Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sporting KC earns 2-0 road win at Houston

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Despite playing shorthanded for more than 70 minutes on Friday, Sporting Kansas City claimed a 2-0 road win over the Houston Dynamo. Soony Saad, making his first start of the season, netted the game-winner and fellow forward Dom Dwyer added a second-half penalty kick for his League-leading 11th goal of the year.

Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg made four saves for his sixth shutout of the season, most in MLS, and lowered his goals against average to 0.93 in 2014. With the win, Sporting KC moves within one point of Eastern Conference leaders New England and snaps a five-game winless streak dating back to a 3-0 road win at Montreal on May 10.

Already coping with injuries to Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers and Ike Opara along with international absences for Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City lost Paulo Nagamura to a head injury in the game's seventh minute and Antonio Dovale was shown a straight red card less than 15 minutes later for an off-the-ball incident. At halftime, Manager Peter Vermes was forced to use his final two substitutions as Benny Feilhaber and Igor Juliao required second-half replacements.

Nevertheless, Sporting Kansas City stretched the team's unbeaten streak against Houston to seven games (including postseason) with a fourth straight clean sheet at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Sporting Kansas City recorded only three shots in the first half, however nearly took the lead twice before Saad's 45th-minute strike. In the 12th minute, rookie midfielder Alex Martinez settled an errant header from Kofi Sarkodie and broke into the penalty before sending his shot just wide of the near post with Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric rushing off his line.

Dwyer nearly struck in the 41st minute after capitalizing on a mishit pass from Servando Carrasco. Dwyer beat Deric to the loose ball, flicked a header to himself and was preparing to put the finishing touch into an empty net if not for the timely intervention of Dynamo defender Eric Brunner.

Saad silenced the home crowd seconds before first-half stoppage time on a scoring sequence started by Benny Feilhaber. After intercepting a pass from Brunner and then bearing the brunt of Brunner's reckless challenge, Feilhaber slipped the ball to his left for Saad. The 21-year-old forward buried his first-time shot from 22 yards out inside the far post for his first goal of the year and sixth of his career.

Houston's only shot on goal in the opening half came in the 24th minute from the foot of Alexander Lopez on a 30-yard strike pushed over the crossbar by Eric Kronberg. The Dynamo came close again in the 33rd minute on a corner kick volleyed at the backpost by Will Bruin and nearly re-directed into the net by Jermaine Taylor if not for a block from Seth Sinovic.

Deric, making his fourth career start and first since 2012 in place of Tally Hall, was also credited with four saves on Friday and came outside his penalty area in the 47th minute to thwart Dwyer from running onto a well-weighted pass by Martinez. Deric then did well to get his hand to a blistering shot by Seth Sinovic and tipped the long-range effort over the crossbar in the 68th minute.

Sporting Kansas City, who lead all MLS teams in chances created from set play this season, earned a penalty kick on the ensuing corner. Saad's delivery was headed by Dwyer at the near post and blocked by the arm of AJ Cochran inside the six-yard box.

Dwyer, Major League Soccer's Player of the Month in May with six goals, stepped to the spot and successfully converted his fourth penalty of the year inside the right post. He's now tied with New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips for the MLS goal-scoring lead with 11 goals, most by a KC player since Kei Kamara (2012) and Josh Wolff (2009) struck for the same number of goals in a season.

Dwyer nearly bagged a brace with a breakaway in the 81st minute. Martinez again threaded a pass into space for the Englishman but Deric stood his ground and punched away the chip attempt.

On the opposite end, Kronberg made a pair of saves in second-half stoppage time to preserve the shutout. Kronberg turned away Jason Johnson's effort in traffic in the 91st minute and made his final save of the match from close range on Giles Barnes in the 96th minute.

With a three-week World Cup break before the team's next MLS match in Portland on June 27, Sporting Kansas City will now shift the team's attention to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The club will host Minnesota United FC (NASL) on June 18 at Sporting Park in the fourth round, with the winner advancing to host either the Portland Timbers or Orlando City U23's (PDL) in the round of 16 one week later.

Tickets, starting as low as $14, are available for the U.S. Open Cup home match via or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.