A game that should’ve ended with Sporting Kansas City collecting the full three points, ended instead with the home squad keeping their unbeaten streak alive and gaining just one point for the draw with the Colorado Rapids.
A couple questions, right off the bat.
Why did Teal Bunbury and Michael Harrington get the start?
Why hasn’t Roger Espinoza gotten time at midfielder before now?
Is this team for real? With the potential to make a deep playoff run?…
The first half saw SKC dominate possession and create a couple scoring chances early, only to be demoted to underdog when star Colorado striker Conor Casey took a long free kick off his chest, created some space, then executed a 25 yard blast into Jimmy Nielsen’s net.
The game changed drastically from there, with KC unable to assemble much in the way of dangerous chances. But this would change a few minutes into the second half when CJ Sapong was inserted to take the place of struggling Teal Bunbury. To be fair, Teal did clang a hard shot off the near post early in the game, but other than that he provided very little.
I don’t know why he got the start in place of Sapong. Neither did anyone else in the stadium, and when he checked in he received the loudest ovation of the night.
For good reason. He immediately made an impact, wining a few headers and then setting up the tying goal through his strength and innate ability to turn away from pressuring defenders.
The chance came when Sapong was fed a through ball and ran onto it, beating his defender with speed and angles. He fired a low, hard shot that the Colorado keeper deflected, only to find an oncoming Graham Zusi who buried the rebound to tie the game.
Coach Peter Vermes continues to sing CJ’s praises.
"From the very beginning when we drafted him, he plays excellent with his back to the goal and he’s incredible in the air," commented Vermes. "Other players, they think they have him, then he somehow just slips away. He’s a good target for guys to play into. He got a great chance in the box, and obviously Zusi finished it well."
From there on out, Sporting dominated play and created some dangerous chances that struck several posts, but never could finish. Their midfield dominated, especially Roger Espinoza, who won countless headers, and seemed to be around the ball constantly.
Colorado seemed content to sit back, though, and accept the draw. They’re on the road, so why not?
But Vermes wasn’t satisfied with just the one point.
"We’re disappointed that we couldn’t get the three points but I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get back in the game and tie it up," said Vermes. "Unfortunately, they kind of just played long-ball, and whenever there was stoppage they would just try to slow the game down. There could have been ten minutes at the end of the game of added injury time. Just with the injuries and how much time they were taking. I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get the goal."
But fear not, Sporting is now on one of their longest unbeaten stretches in the franchise’s history. And they look to extend the streak this Saturday with another home game, this time against Chivas USA, the club that former KC captain Jimmy Conrad ended up with.
SKC is riding a hot hand, one that the players can feel now with the dedicated support of their hometown fans.
"Tonight’s a great example of the crowd’s effect," beamed All Star caliber defender Matt Besler. "Coming in at halftime, we needed a boost, and it was a hot and humid night. The second half was electric in here and we really fed off their energy. It would have been great to get one more goal, because this place was about to erupt."