San Jose made the trip to chilly Sporting Park on Saturday, with both squads suffering tired legs from busy early season schedules that included CCL losses last week.
It wasn’t quite as cold as the championship game last year, but there was a frigid north wind howling through the stadium that helped escort out droves of fans at halftime.
Those fans should’ve stuck around, because early in the second half Sporting was awarded a penalty after the ball deflected through a scrum of players in the box, striking the arm of San Jose forward Steven Lenhart. It was hard to tell exactly what happened live when the ref pointed to the spot.
“It was definitely a handball,” said San Jose and US defender Clarence Goodson afterwords.
Dom Dwyer stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, and the lone goal would be enough to secure the win, though the visitors certainly had their chances as well.
“We had a couple chances,” said San Jose manager Mark Watson. “I think both teams are a little tired. It’s been a long stretch of games and that showed in the performance a little bit.”
The visitors’ best chance of the night was probably in the second half around the 70th minute, as a ball found its way through Sporting’s defense, rolling across the box around 16 yards out. But Chris Wondolowski missed the mark, firing wide.
Unfortunately, only a few minutes later, Sporting began taking the air out of the ball by delaying all throw ins and goal kicks. New keeper Eric Kronberg deservedly received his second yellow of the season for his dilatory behavior. And KC also started taking the ball to the corner to shield whenever they had the chance.
There’s still 15 minutes of game left, I was thinking. Who does that? Even some legitimate scoring breaks were aborted in favor of dribbling to the corner and trying to burn clock. Why is KC doing this?
“The thing I’m proud about is the fact that we really managed the game really, really well,” explained KC boss Peter Vermes. “The last 5-9 minutes of the game was excellent by us. It’s recognition of what we needed to do. It’s one thing, positioning is very important. The other is making good choices with the ball and I thought we were good in that area.”
Ok, a few things. 5-9 minutes? No. More like 15 minutes. Why not put the game to bed with another goal, especially when things are opening up so much since San Jose was chasing?
Goodson may have summed it up best: “Would anyone really say that either team is a pretty team?” he asked. “Kansas City might think they are. I think they are kidding themselves if they think they are that pretty.”