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Dwyer, Zusi, Besler named to U.S. Men’s National Team

Dom Dwyer

Graham Zusi

Matt Besler

Three Sporting Kansas City players were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team roster on Sunday for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup is scheduled July 7-26 in 14 cities across the United States, according to Sporting KC.

Defenders Graham Zusi and Matt Besler boast previous CONCACAF Gold Cup experience as seasoned veterans on head coach Bruce Arena’s 23-man squad, while forward Dom Dwyer – who gained U.S. MNT eligibility when he became an American citizen in March – is poised to represent the United States for the first time at the international stage.

“It’s an incredible honor to represent the United States for the first time, and I want to thank everyone who has helped me make this goal a reality,” Dwyer said. “Playing with a talented group of players is a fantastic opportunity, and I am excited to compete in front of our home fans and help our team win.”

“It’s always an honor to play for the national team, especially in a major tournament like the Gold Cup,” Zusi said. “We’re very excited to contend for another trophy and continue our recent run of good form.”

“The Gold Cup is an extremely important competition for everyone involved, and we hope to replicate the success of 2013 by winning the championship,” Besler said. “With World Cup qualifiers continuing in the fall, we want to keep moving forward as a team and perform at a high level.”

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the biennial international championship contested among nations from the North, Central American and Caribbean region. The 2017 edition separates 12 teams into three groups of four, with the top two finishers from each group and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the quarterfinals. The Gold Cup final will take place on Wednesday, July 26, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The Americans were drawn into Group B and will face Panama (July 8), Martinique (July 12) and Nicaragua (July 15) over an eight-day period. Prior to kicking off the tournament, the U.S. will host Ghana in a tune-up friendly this Saturday inside Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. Kickoff is slated for 3:45 p.m. on ESPN, leading into Sporting Kansas City’s nationally televised home match against the Portland Timbers at 6 p.m. on the same channel.

The U.S. MNT is a five-time Gold Cup champion, most recently hoisting the trophy in 2013. Archrivals USA and Mexico have combined to win each of the last eight Gold Cups dating back to 2002, with both sides claiming four championships since the turn of the century.

– Story from Sporting KC


Sporting KC wins, 2-1, over LA

Sporting Kansas City used first-half goals from Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara to claim a 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Saturday night.

The result lifted Sporting Kansas City (8-4-6, 30 points) five points clear atop the Western Conference and gives manager Peter Vermes’ men their first road win against the Galaxy (6-6-4, 22 points) since 2010, snapping LA’s eight-game unbeaten streak in the process.

Espinoza scored a 30-yard belter halfway through the first period before Opara’s stunning bicycle kick gave Sporting Kansas City a two-goal cushion 10 minutes before the break.

Dave Romney would grab one back for LA in the 77th minute, but the Galaxy were unable to find an equalizer in the dying embers of an exciting, back-and-forth battle.

The visitors – fielding an unchanged lineup from last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes – wasted no time creating danger, putting LA on the back foot within the first 60 seconds when Opara clipped a lovely ball over the top to Latif Blessing.

The Ghanaian rounded goalkeeper Clement Diop but Galaxy defender Nathan Smith got a foot to the ball. Dom Dwyer threatened with a pair of shot attempts shortly thereafter, first heading high off Benny Feilhaber’s cross before seeing a left-footed strike saved by Diop.

A reward for Sporting Kansas City’s early dominance came in the 22nd minute when Espinoza pulled the trigger from 30 yards, sending a strike straight at Diop. The goalkeeper erred on his attempt to parry, however, unable to prevent the thunderbolt from nestling into the back of the net.

Espinoza’s goal was his first of the season and the fifth of his MLS career, while Gerso recorded his first career MLS assist.

If Espinoza’s opener held an element of good fortune, there was no denying the excellence of Sporting Kansas City’s goal in the 35th minute.

In an advanced position following a cleared set piece, Opara latched onto Matt Besler’s floated ball into the penalty area and performed an inch-perfect bicycle kick to steer the ball just under the crossbar and double the lead.

With momentum on its side, Sporting Kansas City remained ambitious after the restart. A third goal nearly came in the 54th minute when Blessing and Gerso combined down the right flank before the latter’s cutback pass rolled behind the on-running Dwyer and was hammered high by Sinovic.

The Galaxy lacked no attacking intent of their own, but Melia made a pair of comfortable saves just before the hour mark to deny Romain Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng from long range.

In the 66th minute, Alessandrini’s curling cross was headed high and wide by Jose Villarreal. The sequence notably saw Feilhaber exit in the 61st minute after suffering an apparent foot injury on Smith’s crunching tackle.

