Friday, June 06, 2014

It Wasn't Pretty but Sporting Gets the Job Done

It wasn't the prettiest games tonight in Houston, but it was arguably one of the guttiest performances of the season by Sporting KC. Already playing with a depleted lineup, KC started the game with their eighth different starting center back partnership against the Houston Dynamo. Then proceeded to have a midfielder go down hurt, lose another player to a red card, and lose two more players to injuries that led KC to use all three subs before the second half had even began. Through it all, Sporting KC ended their five game winless run and go into the World Cup break on a high winning 2-0 in Houston over a Dynamo side that is struggling just as badly.

Things stated out poorly for KC again as just five minutes in they were forced to use a sub on Paulo Nagamura who went up for a header with a Dynamo defender. The two knocked heads and Nagamura went down. The Brazilian had to be stretchered off the field and was replaced by Alex Martinez in only the 7th minute. The second time in as many games KC has had to use a sub in the first 10 minutes. Martinez almost made an immediate impact in the 11th minute as he intercepted a miss cleared header and raced in on goal but fired just wide of the near post keeping the game scoreless. Things took a disastrous turn in the 21st minute, when Toni Dovale was given a red card. Replays later in the half appeared to show Dovale elbowing Alex Lopez in the neck/head behind the play. It was apparently called by the fourth official as the referee's back was turned to the play. Shortly after that, Lopez fired a shot from distance that Eric Kronberg was forced to tip the ball over the bar for a corner instead of trying to grab the curling effort. Kronberg was again called into action in the 33rd. A corner from the Dynamo went long to the back post where it was knocked back into the middle. A dynamo player got a touch on it, but was right in front of Kronberg who was able to knock it away. Sporting though down a man continued to pressure and in the 41st almost picked one off. Dom Dwyer intercepted a ball knocked back towards Houston keeper, Tyler Deric, he headed the ball over Deric and ran around him trying to knock the ball in, but Houston defender Eric Brunner did a good job of recovering and knocking the ball out for a corner right as Dwyer was going to touch it home. Then in the 45th minute, KC's high pressure paid off again. Soony Saad forced a poor pass in the back. Benny Feilhaber then won the ball and pushed it up field back to Saad. Saad one timed the effort past Deric and into the net giving KC the 1-0 lead. The excitement of the lead though was immediately tempered by the fact that on the play, Feilhaber had been the victim of a rough tackle by Brunner. Feilhaber went down and his shoulder hit the turf. He was in a lot of pain and was noticibly favoring that arm for the rest of the half.

Feilhaber didn't come back out fo the start of the second half, an apparent separated shoulder put him out of action. Also Igor Juliao came off the field, he'd been questionable with an injury. Jacob Peterson and Sal Zizzo entered the game for them and KC was out of subs, on the road, down a man and it was only half time. Still just a minute into the second half, Dwyer had a decent chance to make it 2-0. Martinez played a nice ball over the top to Dwyer who just couldn't beat Deric to the ball. The Dynamo had the better of possession from there, but really didn't do much with it as Lawrence Olum, Kevin Ellis, and Erik Palmer-Brown did a great job of shutting down the Houston attack. KC also had their opportunities going forward and in the 69th minute won a penalty kick. Dwyer flicked the ball to the back post where it hit off the upper arm of AJ Cochran. Referee Juan Guzman immediately pointed to the spot. Dwyer stepped up and sent Deric the wrong way giving KC a 2-0 lead. The Dynamo continued to possess but KC kept getting the better chances on the counter as Martinez in the 81st sprung Dwyer again on th counter. One on one with Deric, Dwyer couldn't lift his shot over the keeper who stuck a hand out and knocked the effort away. The Dynamo had chances late in the game, a cross into the box was not dealt with by KC and made it all the way through to Kofi Sarkodie who was right in front of Kronberg, but again Kronberg got in the way knocking the ball away and it was eventually cleared. Then in the 96th minute Giles Barnes got onto the end of a cross that was headed into the middle, but Kronberg was quick off his line again. The rebound fell to Andrew Driver whose shot too a deflection and then hit off of Barnes who tried to get up and turn the ball home, but Peterson was there to clean the area up. KC held out the rest of the game to pick up their first win since beating Montreal.

Wizards Man of the Match - Lawrence Olum
- The Kenyan international was extremely solid in the midfield for KC. Helped to shut down the Dynamo attack and closed down space. Did a fantastic job on his return and brought some needed defensive confidence to the defensive midfield position.

Honorable mention - Erik Palmer-Brown, Kevin Ellis

Player Ratings - Kronberg 6, Juliao 5, Palmer-Brown 7, Ellis 7, Sinovic 6, Olum 8, Nagamura NR, Feilhaber 6, Saad 7, Dwyer 7, Dovale 4. Subs Martinez 6, Peterson 6, Zizzo 6.

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