Sporting KC got the result they needed Saturday on the road at the Columbus Crew…
Though it wasn’t pretty (at all), the boys in blue fought for a 1-0 win that puts them solidly in second in the East, just two points off of New York with a game in hand.
“If we were a little bit more clinical we probably would have caught them on the break two or three times,” said KC boss Peter Vermes after the game. “When someone would run a play and they would kick some balls off, we would run at them and could have been a little bit better in our decisions, but other than that it was an excellent performance for us.”
KC certainly had the better of the chances on the night, even though Columbus dominated possession roughly 60-40%. But the home squad only made Jimmy Nielsen make a single save on the night, and it wasn’t much of one at that.
“We know Columbus have very dangerous guys up front and we kind of wanted to avoid giving them any room to play in,” said Nielsen. “I think we were pretty successful with that today. I think we did a hell of a good job.”
The defense did look solid most of the night, with Matt Besler returning to the starting lineup in favor of Aurelien Collin
KC’s lone goal came off a Ike Opara header in the first half, after Columbus half-cleared a KC corner. But Graham Zusi ended up with the ball at his feet, and Opara’s marker had gone down, so the swinging cross found him wide open at the far post, and he finished the point blank effort.
“I’m not even sure Zusi knew he was on the ground before he crossed the ball in,” explained Opara. “It was just one of those that we won.”
Opara almost added a second goal off his head in the second half, but the linesman signaled a foul that was difficult to see on the replays. But it wasn’t needed anyway, and now with just a few weeks left in the regular season, things are getting interesting.
“With the way everything is bunched up in both the East and West at the moment, all of these games coming down the stretch are playoff games,” said Vermes.
“As I said before the game to some of the reporters, this is the most exciting league in the world,” said Nielsen. “There are probably still 12 teams with three games left that can win the championship. I know the playoff comes afterwards, but you don’t see that anywhere else. That’s pretty amazing and it’s super exciting.”