Sporting KC sits atop league with 2-0 win over Crew

Jacob Peterson
Claudio Bieler

Sporting Kansas City re-claimed a share of first place in the Eastern Conference on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Jacob Peterson and Claudio Bieler scored their first goals of 2014 while Eric Kronberg made four saves for his fourth shutout of the season, most among MLS goalkeepers.

Sporting Kansas City remains unbeaten at Sporting Park in its last 11 games in all competition dating back to 2013, highlighted by the team’s MLS Cup triumph over Real Salt Lake.

Prior to Sunday’s match, Sporting Kansas City players, coaches and staff were formally presented with their championship rings in a special pre-game ceremony held on the field.

Peterson, making his second league start of the year and first since the regular season opener, struck for the game-winning goal in the 10th minute.

Chance Myers’ cross from the right flank connected with Paulo Nagamura, whose first-time shot was blocked by Giancarlo Gonzalez but eventually fell to Peterson following a deflection off Michael Parkhurst. A nine-year MLS veteran, Peterson made no mistake in a side volley from 10 yards out for his 14th career MLS goal and first since the final game of the 2012 regular season.

Eric Kronberg

Kronberg made his first of four saves, and the match’s best, in the 31st minute on the Crew’s only shot on goal of the opening 45 minutes. Bernardo Anor rose high to re-direct a well-struck service from Wil Trapp, but Kronberg reacted quickly make a one-handed stop low to his right to stop the header on the goalline.

Seth Sinovic nearly doubled Sporting Kansas City’s lead three minutes later, settling a pass from Oriol Rosell behind the Crew backline and forcing a kick save from Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark. Dom Dwyer led all players on Sunday with four shots, coming close in the 49th and 66th minutes on the receiving end of Graham Zusi crosses.

Kronberg made three important saves in a seven-minute span during the second half to preserve the clean sheet. In the 58th minute, he dove to his left to hold a curling effort from Anor and followed that with an extension effort to his right to deny Federico Higuain five minutes later. His final save of the day came in the 65th minute, again on Anor as he pushed away the attempt from 30 yards out. The rebound fell to Jairo Arrieta from point blank range and that too was turned away by Kronberg, though the Costa Rican was ruled to be in an offside position.

After Sunday’s shutout, Sporting Kansas City has allowed only one goal at home in six matches in all competition in 2014 and lowered the team’s league-leading goals against average to 0.75 per game.

Bieler would eventually put the game out of reach in second-half stoppage time, the culmination of Sporting Kansas City’s offense creating continued chances during the game’s late stages. Feilhaber went forward with an individual effort in the 72nd minute, forcing a turnover and firing a shot from the top of the penalty area that carried narrowly wide.

The Crew were left shorthanded for the final 10 minutes upon Trapp being shown his second caution in the 80th minute for bringing down Feilhaber in the final third of the field. Sporting Kansas City quickly capitalized on the man-advantage, testing Clark with shots from Dwyer in the 83rd minute and rookie Alex Martinez in the 88th.

Bieler, the beneficiary of a pinpoint chip from Zusi, put the final touch on the 2-0 victory in the 95th minute with the fourth latest goal scored in regulation in the team’s 18-year history. Soony Saad, making his 2014 debut, won the ball from Parkhurst to start the scoring sequence and Zusi made the key play with a first-time, left-footed chip over the outrushing Clark. Bieler calmly slotted his shot into the empty net for his first goal of the campaign after leading the team in scoring in 2013.

With the assist, Zusi moves into a tie with Davy Arnaud for third most in club history with 35 assists in the regular season. The U.S. Men’s National Team starter has now played a part in 56 goals (17 goals, 39 assists) in MLS competition since the start of the 2011 season, sixth most among MLS players.

Attendance at Sunday afternoon’s match was 20,565, and the temperature was 81 degrees.

Sporting Kansas City will next travel to Montreal to take on the Impact (1-4-3, 6 pts) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, live locally on KMCI 38 the spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV.

Sporting KC takes on Columbus Crew this afternoon in KCK

Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew meet Sunday afternoon at Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan., in a meeting of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference standings.

