The atmosphere at LIVESTRONG was electric…
Hours before the start of the mid-afternoon fixture against the visiting New York Red Bulls the weather was perfect, grills sizzled, and beer flowed. The anticipation for Sporting’s final regular season home game was palpable – from the parking lots to the locker rooms to the Cauldron – the stadium was filled with legions of singing fans.
Noit surprisingly, everyone seemed on edge prior to kick off for a game that might make or break KC’s season.
Win and they’re in. Lose and, well, Sporting could still make the playoffs, but they’d need some help.
Sporting went with route one, sealing its own destiny with a 2-0 win. Though it did receive a bit of help in the form of an early-game red card shown to New York’s international star, Thierry Henry, for running into Roger Espinoza after he was taken down by another Red Bull.
Replays showed Henry charging at the prone Espinoza after he was already on the ground for a few seconds. Henry took at least three strides directly toward the Sporting midfielder and ran his knee into the defenseless player. The ref showed the red card without hesitation for the intentional, stupid, cheap shot in only the 28th minute of play.
After the game, referee Kevin Stott explained the decision in a very ref-like way, saying, “In my opinion, player #14 (Henry) did intentionally move to make contact with Espinoza. I can only state that in my opinion the act was intentional. I cannot decide on whether harm was intended.”
Needless to say, that’s not a move New York wanted to see out of its veteran leader and best player in a must win game.
What in the world was Henry thinking?
From there on, Sporting dominated the game against NY’s 10 man squad, generating 24 shots to the Red Bulls’ meager 6.
Though the score was knotted at 0-0 going into halftime, KC got on the board in the opening minutes of the second half when Teal Bunbury collected a poorly cleared corner and blasted a right foot volley into the net.
It was nice to see Teal finish that one after he squandered several quality chances in the first half with off target blasts that should have been put on frame. Sporting struck again off a corner about 15 minutes later when another youngster, rookie CJ Sapong who had just entered the match, got on the end of a Matt Besler header and tucked the ball away to seal the victory.
Playoff ticket officially punched.
After the game, third year man and MLS All-Star Besler talked about finally making the playoffs after missing out his first two years in the league.
“It’s a great feeling,” he beamed. “A feeling I have never had in my professional career, so we deserve it. We played well today.”
“Did Besler ever lose hope after finding his team on the bottom of the table a few months into the season? Hell no.
"I thought it was always possible, we never lost belief but we were pretty down, confidence was pretty low. We went from 9 points to 48, so it’s a pretty special group. ”
That it is.