Sporting Kansas City refused to lose on Saturday night in Houston.
No, they didn’t win either.
But they did extend their unbeaten streak to eleven games, the second best streak in all of MLS this season. And they did it again with late game heroics – this time from central defender Aurelien Collin – snatching a point on the road after trailing for the entire game.
Houston took the lead in just the 8th minute off a Brad Davis free kick from about 30 yards out that sent KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen tumbling into his near post.
But for the rest of the game, Sporting essentially dominated, giving up few real chances to Houston. Despite KC’s dominance, however, and despite Houston seeing two red cards and being left with only nine men, Houston keeper Tally Hall came up with huge save after huge save to keep his squad’s hopes alive.
In the end, SKC recorded 24 shots while Houston managed just 6.
KC Coach Peter Vermes was pleased with the effort overall.
"I think from the opening whistle, that we dominated the game," said Vermes. "I think we had the run of play and Brad Davis had a great free kick. Outside of that, they really had no chances through the run of play. We shut most of their game down."
The tying goal came in the 90th minute, as KC pounded again and again on Houston’s back line with crosses. There were certainly more than a few solid chances that could have – should have? – been finished. But between bad luck and an opposing keeper who just seemed to get a hand to everything, Vermes’ boys were staring down the barrel of a pretty tough defeat.
With mere moments left in the game, Collin received a pass on top of the box, took a touch, and fired a low missile. Luckily, the shot glanced off a Houston player and changed direction enough that even the red hot Hall couldn’t readjust in time.
After the game, Collin acknowledged the fortuity of his goal.
"I was lucky. They were solid in their defense. Their goalkeeper was very, very good today. We finally scored in the end, so I’m very happy for the team. With the condition of that game, we should have won."
Yes, they should have won.
Which is why most die-hard Sporting KC fans were thrilled when the team announced on Sunday that Brazilian midfielder Jéferson was signed and will become the team’s third ever designated player. The 27 year old comes to KC by way of Brazilian super power Vasco da Gama, and is expected to add some punch to the Sporting offense.
“We are excited to have gotten Jéferson based on the fact that he is a player with the attacking qualities that can really help our team with the final pass and also scoring goals," commented Vermes.
But the question is, will this Brazilian go the way of so many super talented foreign players who underestimate the pace and physicality of the MLS, only to be sent home packing within a year or two? According to Jéferson, no way.
"I’ve been preparing physically to be able to come here and make an immediate impact," said Jéferson. “I’m very excited to be here and I come with the goal to help the team fulfill its goal of making the playoffs and ultimately going to the final.”
That seems awfully similar to what I heard from Claudio Lopez a few years ago, but let’s reserve judgment for now.
After all, this guy is still in the prime of his career, unlike some of the aging internationals that see MLS as a nice little vacation to wrap up their careers.
Sporting takes on English Premier League giants Newcastle United this Wednesday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Game time is 7:30.