Sunday’s match will kick off at 3 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network and can be heard locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB or La Gran D 1340 AM. A limited number of standing room only tickets might be available for $20 each.

The Columbus Crew got off to a fast start to 2014 with three consecutive victories to open the season, marking their best start in club history. The Crew failed to secure a win during the month of April but held on to first place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw last weekend against the New York Red Bulls. Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta scored the team’s lone goal in the 39th minute before New York equalized in the 66th minute.

Sporting KC suffered a road loss last weekend against the New England Revolution allowing two goals in second half stoppage time after referee Alan Kelly issued defender Aurelien Collin a straight red card in the 74th minute.

Sunday’s contest will feature two of the league’s leading goalscorers. Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer and Columbus midfielder Federico Higuain are tied for fourth in the MLS scoring charts with four goals apiece.

Sporting Kansas City is 22-21-6 against the Crew all-time and has earned victories in the last three meetings with Columbus including two wins at Sporting Park last season en route to the MLS Cup title.

Prior to kickoff, Sporting Kansas City players, coaches and front office staff will receive their 2013 MLS Cup championship rings in a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m.

Fans can follow the match online at Twitter.com/SKCGameday or by visiting  www.SportingKC.com/GameOn.

Sporting KC suffers stoppage-time loss in New England

Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-0 loss at the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, conceding twice in second half stoppage time while playing shorthanded.

The defeat is the team’s first by a two-goal margin in MLS play in over a year and the second loss of the season, both coming on the road with goals in stoppage time.

The Revolution saw their best chance of the first half come in the 14th minute as Lee Nguyen’s chip played Jerry Bengtson behind the Sporting Kansas City backline. The Honduran Designated Player brought the ball down with his chest but sent his left-footed shot wide of the right post.

New England striker Teal Bunbury, acquired from Sporting KC in a trade earlier this year, had a pair of opportunities to score against his former club in the opening 45 minutes and both came from nearly the same spot eight yards out from goal. His first, a well-taken shot in the 21st minute, was blocked in the goalmouth by Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler and the second was tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Eric Kronberg in the 32nd minute in what proved to be the only shot on goal of the half for either side.

Sporting Kansas City’s defense held its opponent without a goal in the first half for the seventh straight MLS match to start the 2014 season and the team’s attack outshot the Revolution 10-5 in the first half, though failed to challenge New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Sal Zizzo came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute but fired high  from the right side of the penalty area after receiving a pass from Benny Feilhaber.

Shuttleworth was called into action in the 59th minute, diving low to his left to palm away the attempt from Alex Martinez. The rookie, making his third appearance of the year for Sporting KC, then collected the ensuing corner kick and placed his shot inches wide of the near post.

Sporting Kansas City were reduced to 10 players in the 74th minute with the ejection of centerback Aurelien Collin for his challenge on Diego Fagundez.  Nevertheless, the shorthanded visitors nearly grabbed the lead three minutes later as Chance Myers led the counter and found Dom Dwyer on the right flank. His service into the area fell to Feilhaber, whose shot was off target from close range.

The visitors had done well to hold the Revolution without a shot on goal in the second half until stoppage time struck and the Revolution converted on two separate scoring sequences. The game-winning goal came off a cross from Fagundez, initially touched by Darrius Barnes and then re-directed by Bunbury inside the six-yard box.

Bunbury’s goal, his first in a Revolution uniform and first since August of 2012, snapped Sporting Kansas City’s 282-minute shutout streak and was the first for the Revolution in the regular season series in a span of 591 minutes dating back to 2011. Bunbury now has 22 goals in his MLS career (including postseason).

Two minutes later, New England doubled the lead with a penalty kick converted by Lee Nguyen. Fagundez earned the PK, forcing a save by Kronberg on the breakaway and then heading the rebound into the arm of Oriol Rosell.  Nguyen calmly slotted his shot to Kronberg’s right for his third goal of the season and 12th of his three-year MLS career.

With the loss, Sporting Kansas City slips to second place in the Eastern Conference and sits one point back of the Columbus Crew. The two sides will meet next Sunday at Sporting Park in a nationally televised match-up on NBC Sports. Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the team’s MLS Cup ring presentation ceremony at 2 p.m.