Sporting Kansas City moved atop the Group 2 standings in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Thursday.
Antonio Dovale scored twice in the second half and now has three goals in the tournament, while Dom Dwyer converted a first half penalty kick for his 20th goal in all competition this season.
Dwyer gave Sporting Kansas City an early 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Benny Feilhaber was brought down in the penalty area by Saprissa goalkeeper Dany Alvarez after combining with Dwyer on a give-and-go that unlocked the defense. Referee Fernando Guerrero pointed to the spot and Dwyer sent a powerful shot to his right for his seventh successful penalty kick of the season.
Dwyer, who also scored in last year’s edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, has now scored in each of his last four appearances. On Tuesday, the first 10,000 fans inside Sporting Park for Sporting Kansas City’s CCL match-up with Real Esteli FC will receive a limited edition poster courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City to celebrate Dwyer’s record-setting season.
The Englishman nearly struck again on two occasions in the minutes following his penalty kick. His header off a Graham Zusi corner kick was directed just wide in the 16th minute and the two connected again three minutes later only for Alvarez to thwart Dwyer with a superb save in the one-on-one situation.
On the opposite end, Sporting KC goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum raced off his line in the 18th minute to challenge Ariel Rodriguez outside the area on a ball played behind the backline by Manfred Russell. Gruenebaum timed his tackle well, however the ball came off Rodriguez last and rolled perilously wide of the empty net.
Sporting Kansas City threatened to double their lead less than 20 minutes into the encounter as Zusi forced a sprawling stop from Alvarez on his long-distance strike from 35 yards out. Nevertheless, it was the visitors who found the coveted equalizer in the 28th minute from the foot of Juan Bustos. Saprissa’s long throw into the penalty area fell to Daniel Colindres, who laid the ball back for Bustos to set up a thunderous, left-footed shot inside the far post.
The final scoring opportunity of the first half would come off a corner kick taken by Dovale and headed on frame by Dwyer. Alvarez dove low to his right to push away the shot, though Jorge Claros was first to the loose ball and struck a first-time shot off the post from a tight angle near the end line.
In search of the go-ahead goal, Saprissa nearly surprised the hosts at the start of the second half. Rodriguez, who had scored four goals in his previous two CCL matches, found time and space inside the area but pushed his shot wide of the post.
Sporting KC would take control for the remainder of the fixture on a night when the reigning MLS Cup champions outshot their opposition 17-7 with a 10-2 advantage in shots on goal. Dovale showed a glimpse of the goals to come with a shot aimed inside the near post in the 54th minute that required a full-extension save from Alvarez.
Fifteen minutes later, Dovale found the back of the net with his first of two goals in a seven-minute span. Zusi’s cross-field switch connected with Igor Juliao along the right flank and the Brazilian outside back promptly sent the ball looping into the area with his first touch. Dovale took it out of the air with a full volley from just inside the edge of the 18-yard box for the game-winning goal.
Dovale completed his double in the 76th minute with an emphatic finish at the back post. The cross from Dwyer was ever-so-slightly touched by Feilhaber in the center of the goalmouth and came to the waiting Spaniard, who made no mistake in sending his shot into the roof of the net.
Sporting Kansas City’s victory marked only the second time in club history that the team scored three goals in a competitive international match and the first such three-goal game since the 2001 Copa Merconorte. Dovale’s three goals in international competition are second most by a KC player all-time, tied with Roy Lassister and one behind Chris Brown.
Thursday’s win was the first against a Costa Rican opponent in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League and leaves the two sides level with four points in the Group 2 standings. Sporting KC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker and will next face Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli on Tuesday at Sporting Park before the rematch with Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica on Oct. 23.
- Story from Sporting KC