Sporting Kansas City extended its lead atop the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Benny Feilhaber scored in his second straight match and Lawrence Olum netted the game-winning goal as the reigning MLS Cup champions have now won five of their past six MLS matches.
Playing in front of the largest regular season crowd in Sporting Park’s four-year history, Sporting Kansas City started strong in its third game over an eight-day stretch.
In the sixth minute, 19-year-old Brazilian Igor Juliao made a late run forward and fired the game’s first shot on target that forced a diving save by Jaime Penedo to his left.
Feilhaber then gave the reigning MLS Cup champs the early lead with his third goal of the season coming three days after scoring the game-winning goal in second-half stoppage time at Columbus.
The 29-year-old midfielder curled a free kick over the wall from 20 yards out into the upper corner for the 11th goal of his MLS career. It marked the second straight season Feilhaber scored directly from a free kick, accounting for the team’s only two free kick finishes in the past two years.
Soony Saad, who won the foul that earned the set piece, came close to doubling the advantage in the 32nd minute. The Lebanon international collected the ball along the left flank and dribbled at Galaxy defender Tommy Meyer before letting loose a right-footed shot that Penedo sprawled toward the near post to turn away.
The Galaxy were held to only two shots, neither on goal, in the first half. Nevertheless, Bruce Arena’s side nearly found an equalizer one minute into the second half when Baggio Husidic’s low drive deflected off the outside of the near post from 25 yards out.
Three minutes later, Sporting KC goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum — making his home debut in MLS play for Sporting KC — made his first save of the match in one-on-one opportunity from Gyasi Zardes. The 22-year-old Homegrown Player combined on a give-and-go with Marcelo Sarvas inside the penalty area but couldn’t slip his shot past Gruenebaum from close range.
Sporting Kansas City quickly responded with scoring chances of its own on the opposite end of the field. Penedo came well off his line to intervene after Seth Sinovic forced a turnover in the Galaxy’s defensive third and Matt Besler’s ensuing long throw-in skipped inches wide of the far post after skipping off the head of Meyer en route.
The Galaxy counter attack was in full display in the moments that followed as Juninho charged toward goal and played a pass into the path of Robbie Keane all alone in the central channel. Gruenebaum rushed off his line and the Irish international sent his shot high of the crossbar before colliding into one another at the edge of the penalty area.
On the day Graham Zusi and Matt Besler signed Designated Player contracts to extend their careers in Kansas City, it was Zusi who set up Sporting KC’s second goal in the 61st minute and put his name into the club’s all-time record books in doing so. Taking the 453rd corner of his regular season career — which surpasses Preki for most by a KC player all-time — Zusi’s delivery was punched by Penedo in traffic but his work wasn’t yet done.
Aurelien Collin, announced as an MLS All-Star on Saturday along with Besler and Zusi, put the ball back into the mix and halftime substitute Jacob Peterson directed his header toward goal. Penedo recovered to push the shot into the crossbar but Lawrence Olum was first to the rebound and directed his header into the back of the net.
Olum now has three career MLS goals, all of which have proved to be match winners, though Saturday’s was his first at home in his four years with Sporting KC.
The visitors, MLS champions in 2011 and 2012, refused to go quietly with an eight-game unbeaten streak to protect. Baggio Husidic played Keane into space with a diagonal ball from just inside midfield and the Galaxy Designated Player struck his left-footed shot off the crossbar and over the endline in the 65th minute.
LA cut its deficit in half in the 79th minute through Keane with his 10th goal of the season and 44th of his MLS regular season career. Seventeen-year-old Bradford Jamieson earned the assist with his flick header four minutes after entering the match for his MLS debut and Keane made no mistake in placing his shot past Gruenebaum despite Feilhaber’s best efforts to clear it off the line.
Unfazed, Sporting Kansas City’s defense would give up only one shot for the remainder of the match – a header well wide and high of frame from Kofi Opare in the 84th minute — to preserve the team’s third straight 2-1 victory. The only late chance would come from Dom Dwyer, who was denied his 15th goal of the season when his header in the 89th minute was saved by Penedo after a pinpoint cross from Zusi.
Sporting Kansas City will next take on reigning English Premier League winners Manchester City FC in the Champions Shield at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Sporting Park. A limited number of tickets are available for the marquee match via Ticketmaster.com and the international friendly will be nationally broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
– Story from Sporting KC