It was another thrilling affair for Sporting KC on St. Patrick’s Day as they were able to fend off the San Jose Earthquakes and get the 3-2 win at Children’s Mercy Park. While a bit sloppy in defense, an exciting attacking core was enough to secure all three points.
The decisive moment came off the foot of Sporting Kansas City’s new maestro, Felipe Gutiérrez, in the 68’ minute. Although this time it was clever play from his teammates that would put him on goal. Johnny Russell played a diagonal ball across the field and Daniel Salloi made a move on it. He brought the defense with him and just gave the ball the slightest of touches to send it on for Gutiérrez streaking behind him at the top of the box. Felipe still had a man to beat but quickly fired a shot past everyone to the far post. It was a deliberate finish that fans of Sporting KC are not used to seeing. He simply picked his corner and put it in the back of the net for a 3-2 lead.
The home side wasted no time in setting the pace of the match and had two chances on goal in the opening moments. Sporting made their intentions known as Gutiérrez fired a dangerous shot from distance and then sent Johnny Russell into the box moments later before two minutes had passed.
After some early excitement, the cold set in and the environment calmed down a bit. But Russell, sacrificing his body, got things going when he won a penalty in the 25’ minute. The Scotsman was able to get a vital touch in the box before keeper Andrew Tarbell sent him head over heels. Ilie stepped up and calmly tucked the ball away in the corner of the net for the 1-0 lead and his first goal in a Sporting KC uniform.
The Earthquakes woke up and began showing signs of life. They were asking questions that the Sporting KC defense couldn’t answer. As SKC struggled to clear the ball in the 34’ minute, Vako cleaned up the mess to bring the match level.
The worrying moments continued for a defensive core that seemed impenetrable at this time last year. But the teams went into the break tied at 1-1.
It might have been cold but Zusi lit the stadium on fire in the 56’ minute. He took a pass from Espinoza and cut inside at the top of the box. The San Jose defense was nowhere to be found and he took an extra touch to set himself before sending a screamer into the roof of the net. Tarbell gave him a courtesy dive to make the highlight - but he didn’t have a chance. Zusi likes to let a couple of those fly each season and he cashed in early to give SKC the advantage.
The third goal would prove to be the match winner as Chris Wondolowski was able to pull one back at the 90-minute mark with a very impressive one-time finish. It was made even more surprising after watching him miss a sitter earlier in the 2nd half that couldn’t help but bring up memories of the World Cup. But we aren’t supposed to talk about that anymore.
SKC was able to lock it down for the remaining stoppage time and come away with their first home win of the season. The defense in this match (as well as the first two matches) will undoubtedly leave some fans worried, but the way Sporting look going forward is very exciting. The record improves to 2-1 and SKC sit in 3rd place in the West.
Next up is a trip to Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.