Sunday, May 27, 2012

In game featuring two best MLS teams, Sporting KC comes out on top

It wasn’t as easy as it could’ve been — or should’ve been — but Sporting Kansas City snapped their four-match winless streak on Sunday, surviving a furious second-half effort from the San Jose Earthquakes to post their first victory this month.

The 2-1 win at Livestrong Sporting Park pulls Sporting KC (8-3-1, 25 pts) back within two points of Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United, and leaves the Earthquakes (8-3-3, 27 pts) two points behind Real Salt Lake for top spot in the West.

Sporting, who had blown two halftime leads, got goals from C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara in a dominating first-half performance. Even into the second half, the home side appeared in control.

But the Quakes, who were without leading scorers Chris Wondolowski (international duty) and Steven Lenhart (yellow card accumulation), pressed with everything they had. Midfielder Simon Dawkins pulled one back in the 71st minute.

The tension at LSP was palpable as the Quakes looked to replicate Wednesday’s 3-2 comeback victory over the LA Galaxy, during which the Quakes scored three times in the final quarter hour.

But it was not to be. The Quakes failed to generate any truly good chances, and Sporting secured their first win since beating Vancouver 3-1 away on April 18.

Sporting manager Peter Vermes went with the three-pronged attack of Sapong, Kamara and Teal Bunbury for the first time this season, and it paid dividends, as the home side racked up an 11-2 shot advantage in the first half.

In the fifth minute, Kamara took a pass from Graham Zusi on the right flank and drove the ball into the area. Sapong slid in at the back post and slammed a one-time, left-footer into the back of the net for his first goal since April 1.

The assist was Zusi’s seventh of the year, keeping him one back of league leader Dwayne De Rosario of D.C. United.

Bunbury and defender Aurelien Collin both came close to doubling the lead, but it wasn’t until the 39th minute that Kamara broke through. Right back Chance Myers set up the play, driving across the field and releasing an overlapping Michael Harrington on the left. Harrington cut back and fired a picture-perfect cross that Kamara nodded down and past Quakes ’keeper Jon Busch.

Harrington was only on the field because starter Seth Sinovic sliced open his left hand after going head-first over the sideline LED boards in the 20th minute. Already wearing a case on his right arm, the gash in his left hand required 20 stitches.

After the halftime break, San Jose ramped up the energy, shifting Marvin Chavez to the right side of the field and . The moves paid off in the 71st minute, when Dawkins took a headed pass from Ramiro Corrales, turned and dribbled to just outside the penalty area. Given space at the top of the box, he looped his shot just out of reach of a diving Jimmy Nielsen.

But that was all the Quakes could muster, as they finished a stretch of three games in eight days with a win, a draw, and a loss.

The two sides now have a two-week break from league play, but will take part in the US Open Cup this week.

On Tuesday, Sporting host NASL side Orlando City FC, and the Quakes welcome the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.