It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it was down right ugly. Sporting Kansas City were carrying a 12-game road winless streak into Avaya Stadium on Saturday night. On top of that, they were bringing in a 16-year losing streak when playing on the road at the San Jose Earthquakes. Yet they found a way to get all three points.
The night started out rough for KC as they allowed a dangerous attempt on goal from Chris Wondolowski inside of the first minute. In the chaos, San Jose lost Quincy Amarikwa for the game with what looks to be a bad knee injury. He collided with Tim Melia as they were both going for the ball. After a lengthy delay, SJ still seemed to have the momentum until a foul setup a free kick.
Benny Feilhaber took that free kick short to Paulo Nagamura who sent a ball into the box to find Dom Dwyer for the opening goal just seven minutes into the game. Dom rose up between three or four Earthquakes defenders to head the ball home. That would be one of two shots on goal for Sporting KC all night long.
From there, it seemed they were playing very defensively and not looking to find the net again. It was Dom Dwyer island for most of the night as the two “wingers” stayed back for much of the game. Speaking of wingers, Benny Feilhaber was oddly lined up as a winger with Nagamura playing his midfield spot. Despite that, Benny consistently moved to the middle of the pitch and left one side of Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 formation without a true winger.
Saad Abdul-Salaam played forward a lot, so that kept some width, but to have an attack, you have to have the ball. Sporting Kansas City leads all of Major League Soccer in possession, but they did not tonight. They had just 36.8 percent of the possession.
Sitting back and playing defensively did eventually come back to bite the team. San Jose would score off a cleared corner kick. SKC got the ball out and pushed up, but Marvell Wynne sent the ball back into the box and a bit of sloppy play later, Simon Dawkins knocked in an easy goal from a slick little Henok Goitom back heel. I personally thought about three San Jose players were offsides on the ball from Wynne, but the replays never show a good angle.
From there, Sporting were just looking to hold on for the road point. As you’ve no doubt heard all week, Sporting cannot win at San Jose, so why try. They played defensively and mostly bunkered deep in their own zone.
There was one really good chance that Brad Davis had, but it was saved by David Bingham (though the ref just stated Davis missed the net). Speaking of the ref, he had a pretty rough night. The game was very physical and probably a lot more cards could have been given out. Instead, just five were given (and one was for time wasting — Melia). Espinoza picked up a card and as a result will sit out next Saturday’s road game against the New England Revolution.
The game did finally turn in the favor of the heroes on Sporting KC’s only corner kick of the match. Feilhaber delivered a ball just over Ike Opara’s head and it found the back heel of Kevin Ellis, who seemed surprised to have scored the goal.
That goal would lead to the full three points to start this three game road trip. Sporting really needed that to stay above the red line. They got some help from their hated rivals, the Houston Dynamo, who defeated the Portland Timbers and actually helped move SKC into 5th place. SKC are currently eight points ahead of seventh place Seattle, but the Sounders have three games in hand.
There are just three games to go for Sporting in the MLS regular season. Next week against the Revs, two weeks later at Real Salt Lake and then San Jose will have their chance for revenge on Decision Day at Children’s Mercy Park.