Sunday, September 2, 2012

After comeback win, Sporting KC now tied for MLS lead in points

Sporting Kansas City came from behind for a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in front of a sold-out crowd and drew level with the San Jose Earthquakes in the Supporters Shield race for the most points in MLS this season.

It was a night of firsts for Sporting Kansas City as Paulo Nagamura scored his first goal as a Sporting KC player in the 60th minute off of a bouncing shot from the top of the box and Oriol Rosell scored his first MLS goal in the 87th minute on a first-time volley.

Sporting Kansas City extends their lead atop the Eastern Conference, now four points ahead of the idle New York Red Bulls, and the team’s 15 wins are the most in club history since the historic 2000 season in which KC won 16 regular season games, Supporters Shield and MLS Cup.

Sporting Kansas City put the pressure on Toronto FC early, with a chance materializing in the 9th minute when Chance Myers curled in a ball from the right flank to Kamara. His  header went just high of the crossbar after colliding with goalkeeper Freddy Hall.

Kamara came back in the 18th minute with another header, this time following a corner kick from Graham Zusi. Kamara stretched to reach the ball and directed the delivery just wide of the far left post.

Five minutes later, the home side put Hall to the test when Zusi’s corner from the left landed at the feet of C.J. Sapong. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year scrambled to shake off his mark and took a shot from close-range, but was denied by the Bermuda international in net for Toronto FC.

Roger Espinoza attempted a dipping volley in the 31st minute from the top of the penalty area that went inches wide of the post. Just a minute later, deep from the corner of the box, Sapong floated the ball to Espinoza at the top of the box, who on his first touch volleyed the ball just wide of the right post.

Toronto FC, relatively quiet while on the defensive, began to find their footing in the 35th minute when Quincy Amarikwa played a through ball to Andrew Wiedeman inside the box, but goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen came off his line and made a sliding save.

Kamara, an established thorn in Toronto’s side with nine shots on the night, had another chance in the 40th minute when he received a cross from Myers and headed the ball high of the goal.

Despite Sporting Kansas City’s dominance in possession from the opening whistle, it was Toronto with the first goal of the match when Richard Eckersley played a long ball to Ryan Johnson.

The Jamaican international went one-on-one with Nielsen and calmly slotted the ball past the veteran keeper, sending Sporting Kansas City into halftime down a goal for only the fifth time this season.

The second half began with a bang, in the form of a Toronto shot off the woodwork. In the 50th minute, Johnson nearly netted a second goal when he took a left-footed shot from distance that was delicately curled over Nielsen, but rattled the right post.

Sporting Kansas City responded in the 56th minute when Espinoza played a through ball to Nagamura at the right edge of the box, who shot low and wide of the goal. Nagamura’s next attempt, one of a single-game career-high five shots in the match, turned the match and the momentum in favor of the home side.

The coveted equalizer came in the 60th minute when Zusi’s free kick was headed away by Jeremy Hall and came to Nagamura.

The Brazilian’s first-time effort banged off the surface at the top of the penalty area and came down just under the crossbar for his first goal in nearly two years dating back to September 10, 2010.

Ten minutes later, Zusi charged down the left flank and took a well-aimed shot that Hall deflected with his fingertips, making a noteworthy save.

Hall was forced to make another clutch save, one of four on the night, in the 77th minute when Zusi curled in a pass to Kamara at the far left post. Kamara got a head on the cross but Hall was well-positioned to collect it.

Nielsen, too, was under pressure on the opposite end of the field. In the 79th minute, Luis Silva’s hard-struck volley was punched away for his lone save of the night.

Sporting Kansas City found the game-winning goal in the 87th minute when Myers, deep in the right corner of the box, played the ball to Rosell inside the area. The former FC Barcelona academy alum struck his shot beneath Hall and into the right corner of the goal.

Toronto came close to a dramatic equalizer in the 90th minute when Silva fired a shot just inches wide of the goal for the visitors’ sixth shot on a night that Sporting Kansas City sent 24 attempts toward net.

Sporting Kansas city will enjoy a weekend off for FIFA international match dates before hosting the Houston Dynamo at 7:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 14.  Tickets for the match, nationally broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, are available online at and at LSP Box Offices.