Saturday, September 29, 2012

Playoffs Clinched

It'd been 1,864 days since Sporting KC won a game at home against the Chicago Fire.  That ended last night at Livestrong Sporting Park as a brace from Graham Zusi helped lead KC to a 2-0 win in front of the largest crowd in history at Livestrong Sporting Park, 21,010.  In the process, Sporting clinched a spot in the playoffs this year and increased their hold on the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

KC came out pressing from the start, but it was the Fire that created the first really good chance on the counter.  Gonzalo Segares won the ball off of Chance Myers and played the ball ahead to Sherjill MacDonald.  MacDonald cut inside and laid the ball off to an on coming Chris Rolfe.  From the top of the box though MacDonald shot wide of the net.  Shortly after that attempt, KC grabbed the lead.  Paulo Nagamura played a ball out wide to Kei Kamara around midfield.  Kamara took a touch wide, and spun around Segares and took off down the field.  From the corner of the box, Kamara played the ball into the middle, where Zusi filled the spot left as CJ Sapong cut further down into the box.  And from just past the penalty spot one timed a shot into the corner of the goal past Sean Johnson and KC was up 1-0.  KC continued to push the game during the half and were unlucky not to go up 2-0 in the 36th minute.  Off a Zusi corner, Kamara got up and headed a shot on goal, but Johnson got his hands up and pushed the ball onto the bar and was then cleared by Alvaro Fernandez.  While KC controlled play, the Fire still created opportunities on the counter.  In the 44th it came at the expense of a poor pass from Kamara.  Kamara's pass was intercepted by Rolfe who played the ball to MacDonald.  As MacDonald raced down the line, Rolfe and Zusi collided behind the play.  MacDonald played the ball across the face of goal, but with the collision, there was no one of the Fire to get on the end of the cross.

Into the second half, the Fire continued to look for an equalizer.  In the 57th minute, after a cross was not fully cleared Rolfe tried to chip Jimmy Nielsen from 20 yards out, but put his chip just over the bar.  KC was able to create chances of their own as well trying to hit on the counter.  A superb tackle by Julio Cesar on Rolfe in the 63rd minute led to a great counter.  The clearance of the tackle found Sapong who fed Roger Espinoza down the wing.  Espinoza played a cross into the box for Kamara, but his shot was right at Johnson who easily made the save.  The game really started to open up as Chicago looked for an equalizer and KC pushed to try to find a second.  In the 73rd Chicago had another good opportunity to counter.  Dominic Oduro led the counter and ended up feeding the ball to MacDonald who took the shot, but fired it wide of the goal.  A goal kick was given although it certainly appeared to strike the leg of at least 1 KC defender on the way through.  KC should have doubled the lead through Chance Myers, but he had a poor header from about 6 yards out after some good build up.  Into stoppage time, KC found themselves stretched at the back and had to rely on another superb tackle from Cesar.  Cesar slide from behind, but to the side of Fire substitute, Guillermo Franco and tackled the ball away.  A ballsy tackle that worked to perfection for KC.

Stoppage time got even more interesting, as Frank Klopas got sent back to the locker room shortly after Cesar's tackle as Klopas didn't like the way that referee Chris Penso called the game, and honestly he didn't have the best game.  He was very inconsistent with his calls throughout.  Shortly after Klopas was sent back to the locker room, he was joined by Segares as the Costa Rican picked up his 2nd yellow in the 4th minute of stoppage time for a fairly weak foul on Sapong.  In the 6th minute of stoppage time, KC struck for their 2nd goal.  After Kamara tried to take it down the line into the corner, he laid the ball back to Myers.  Myers played the ball over the top towards Sapong.  Sapong flicked his header into the path of Zusi.  With Nagamura overlapping, he pulled the two defenders to Zusi's left.  Zusi was able to cut back and curled a shot into the far corner, doubling KC's lead and killing the game.  Shortly after the kickoff, the final whistle blew.

Wizards Man of the Match - Graham Zusi - A brace for Sporting's play maker.  Zusi played extremely well and took both of his chances very well to put KC into the playoffs.  He was unlucky to also pick up an assist when Johnson made a good save on Kamara's header.

Honorable Mention - Kei Kamara, Seth Sinovic, Julio Cesar

Player Ratings - Nielsen 6, Myers 6, Olum 6, Besler 6, Sinovic 7, Cesar 8, Nagamura 6, Espinoza 6, Kamara 7, Sapong 6, Zusi 8.

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