Sporting KC extended their team record unbeaten run to 14 games last night as for once KC came out of the gates fast and took the game to Real Salt Lake immediately. Directly from the kickoff KC was attacking and almost found net as Michael Harrington played a great cross in to Omar Bravo who headed wide of the goal. That became a theme throughout the first half as KC continued to attack down both wings, getting the best of RSL's wingbacks, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert multiple times. Roger Espinoza almost got the opening goal in the 8th minute on a cross from Bravo into the box, that Espinoza caught with a glancing header, but didn't change the direction enough to fool Nick Rimando in the RSL net. Espinoza continued his good run of form lately and seemed destined to get a goal as he hit a strike from outside the box that was just over the bar shortly after his first chance. While KC was the much more aggresive side early in the game, RSL still was a threat offensively and a few times in the first half RSL created some half chances that I thought would have been more from them, but it never materialized.
In the 29th minute, KC took a deserved lead. Jeferson won the ball on the right hand side and sent a cross in that was partially cleared. Espinoza won the ball off of the RSL defender, split two and raced into the box before firing a shot low to Rimando's near post. The shot had enough pace on it to beat Rimando and give KC the lead. Five minutes after the opener, KC doubled the lead. Matt Besler played a long throw in into the box towards Kei Kamara. Kamara forced a good save out of Rimando with the header. Rimando didn't hold the shot though, and Teal Bunbury was the first to react, blasting the ball past Rimando for his second goal in as many games. After the second goal KC continued to attack, but not with as much pace as they had earlier in the half. They sat back a little allowing RSL to get more of the game.
In the second half, KC continued to push, but RSL had the better play up until the 56th. After a cross was easily collected by Rimando, he rolled the ball to Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman's touch was a little heavy, but not too much and he had his back to goal. Espinoza came sliding in hard, he got a little of the ball, but in the process performed a scissor tackle on the RSL captain. Referee Hilario Grajeda made no hesitation in going for his back pocket and rightly sending off Espinoza. A sad finish to what had been turning into his best performance of the season. What's worse is that he and Beckerman were warned by the referee only minutes early after the two had a collision near midfield and Beckerman had shoved Espinoza.
After the card, RSL became the much more dominate side in the game, taking the game to KC. But that allowed KC to work the counter almost to perfection on a few occasions, specifically in the 67th minute when Bravo played a great cross in the box to the back post where Jeferson was unmarked. The Brazilian though tried to finish it with his left, when just poking it with his right would have seen the ball into the net. That turned out to be KC's last really good chance of the game as Salt Lake started to attack in waves. In the 71st minute KC finally made their first save of the game, but it wasn't Jimmy Nielsen. A corner from Andy Williams was headed on goal by Alvaro Saborio, it beat Nielsen, but didn't have a ton of pace on it, and Seth Sinovic headed the ball off the line and out for another corner. Then it was Nielsen's turn to come up big, coming up with some big saves on shots by Beckerman. The best off of a free kick where it looked like Saborio was going to get a flick on it past Nielsen. But the Dane did well to be just in front of it to knock the ball away. Late on KC was able to hold off the Salt Lake attack as they sent high balls into the box, but Besler and Julio Cesar did well to head away the most dangerous chances, and even the ones that Saborio, Espindola, or Nat Borchers got, they were either right at Nielsen or wide of the goal. A strong performance all around by Sporting KC to extend the unbeaten run to 14.
WIZARDS Man of the Match - Seth Sinovic - This was a hard choice to make. Without the red card, this is easily Espinoza's award for this game, the guy was playing the best game of his Sporting KC career, but the red card cut that short. Sinovic shut down his left wing, late on when RSL was trying to create anything it seemed like they were avoiding Sinovic's side much of the time. And how about the save off the line?
Honorable Mention - Jimmy Nielsen, Matt Besler
Player Ratings - Nielsen 8, Harrington 7, Besler 8, Cesar 7, Sinovic 8, Zusi 6, Jeferson 5, Espinoza 5 (9 before the red card), Kamara 7, Bunbury 7, Bravo 7. Subs Sapong 6, Diop 5, Sassano NR