Remember a week or two ago when I touted the insertion of journeyman winger/midfielder Jacob Peterson into the Sporting Kansas City lineup?
I believe I called him my new favorite Sporting player and politely asked Bobby Convey, who Peterson replaced, not to rush his rehab from a muscle strain.
Peterson’s energy and determination stood out on a team that already boasted a bunch of high energy guys like Roger Espinoza, Aurelien Collin, and CJ Sapong. And Peterson found some success taking on defenders and getting in front of the net.
That was roughly four or five games ago.
Now, in just a handful of appearances, Peterson has tallied as many goals as Teal Bunbury in MLS play (three), and over the weekend he scored the winner in Columbus before being subbed out due to what looked like a minor injury. Bunbury tacked on another goal in the second half to ice the game as Sporting won 2-0, reclaiming sole possession of first place in the east.
“Oh my gosh, (Peterson’s) on fire,” Bunbury told the KC Star after the match. “Offensively and defensively, he works as hard as anyone. Now, he’s getting his chance and he’s done a great job getting in behind and finishing balls. He’s had a great season.”
Hopefully Peterson’s slight injury won’t keep him out long. He’s got a small sample size right now, but over the past 6 games he’s been the sparkplug KC was missing when they went into their mid-season mini-slump.
Not to be outdone, though, is the KC back line, including MLS All Stars Aurelien Collin and keeper Jimmy Nielsen. Nielsen co-leads the MLS with 8 shutouts this season, and collectively Sporting have allowed the fewest goals of any team so far this season.
Nielsen came up huge again against the Crew, charging out of the goal to make a foot save on a breakaway in the second half that would’ve tied the game.
“I think they created their chances but unfortunately for them it wasn’t their night,” Nielsen said. “They hit the crossbar and had another few good chances but I am very happy with the win and with the way we reacted on the field. It is a performance to be proud of.”
Maybe the best performance of the night belonged to winger Kei Kamara, who played a major role in orchestrating both KC goals. Particularly pretty was the little through ball he played into speed demon Bunbury’s feet for the second goal.
Kamara’s individual effort won the ball around midfield, forcing a mistake by a Columbus defender. Kei collected the ball and streaked 45 yards before touching a little through pass into the path of Bunbury who got behind his marker and made a run straight up the middle. Bunbury took a decent first touch to collect the pass, then beat the keeper with a low right footed drive.
Really, a nice finish from Bunbury, who isn’t necessarily known for his soft feet.
With the win, KC move to 36 points and first place, three ahead of second-place DC United.
More importantly, Sporting seem to have found a winning mentality, a savvy element that breeds confidence. They no longer blindly high-press and rely on their athleticism to bulldog teams. Instead, the last several games have shown that the boys in blue are more aware of how to play in order to secure precious points.
“For me it’s all about mentality and I think the guys came out with the right mentality,” explained KC boss Peter Vermes. “All season long (when) we dropped a few games here and there, they figure out how to get themselves into a game and be successful.”
On Wednesday Sporting has a chance to take a huge step and prove their grit away against Houston, the team that knocked KC out of the playoffs last season.
The game kicks off at 7:30 and can be seen on KCMO-TV.