Donnelly: Sporting KC Tally First Goal, Win In LIVESTRONG Sporting Park


Sporting Kansas City opened their new stadium last week in front of a sell-out crowd, but were unable to score any goals. The gameCelebration vs San Jose ended 0-0, begging the question, "Who is going to score the first MLS goal in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park?"

That question was answered in the 31st minute on Friday night by rookie striker CJ Sapong, who finished off a Graham Zusi set piece by flying horizontally through the air and getting his left boot to the ball, knifing it past San Jose keeper, Jon Busch.

"It was something we’ve been working on for quite some time," said KC coach Peter Vermes of the goal. "We have guys that we feel like if they get to the right places, they can stick the balls in the back of the net. That goal that CJ scored, I only saw it once but I would say that was an incredibly athletic goal to be able to basically be parallel in the air to the ground."

"From the second it was hit, I knew I could get my head to it, but he was holding me back so I just stuck my foot out, and it went in," said Sapong. 

Truth be told, Sapong gave the San Jose defense fits all night with his size and speed.  When he is alone in space it seems effortless to simply push the ball and run past defenders. 

And at the end of the night, Sapong’s one goal was enough to secure the win for Sporting, who have not yet allowed a goal on their home turf. Overall, the game was a back and forth affair, with both sides creating decent opportunities. 

The crowd of 18,000 and change provided a great atmosphere to inspire their boys to gut out a win.  Probably even better than on opening night, June 9th.  While there were some empty seats this time around, most attendees seemed to be there more for the soccer game and less for the spectacle of the stadium.  As Sporting battled to hang onto a 1-0 lead toward the end of the game the crowd provided a palpable spark that was somewhat absent on opening night.

And don’t think opposing players aren’t taking notice of KC’s new home with a hint of jealousy. 

"It’s awesome, it’s fantastic," said San Jose’s Jason Hernandez of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.  "I think it’s – without really taking a whole tour of it – it looks like the best stadium in the League and that’s topping Red Bull Arena. And that’s a very nice arena. I think it’s a fantastic stadium and it sets the bar high for the teams coming in here now."

So maybe Robb Heinemann’s wish comes true and the stadium serves as a great recruiting tool to lure foreign talent to KC.  We’ll see, I guess.

All in all, Sporting are looking more like the team we thought they could be before the two month exile.     

Steven Lenhart vs Sporting KCAnd most of the credit goes to KC’s back line, who have, little by little, turned from the Achilles heel into the real strength of this team.  Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin have learned to complement each other nicely, with Collin playing the role of the physical intimidator, and Besler positioning himself to clean up anything that gets around Collin.

Vermes, a former center defender himself, seems like he has finally found what he was so desperately searching for the past few seasons in Collin.  And he certainly didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the young Frenchman who was given the task of shutting down San Jose’s most explosive player, Steven Lenhart, who had a hat trick in his last game. 

"Collin was an absolute beast," remarked Vermes.  "He matched up with (Lenhart) most of the time. He did an excellent job. It’s a man’s game and the two of them played like men."
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2 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting KC Tally First Goal, Win In LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

  1. smartman says:

    Now What?
    OK SKC has busted the cherry on the new stadium, first goal, first win, what else they got?

    Some bobbleheads maybe?

    Unless this team starts to win on a consistent basis they’re the Danica Patrick of MLS.

    Two recent wins do bode well so good on yer futbolers

    Nice to see Robb Heinemann call out the team for their dismal performance but I’m not convinced he’s not part of the problem; maybe a little too Richie Rich-ish.

    Can’t imagine a day when Clark Hunt or David Glass would ever be as candid as he was when he phoned into BTL

    The whole notion of stadium as recruiting tool is ridiculous. Any Euro-Baller that comes across the pond is looking for CA$H, and opportunities for more CA$H through endorsements. Seriously can you imagine Becks and Posh living in KC.

    I’m sure any team will be willing to pony up some vibrating chairs with USB Ports, an ipad and some protein smoothies to close a deal.

    Messrs Illig and Patterson have put their money where their mouth is. Let’s be honest they are the MONEY MEN. This organization has no reason to fail other than through lack of leadership. They have all the tools they need but do Robb and Coach Vermes really know how to use them?

  2. Hearne Christopher says:

    That’s true, the top players are not going to play in Kansas City or MLS or anywhere because they have a nice facility – they want the cash!

    That said, if an MLS quality player becomes available – and by MLS quality, I mean a player whose skills are diminished enough that he can no longer command top dollar on the international market – and he has to choose between KC another MLS team, maybe.

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