Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sporting KC wins fifth straight road match with 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Toronto FC

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City earned their fifth consecutive road win in improbable fashion on Saturday, coming from behind for a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field.

Graham Zusi's goal in the 48th minute canceled out Jackson's 16th-minute strike and -- playing with 10 men after a red card to Matt Besler in the 75th minute -- the reigning MLS Cup champions secured the full three points when Jacob Peterson scored the decisive game-winner against his former club in the 80th minute.

The win extends Sporting KC's unbeaten streak to seven consecutive MLS matches, highlighted by six victories over the stretch, and moves the club level with Seattle atop the Supporters' Shield standings. The five-match road winning streak is tied for the fourth longest in MLS history and second best in the non-shootout era.

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made three saves for his fourth straight victory since replacing the injured Eric Kronberg in net. The Overland Park, Kansas native becomes only the second goalkeeper in MLS history to earn wins in regulation in their opening four regular season appearances for a club and first since Jorge Campos did so with the LA Galaxy in 1996.

He made his first play of the match in the eighth minute, diving low to his right to get a hand on a shot by Dominic Oduro from the right side of the penalty area. Gruenebaum's counterpart, Toronto FC goalkeeper Joe Bendik, was then called into action minutes later; first to punch away a deflected cross from Igor Juliao and then a sprawling save to turn away the follow-up effort from the Brazilian right back.

Toronto FC, who had lost only once in 10 games entering Saturday, looked set to continue their winning ways when Jackson opened the scoring inside 16 minutes. Oduro's well-weighted pass put Jackson in prime position to take a touch around Gruenebaum before sending his shot into an empty net for his third goal of the season and 14th of his MLS career.

Oduro, a nine-year MLS veteran, proved to be dangerous throughout and won eight fouls for his efforts. The Ghanaian playmaker nearly doubled Toronto FC's lead in the 23rd minute when his cross was headed off the post by Nick Hagglund and then in the 33rd minute when an attempt of his own struck the woodwork. Toronto FC has now seen shots hit the woodwork 11 times in 2014, second most among all MLS teams.

Having weathered the rough waters, Sporting KC emerged in the second half and wasted little time in putting the game back on level terms. Zusi began the scoring sequence by working his way past two Toronto FC players and ultimately finished it off after a frantic scramble inside the area. Successive shots from Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer were blocked but the ball eventually fell to Zusi at the top of the 18-yard box. The MLS All-Star expertly picked out the top corner and placed his shot through traffic with 10 players ahead of him in the area.

The goal, his second of the season, ties him for 10th place on the club's all-time goal scoring chart with 19 in his six-year career. Sporting KC supporters can celebrate the second half goal by texting BWWSKC to 72727 to receive a buy one, get one snack size wing order at any KC-area Buffalo Wild Wings locations.

Toronto FC responded with a trio of scoring opportunities and all coming from the foot of Jackson, who was acquired via a trade with FC Dallas prior to the 2014 season and recorded eight shots on Saturday. In the 50th minute, Gruenebaum smothered his shot from 12 yards out and then 10 minutes later the Hebrew Hammer showed off a kick save to thwart the Brazilian from even closer range. Jackson had a chance to make amends at the 65-minute mark but sent his shot over the crossbar on a well-whipped cross from Oduro.

Bendik had come up big with a save on Feilhaber in the 59th minute and the home side gained a man advantage when Besler received his second caution of the second half with 15 minutes to play. Referee Ted Unkel, in the middle of his eighth career MLS match, whistled 38 fouls and issued eight cautions on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Sporting Kansas City stunned the sell-out crowd with the decisive goal five minutes later. Just over two minutes after entering the match, Peterson combined with Dom Dwyer before breaking the deadlock with his second goal of the season and 15th of his nine-year career.

Peterson, who played in Toronto during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, snapped a streak of 10 consecutive regular season losses for Sporting KC when conceding the first goal (dating back almost exactly a year to July 27, 2013). In doing so, his goal was the team's 10th goal after the 75th minute in 2014 (third most in MLS), four of which have been game-winners.

Toronto FC inserted Canadian internationals Jonathan Osorio and Dwayne De Rosario in a mission to rescue a result late. De Rosario, a former MLS MVP and six-time Best XI selection, now moves into a tie with Pablo Mastroeni for most career games played (334) and forced a diving save from Gruenebaum in the 86th minute.

On a night when Toronto FC were without Jermain Defoe due to caution accumulation, fellow Designated Players Michael Bradley and Gilberto were held to only a single shot each. Bradley's was the final attempt at an equalizer, skipping wide of the post from 20 yards out in the 89th minute.

Manager Peter Vermes again led his side to a positive result against the Canadian club as he is now 8-1-3 in his coaching career against Toronto with wins in seven of the last nine meetings. Moreover, Sporting KC now boasts eight regular season wins in Canada all-time -- tied for most among American clubs.

Sporting Kansas City returns home to host the Philadelphia Union at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 1 at Sporting Park. A limited number of tickets are available for the match, which is sponsored by UMB Bank and will be nationally televised on NBC Sports.