Drama escalated in the 77th minute when the Galaxy cut its deficit in half. Alessandrini’s corner kick was headed on target by Villarreal, forcing Melia into a fantastic save as the goalkeeper palmed the ball onto the frame of the crossbar.

Romney was on hand to nod home the rebound, and although Melia got an extended mitt to the ball, the intervention wasn’t enough to prevent it from bouncing over the goal line.

Despite the setback, Sporting Kansas City held its collective nerve over the final quarter-hour to secure all three points.

Gerso nearly added an insurance goal on two occasions in second-half stoppage time, pinging a left-footed shot off the post before Diop saved a low effort on one of the final plays of the game.

Sporting Kansas City will conclude a three-game road swing by shifting gears into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where it will meet the Houston Dynamo in Wednesday’s Round of 16 clash at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. with a live stream on The Western Conference rivals will meet in the U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year and the fourth time overall.

Sporting KC earned a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over the Dynamo en route to the 2015 Open Cup championship before Houston exacted revenge with a 3-1 home win of its own in last season’s Round of 16.

– Story from Sporting KC


First-place Sporting KC travels to LA Saturday

The Western Conference leaders venture to California for the second straight weekend as Sporting Kansas City (7-4-6, 27 points) squares off with the red-hot LA Galaxy (6-5-4, 22 points) on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

The match will begin at 9:30 p.m. with three hours of live coverage beginning at 9 p.m. on Fox Sports Kansas City, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports GO , Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

A dominant performance last Saturday saw Sporting Kansas City claim a 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium.

The Earthquakes were limited to just five shot attempts throughout the night – San Jose’s fewest all-time in an MLS regular season home match, while Sporting KC enjoyed more than 60 percent possession and recorded 13 shots of their own.

Graham Zusi nearly bagged the game-winner deep into second-half stoppage time, but a reflex save from David Bingham helped the hosts salvage a point.

Sporting Kansas City has risen to the Western Conference summit thanks in part to an outstanding defensive record. The club has conceded just 11 goals through 17 matches, boasting a 0.65 goals against average that is on pace to break the single-season MLS record of 0.67 set by Real Salt Lake in 2010.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia leads the league with nine shutouts and an 82.8 goals against average, while center backs Matt Besler and Ike Opara and defensive midfielder Ilie have spearheaded a side that faces less than nine shots per game – the lowest mark in MLS.

Despite their enviable position in the standings, manager Peter Vermes’ men have labored to score away from home. Their three goals in nine away games are the fewest across the league, but they face an LA Galaxy outfit that has just one victory to show from seven home matches this season.

The Galaxy’s month-long surge up to fifth place in the West has been predicated by an impressive penchant for road victories. Led by former Kansas City head coach Curt Onalfo, LA owns a league-best five away wins – no other team has more than three – including a 3-1 decision against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Forward Jack McBean bagged a brace, recording his first MLS goals since March 2013, before designated player Romain Alessandrini sealed the win over Colorado with a second-half penalty kick. The 28-year-old Alessandrini has catapulted himself into the early discussion for league MVP, as his 15 combined goals (eight) and assists (seven) are tied for second-most in MLS.

Onalfo’s men are unbeaten in eight straight games, collecting four wins and four draws after starting the season 2-5-0.

These long-time Western Conference rivals met three times in 2016, battling to a draw on each occasion.

The lone meeting last season at StubHub Center was a 0-0 stalemate dominated by Sporting Kansas City, which held the Galaxy to an MLS record-low one shot attempt.

The result snapped Sporting KC’s three-game losing streak to LA at SubHub Center, where Vermes’ men haven’t won against the Galaxy since 2010.

Recent history between the MLS charter members will paint a two-sided picture for Sporting Kansas City: the home team in the fixture is unbeaten in 10 straight meetings (6-0-4) dating back to 2011, but Sporting KC has just one loss in the last six regular season contents (2-1-3) against LA.

The Galaxy hold a 24-20-14 edge in the all-time regular season series, including a 16-5-7 mark on home soil.

Homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown remains the only name on Sporting Kansas City’s injury report as of Friday. The U.S. Under-20 international is questionable with a thigh ailment and aims to be ready for the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 clash against the Houston Dynamo next Wednesday.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, will be forced to cope with numerous absences on Saturday. Robbie Rogers (ankle), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Baggio Husidic (tibula) and Brian Rowe (groin) will miss out entirely, while defender Daniel Steres (hamstring) and U.S. international midfielder Jermaine Jones (knee) are listed as questionable.

– Story from Sporting KC