Coming into the Saturday evening match at Sporting Park, the two sides couldn’t have been in more different situations.
Sporting KC was sitting on 30 points and near the top of the East, while Toronto FC had earned only 13 points with a mere two wins.
Both sides were a little tentative to start, feeling one another out, and not really taking many chances early.
Then in the 22nd minute Soony Saad took matters into his own hands, showing the fans (and CJ Sapong) one reason why he’s out there. He hit an low bomb from 24 and beat the keeper near post on the ground – something you don’t see all that often. With his first goal in MLS play, the Lebanese international displayed to the record-setting crowd the reason his teammates point to him when asked who has the most powerful strike on the squad.
“It was definitely amazing,” said Saad of scoring the eventual game-winner. “Especially hearing the crowd erupt. Hats off to them, they were fantastic.”
Once they took the lead, Sporting gained a ton of confidence and finally started knocking the ball around, probing patiently, and getting better chances, while Toronto failed to muster much at all.
Other than a decent look that forced two Jimmy Nielsen saves in the first half, Toronto never came close to scoring.
“We forced their defense to hit the long balls all the time, which is good for Besler and Collin,” commented the Puma. “I think we did a good job on the second balls as well, but overall, a great performance and I’m glad we got the shutout as well.”
One player constantly putting Toronto under pressure was Graham Zusi, who played one of his best games this season despite not getting on the scorecard. He was pressuring like a mother, dicing dudes, cutting back across defenders’ bodies, and skipping through the midfield with ease. He just keeps looking better and better.
Around the 50th minute, Zusi ripped a hard, low shot that the Toronto keeper couldn’t handle, and wouldn’t you know it, Soony Saad came barreling in to smash the rebound into the back of the net for his second goal of the game.
At that point it was pretty much over.
Even more so a few minutes later when Reggie Lambe was ejected for a late and high tackle on Saad. The ref didn’t hesitate on the call, solid as he was all match really. In fact, I think that this was the best officiated game I’ve seen at Sporting Park ever. Couldn’t really believe it, actually. This is still MLS right?
Then in the 62nd minute the 21,000 + were treated to the prettiest goal of the season. Seriously, just watch it, I can’t really describe it in any way to do it justice. But note that nine KC players were in on the combo play, and the most crucial part of it was made possible by Soony Saad being able to turn his man on what looked like a 50/50 ball on the left flank. How long have I been calling for a player who can beat a man to get numbers in behind the defense? Answer: a long time.
“The third goal was the one of the best combination goals we have scored since I’ve been here,” said KC boss Peter Vermes. “We’ve been working on it for, I don’t know, five years, but we finally got here.”
While I’m not going to make too big a deal about pounding one of the worst teams in the league at home, it seems that Sporting is coming together at just the right time.
“Each week, you think that it can’t get any better, but it’s just getting better,” added Nielsen. “When you come out of the tunnel, you’re like, ‘Wow, this is what’s keeping me alive.’ It is. It’s vitamins and it’s good medicine for me when I step on that field because it makes me feel alive and that’s what I’m waking up for every morning…”