For all of Sporting Kansas City's previous accomplishments -- as the Wiz, as the Wizards and under their current name -- there's one feat the club had never pulled off.
Never, that is, until Wednesday night's regular-season finale at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Sporting's 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, behind goals from Jacob Peterson in the 40th minute and C.J. Sapong in the 82nd, gave the MLS originals their first consecutive first-place conference finishes. More importantly, it secured homefield advantage through the East playoffs, which begin Nov. 3 for Kansas City against the winner of the play-in round.
"It's something that we set out to do," said Peterson, who came on as a first-half sub when midfielder Paulo Nagamura went out with a left ankle sprain. "We wanted to win the Open Cup and we did that. We wanted to win the Supporter’s Shield, but San Jose had a good run at the end of the season. So, next we wanted to win the East and get home field advantage. But, its not finished. We have another big goal that we want to accomplish. If we can keep doing the little things right, we will be successful in the playoffs as well."
Sporting needed only a point to clinch first place in the East, and for much of the second half it appeared that's all they'd get.
Antoine Hoppenot's 53rd-minute goal, a putback of Michael Farfan's saved penalty kick, pulled the Union equal and denied Sporting's Jimmy Nielsen his 16th clean sheet and a share of the league single-season shutout record. But Sporting refused to settle for the draw, and with just eight minutes to go, Kei Kamara's through ball found Sapong in space 15 yards from goal.
Sapong buried his ninth goal of the season, and Sporting had all three points. It was the second assist of the night for Kamara, who set up Peterson's one-timer with a perfectly placed cross from the left wing, and Kamara ends the regular season with a career-best eight assists.
Having to fight for the win wasn't a bad thing, manager Peter Vermes said, with a tough postseason looming.
"If you look at our last eight games, they’ve all been real battles," Vermes said. "It’s not like a change of game going into the playoffs. It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a war. And I think right now we’re ready for it."