Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sporting KC begins season with a win

Sporting Kansas City defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-1 in their 2013 season opener on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.

Midfielder Graham Zusi played a part in all three goals, scoring in the 41st minute and adding assists on both second-half goals as Oriol Rosell scored the match-winner in the 66th minute and Claudio Bieler scored on his debut in the 83rd minute.

Down a goal with four minutes to go in the first half, Zusi put Sporting Kansas City back in the game when he blasted a close-range shot past former Maryland teammate Zac MacMath.

Rosell followed suit 25 minutes later when he nodded in a Zusi free kick to put the visitors in the lead and Bieler secured Sporting KC's victory with a composed shot inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

The Union opened the match strong, with their first chance coming in the fourth minute when Gabriel Farfan, positioned at the left side of the box, settled a chipped pass from Sebastien Le Toux and took a strike that went straight to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.

The Union continued to dictate the pace of the match with Le Toux, in his first match back with Philadelphia since being traded from the Vancouver Whitecaps, proving to be a thorn in Sporting KC's side. Persistence paid off for the French striker in the 17th minute when he settled a long ball from Keon Daniel and took a swift right-footed shot that Nielsen reacted well to get his gloves on but couldn't keep the attempt out from close range.

The home side nearly notched a second goal in the 23rd minute when Michael Lahoud slipped behind Sporting Kansas City's backline and crossed the ball to a wide-open Le Toux, whose shot was just wide of the near post. Four minutes later, Nielsen made a stellar, diving save to stop Michael Farfan's on-target free kick.

Six minutes later, Sporting Kansas City had a chance of their own when Bobby Convey, in his first start for Kansas City since July, drove the ball deep into the left corner and slipped it to  Bieler. The Argentine fired a low shot that was blocked by MacMath as the offside flag went up.

Sporting Kansas City found their much-needed equalizer in the 41st minute when Bieler headed down Convey's long service into the penalty area. Benny Feilhaber's initial shot was blocked by Macmath but fell to Zusi, who drove the ball into the back of the net to level the match just minutes before halftime.

The visitors began the second half invigorated, nearly scoring an early goal just two minutes in when Bieler received a cross from Convey at the top of the box and released a left-footed shot that glanced narrowly wide of the left post.

Sporting KC then took the lead in the 66th minute when Zusi delivered a near-perfect free kick to an unmarked Rosell, who re-directed the ball past MacMath with a glancing header.

Nielsen, the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, came through Eleven minutes later, eleven minutes later with a big save for Sporting KC when second-half substitute Jack McInerney headed in a beautiful cross from Le Toux that Nielsen punched out for a corner.

Sporting KC secured the three points in the 83rd minute when Chance Myers played a ball back to Bieler in the penalty area. The Designated Player took a composed left-footed shot that beat MacMath and opened his MLS scoring account to deliver Sporting Kansas City's first MLS win at PPL Park.

Sporting Kansas City will next face Toronto FC at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 9 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The match will be broadcast live on KCWE, with coverage beginning at 12 p.m. CT.