In a moment reminiscent of Sporting KC’s first game of 2011, sturdy striker CJ Sapong again notched a crucial goal.
If you recall, in Sapong’s MLS debut last year he buried a goal just two minutes into the game, helping KC to a 3-2 win at Chivas USA.
This time, Sapong took a little more time to capitalize after he came on as a sub in the last fifteen minutes. But the result was the same – a road win to open the season at DC United. And this time, Sapong waited until the 93rd minute to do so…
With the score deadlocked at 0-0, Sporting earned a corner in injury time after a Graham Zusi free kick attempt deflected off a DC defender. Zusi trotted to the corner flag and unleashed a bending, swerving in-swinger that Sapong rose to meet at the top of the six-yard box. His glancing header froze DC keeper Bill Hamid in his tracks as the ball met the side netting.
Moments later the ref blew his whistle, setting off a celebration among the Sporting players who felt they had dominated the game and deserved the win. Adding to the excitement was the large contingent of Sapong’s friends and family, who made the short trip to RFK from his hometown in nearby Prince William County, Virginia.
"That guy, you know, Rookie of the Year last year," said KC boss Peter Vermes after the game. "That’s the perfect way to start the new season, in front of friends and family. I just saw the ball in the back of the net, and what’s the best time to get a goal? I’m sure it was electric back in Kansas City."
It certainly was.
The Supporter’s Club at LIVESTRONG was at max capacity for a watch party, and the place exploded when Sporting finally tallied. But the excitement was certainly coupled with a bit of relief after Sporting was turned away again and again by the athletic Hamid.
Sporting dominated possession and held a large edge in shots on target, 8-1. Despite their dominance, though, it looked like KC would have to settle for just the one point on the road, not necessarily a bad thing. But Sapong’s late goal put a cherry on top of it all.
"It’s a great feeling," said Sporting winger Kei Kamara of the result. "I forgot how good this feels, just the winning aspect of it, but I think we definitely deserved it. It’s a great way to start the season."
Other than a stretch in the middle of the game that saw some sloppy play, including a few give-aways at the back, the team looked cohesive and tough. Newcomer Bobby Convey looked comfortable out wide, combining nicely on one play in particular that allowed Zusi to get off a bender from inside DC’s box that missed wide.
Indeed, even the gruff, old school Vermes had little negative to say after the road win.
"I have to say, I don’t think there’s a guy I could speak poorly about," said Vermes. "I think all the guys were very good in their roles and responsibilities within the game plan. Roger [Espinoza] was a monster for sure. His recovery to win the ball back, his anticipation, all that stuff was very good. I’ve got to tell you, from Jimmy [Nielsen] on out, it was excellent tonight.”
Next up is the home opener against New England Saturday at LIVESTRONG. No doubt, the place will be juiced beyond anything we’ve seen there yet.
And with the added confidence gained by this big road victory, I expect Sporting to come out firing right out of the gate. I’m looking for a three goal effort from the home side, and another victory to build upon.