Sporting KC rallies for 3-2 road win at Rapids

Dom Dwyer
Graham Zusi

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer scored in the second minute of second-half stoppage time to give Sporting Kansas City a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Goals from Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber canceled out a pair of penalty kicks from Colorado Rapids midfielder Vicente Sanchez as Sporting Kansas City earned their first regular season win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with more than 800 traveling supporters in attendance.

Across all competitions, Manager Peter Vermes is now 6-0-5 during his coaching career against the Rapids and Sporting Kansas City is unbeaten in the team’s last 11 matches in the series.

The first three shots of the match all came in front of Rapids rookie goalkeeper John Berner. The St. Louis, Mo. native came off his line in the 13th minute to thwart Paulo Nagamura.

The ensuing corner kick from Graham Zusi connected with Sal Zizzo at the far post, however his header was off target. Ike Opara threatened then with a header of his own five minutes later off a Matt Besler throw-in only to see it carry over the crossbar.

The Rapids responded in the 22nd minute through Sanchez. The Uruguayan playmaker evaded Oriol Rosell and slipped a pass to Nick LaBrocca inside the six-yard box. The first-time shot had Eric Kronberg beaten but was cleared in front of the goalline by Besler.

Kronberg made two saves in as many minutes to deny Colorado the game’s opening goal.

In the 30th minute, he dove low to his left to corral a free kick from Dillon Powers only to then be tested by Edson Buddle moments later that required a sprawling stop to his right on a shot from 20 yards out.

After a scoreless first half, Saturday’s contest came to life with five goals in the second half. Sporting Kansas City took the lead in the 50th minute on a well-worked combination that started with Paulo Nagamura’s through ball for Zizzo on the right flank. The Sporting KC newcomer delivered a pinpoint pass for Zusi to tap in at the backpost.

With the goal, Sporting Kansas City improves to 14-0-1 in MLS competition when Zusi scores. The sixth-year pro will now join the U.S. Men’s National Team, along with Besler, for Wednesday’s international friendly against Mexico.

Sporting Kansas City’s lead would last only 10 minutes as Colorado was awarded the first of two penalty kicks on the night. Sanchez stepped to the spot and powered his penalty kick off the hand of Kronberg but into the back of the net.

Aurelien Collin replaced Opara due to injury before the restart and nearly scored on his first touch of the game. Zizzo’s volley from outside the area came to Collin inside a congested penalty area and was re-directed just wide of the far post with a hopeful backheel.

Powers came close for Colorado in the 73rd minute on a cross from Shane O’Neill and five minutes later it was O’Neill who was brought down inside the penalty area to set up the Rapids fifth penalty kick in their opening three games of the season. Sanchez again proved successful, converting his fourth PK of 2014 to take the lead in the Major League Soccer goal scoring chart.

Sixty seconds later, Sporting Kansas City equalized through the foot of Feilhaber. Zusi’s left-footed cross was met at the backpost by Zizzo, who played a header back toward the goalmouth. Feilhaber’s persistence paid off, sending his shot off the hand of Berner and across the line with a second attempt.

Colorado would play the game’s final 10 minutes shorthanded after Marvel Wynne was sent off upon receiving his second caution of the match in the 85th minute. Sporting Kansas City capitalized on the advantage and it was Dwyer that provided the offensive spark after entering in the 83rd minute.

His first shot of the game curled inches wide of the far post in the 88th minute and his second was the game-winning goal in the 92nd minute. Feilhaber split two Rapids players with a pass centrally to Zusi, who spun and fed Dwyer at the left corner of the 18-yard box.

Dwyer dribbled at Rapids captain Drew Moor, creating enough space to unleash a shot beneath the crossbar and into the top of the netting at the near post for his second straight MLS match with the game-winning goal.

Sporting Kansas City, atop the Eastern Conference pending other Week 4 results, will next play host to Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, in an MLS Cup rematch at Sporting Park.

Sporting KC travels to Colorado to play Rapids Saturday

Sporting Kansas City will head west looking for its fist road win of the 2014 MLS regular season against the undefeated Colorado Rapids Saturday in Commerce City, Colo.

The match will be televised on KMCI-TV, Channel 38, with coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Radio broadcasts are on ESPN, 102.9 FM, and La Gran D, 1340 AM.

Sporting KC has won just four games on the road against the Rapids all time, but is in the middle of a seven-game unbeaten streak versus Colorado dating back to 2009, including three draws in Commerce City.

In the last meeting in the series, Benny Feilhaber opened the scoring in the 33rd minute and Graham Zusi notched a late game-winner to give Sporting KC the 2-1 victory at Sporting Park.

Sporting KC and Colorado both earned victories last weekend against Western conference opponents Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers.

The Rapids have scored three goals during the 2014 regular season and all have come from the penalty spot, including two in two minutes during last week’s 2-0 victory.

Besler, Zusi on U.S. Men’s National Team roster to face Mexico

Matt Besler
Graham Zusi

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi are among 22 players on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for next week’s international friendly against Mexico, U.S. Soccer announced.

Both players will be available for Sporting Kansas City’s match at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday before joining the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Besler, 27, has made 13 appearances for the United States since debuting in January 2013, including six FIFA World Cup qualifiers and all three knockout round games en route to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup championship. He most recently appeared alongside Zusi in the United States 2-0 victory over Korea Republic last month and the U.S. is 9-1-2 with Besler in the starting lineup.

The Overland Park, Kan., native was named Sporting Kansas City’s captain prior to the 2014 season, his sixth as a professional after being selected eighth overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Notre Dame. Besler has appeared in 138 MLS matches (including postseason) in his career, earning MLS Best XI (2012, 2013), MLS All-Star (2011, 2013) and MLS Defender of the Year (2012) honors.

“This is an important game for us,” Besler said. “Most guys are making cases for themselves to make the roster, but I think more important, as a team, we are trying to make a case for ourselves to learn how to play better with each other and get that chemistry. We are going there to win the game. Hopefully, every guy that gets called in comes with the right mentality.”

Zusi has earned 19 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team, including caps in each of the last three meetings with Mexico (2-0-1). He scored in the final two FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, highlighted by the game-winning goal against Jamaica at Sporting Park to secure a first place finish in the Hexagonal for the U.S. and the stoppage time goal in a 3-2 win at Panama that put Mexico in position to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Zusi has three goals and three assists in his international career.

Over six professional seasons, the 27-year-old playmaker has played in 135 MLS matches (including postseason) with 17 goals and 36 assists. Zusi recorded a career-high six goals and a team-best 12 assists in all competition in 2013 and was the top-rated midfielder in the MLS Castrol Index. The Maryland alum was an MLS MVP finalist in 2012 and nominee for Best MLS Player at the 2013 ESPYS to go along with MLS All-Star (2012, 2013) and MLS Best XI (2012, 2013) recognition.

“It’s one of our big rivals,” Zusi said. “It’s another big test before the World Cup so any opportunity where we can get out on the field together is an opportunity to get better as a team. I think we have done a great job of coming together as a team, knowing what we want to accomplish and how we want to accomplish it as a team and now it’s just fine-tuning.”

The No. 14-ranked United States Men’s National Team will play No. 20-ranked Mexico at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The match will be shown live on ESPN, WatchESPN and UniMas with radio coverage available on the ESPN Deportes Radio Network.