goal with a header of his own, erasing Kansas' early lead in the 28th minute. The Italian gave goalie Andy Gruenebaum no chance with an accurate shot that rang off the back post before crossing the line. The goal was Di Vaio's first in seven career games versus Sporting.
But Gruenebaum, who made his first start of the year in net in place of the injured Eric Kronberg, was only challenged once more after that.
After Felipe was taken down in the box in the 33rd minute, the ball fell to Andres Romero, whose left-footed shot from a decent angle was stopped by Gruenebaum.
Montreal did not hit the target in the second half, despite a slew of opportunities. Felipe had two good chances after the hour mark, including on an odd-man rush, but gave the ball away cheaply on both occasions.
And a rare offensive outburst by Hassoun Camara almost gave the Impact the victory four minutes from time, but the defender's shot flew just wide.
Sporting dominated possession for most of the game, penning Montreal deep in its own half of the pitch for long stretches. At halftime, Kansas City went to the dressing room having seen two thirds of the ball.
It was more of the same in the second half for Sporting KC, which completed almost twice as many passes as Montreal.
"You have to move on," said Impact manager Frank Klopas, whose team is now nine points out of a playoff spot. "We had a good performance, but in the end we should have walked away with points tonight. I don't know how we find ways to lose games like this. The breaks aren't going our way right now. I feel bad for the guys.
"It's not a good feeling coming in here and losing, believe me, or walking around the streets of Montreal when you lose games like this."