The Colorado Rapids looked to spoil Sporting Kansas City's dominating performance Saturday night after a 77th minute deflection off the foot of Matt Besler notched the game up at 1-1. Forward Graham Zusi had other ideas though, netting a heroic strike in the 88th minute to seal the victory for the home side. The decision jolts Sporting Kansas City back into a tie for first-place in the Eastern Conference, but also brings up three points worth discussing.
1) Dom Dwyer's role on this team isn't as a substitute
"I'm not sure how they gave me an assist on that one," Dwyer jokingly told us after the match in regards to his play that set up Benny Feilhaber's magnificent strike from 30-yards out. Assist or not, Dwyer proved to everyone that he no longer belongs on Peter Vermes' bench. Dwyer was active from the first whistle to his departure in the 74th minute, including his aforementioned hustle play in the 33rd minute that led to Sporting Kansas City's first goal.
The issue for Vermes going forward is finding a place for Dwyer in the starting XI. The man he started over, Claudio Bieler, isn't a bench player either, certainly not with his nine goals on the year. However, the two differ substantially from one another in their styles of play. Dwyer presses and creates space to formulate attacks, whereas Bieler searches for space to open up and play into. If Saturday night is any indication, the former is exactly what this Sporting Kansas City squad needs going forward. One thing can be certain, though: whatever role Dwyer's thrown into, he'll be ready.
"I just want to win. I want to win so bad, so I'll do anything I can to help the team. I'm delighted to start a game. Hopefully it's the first of many," Dwyer said. "The goals will come."
2) Benny Feilhaber has found a groove
It's like Benny Feilhaber has been living out a Katy Perry song. One week he's hot, and the next week he's cold. One week we're praising him after a spectacular outing, the next we're questioning whether or not he has a place on this team going forward.
As of late, Feilhaber has quieted his critics by solidifying a Sporting Kansas City midfield that many believed was in shambles after the loss to the New York Red Bulls. His play has been consistent and his confidence unquestionable. One factor that many may overlook from Feilhaber's performance Saturday is how well he and Oriol Rosell connected. Feilhaber matched Rosell's physical play and both combined to draw six fouls.
Vermes touched on his play in the post-game press conference: "I told him he earned some money tonight for sure. He played well in a lot of different ways-with the ball, without the ball, and a great goal."
If Benny Feilhaber's recent form is any indication of what's to come, expect to see more fireworks from the midfielder. I promise that's the last Katy Perry reference in this article as well.
3) Peter Vermes went all-in with his substitutions
If you were still questioning whether or not Saturday night's match was a must-win for the home side leading up to kickoff, then you found your answer in the 79th and 84th minute.
It was just two minutes after Colorado had knotted the match at 1-1 after a questionable foul in the midfield led to an own-goal deflection. Sporting Kansas City had two substitutions left and Peter Vermes had the option rally the troops and play for a draw. Instead, CJ Sapong threw on a jersey and ran to the fourth official. Minutes later, Kei Kamara made his return to MLS action, and Sporting Park knew what was at stake.
It was a bold move. Sporting was down a midfielder and a counterattack was probable, but the decision paid dividends. CJ Sapong met a Chance Myers cross with his head, which found Graham Zusi's foot and the rest was history.
"There was excellent movement in the box, a great header from C.J. (Sapong), and an excellent finish from Graham (Zusi)," Vermes said after the game. "I thought that our subs that came on played well. It was a very good result for us."
Vermes has been criticized throughout this year's campaign for his "distasteful" substitutions. Lets take a moment and thank the manager for not throwing in the towel in a game that Sporting Kansas City needed to get three points in.