Donnelly: Sporting Takes Care of Business, Finishes Tops in East

Did they remove the lone yellow seat from the owner’s box? 

That seat was said to be Lance‘s special seat, and was reserved for cancer survivors in attendance that had been associated with the Livestrong Foundation.

Nope, still there.

This final game of the regular season against the lowly Philadelphia Union was a statement game for Sporting Kansas City. Sporting didn’t technically need it since they had already clinched a playoff berth, but a win or draw for KC would lock up the top spot in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing home field at least until the final.  But a loss could possibly do the same, depending on other results later this week.

More importantly though, was the confidence and momentum KC could generate by getting a result heading into post season play.  Which is exactly what they did with a 2-1 victory with the winner coming in the waning moments of the match.

On this night, no one was more confident than KC striker Kei Kamara, who caused nightmares for the Union defense. 

He was unstoppable on the ball, running at the defense and putting teammates in dangerous positions, just as he has all season long.  And he assisted on both goals with well weighted through balls that allowed relatively routine finishes.

“I honestly think he is one of the hardest players in the league to stop,” remarked Jacob Peterson, who was on the end of the first Kei assist.  “Not only is he an athlete and everybody knows that, but his feet are unbelievable too. He’s a very skillful player and he is aggressive and he runs at guys, I don’t think there is anybody in this League who can stop him.”

The visitors didn’t possess the ball anywhere near the KC box, let alone create any chances in the first half, other than one kind of fluky break away in the 35th minute that wasn’t put on goal.

KC nearly struck again in first half stoppage time when recently announced team co-MVP Graham Zusi (the other is White Puma Jimmy Nielsen, duh) found himself unmarked around the penalty spot and received a slip from CJ Sapong.  Zusi fired a hard, low, right footer that was blocked right back to him by Philly keeper, Zac MacMath.  He struck the rebound lefty, but that was again stopped by MacMath with a really nice sprawling save.

In the second half, things got sloppy for KC.  Early on, some reckless defending by Seth Sinovic forced three or four KC defenders to lunge for the ball before taking Union striker Danny Cruz down in the box for an obvious penalty.

Puma made a great initial save, but couldn’t get to the rebound in time.  Antoine Hoppenot followed the deflection and buried the point blank shot underneath Nielsen to knot the score at 1-1.

Minutes later Philly hit the post on a through ball header, and KC looked to be unraveling.  Then the visitors hit the post again a minute later.

Philly was playing for nothing other than pride and KC had a dogfight on their hands.

“You’re playing against a team that had absolutely nothing to play for,” said Nielsen afterwards.  “In my opinion, they came in with a little “street smart” attitude.  A little dirty here and there…”

Finally, in the 83rd minute SKC took out the Union down for good.  Kei made a physical charging run up the middle, bursting through three Philadelphia players before sliding a ball perfectly into the path of Sapong, who calmly slotted home what would be the nail in the division coffin and eventual game-winner.

The win puts KC at 63 points for the season, a team record.  It also means that if  San Jose (the only team with more points than KC) loses in the playoffs, KC could host the MLS Cup Final.

But KC boss Peter Vermes isn’t looking that far ahead just yet, despite his growing comfort level with his young squad.

“For everybody, it’s a clean slate,” said Vermes.  “It’s not going to be easy that’s for sure. But at the same time, I think we’re well-seasoned for playing the playoffs. If you look at our last eight games, they’ve all been real battles. It’s not like a change of game going into the playoffs. It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a war. And I think right now we’re ready for it.”








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3 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting Takes Care of Business, Finishes Tops in East

  1. the dude says:

    1st half they looked very flat on offense and second half they were very lucky that philly did not capitalize on the 2 or 3 inexcusable defense breakdowns they had. They were lucky to get 3 points out of this one.

  2. Rick Nichols says:

    The defensive lapses in the second half are a concern. Sporting can’t afford any of those in the playoffs or they could end up watching the MLS title match on TV instead of at San Jose’s place or, better yet, Livestrong Sporting Park (with or without Lance). But hey, two goals – great! Finally, it was nice to see The Star play up Sporting’s recent accomplishments in today’s paper. They deserve far more “ink” than either the Chiefs or the Royals.

  3. % says:

    The back line looked pretty clumsy and if Philly had another competent striker like Saer Sene to couple with that plucky teenager Jack McInerney, it could have been ugly for Sporting. Like the posters above, the defense has rarely looked this sloppy so far this season and had a weak opponent to account for the fact they escaped with a victory.

    That said, Sporting probably looks like the best team going into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, which offers some reassurance about their postseason prospects.

    D.C. United is making a late season run, but they’ve been awfully inconsistent this season and don’t have DeWayne De Rosario heading into the playoffs, and they haven’t played against SKC too well this season.

    Chicago Fire has cooled since SKC gave them the business in Kansas City a few weeks ago. It was a big game and it was alarming how flat Chicago looked for the biggest game of the year.

    Houston, I’ve maintained, is the biggest threat to SKC. I could easily see them cutting SKC off at the knees like they did last year and earlier this year with their defense. Houston has generally played well in Kansas City over the years but has not played well down the stretch of this current season. And a Houston-SKC playoff matchup could rather easily go to penalty kicks, and I like SKC’s chances in such a scenario.

    New York has also looked weak late in the year and to me just doesn’t seem to have the squad for a postseason run of any kind. Vermes also seems to have New York’s number. I can’t recall many occasions in recent years that New York has looked impressive against Kansas City.

    So all this looks nice for Kansas City in their run though the Eastern Conference. Running up against a Western Conference foe in a final looks to be more troublesome for Kansas City. I know KC already beat San Jose earlier this year, but the Quakes were shorthanded in that game and were on the road. If Kansas City has to travel west, it could look scary for Kansas City’s back line if they have to defend Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhardt and Chris Wondolowski. SKC might not be able to score enough goals. I also think Seattle could easily make a return trip to Kansas City and snag an MLS Cup from the home crowd. L.A. Galaxy and Real Salt Lake could also make for tough matchups against SKC. All those teams have played well down the stretch.

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