Sporting Kansas City moved three points clear of Deportivo Saprissa and eliminated Real Esteli tonight in a 3-0 win at Sporting Park over the visiting Nicaraguan side. Sporting KC had a dominate performance that like Thursday vs Saprissa could have been a lot worse for the visitors with better finishing from Kansas City.
Esteli actually had some early pressure, creating a couple chances, Elvis Pinel forced a save out of the returning Eric Kronberg after turning Igor Juliao and getting free in the box. KC got on the board first in the 13th minute. Seth Sinovic and Benny Feilhaber did well working down KC's left before Sinovic fired a cross into the middle of the box that Claudio Bieler turned home, slotting into the far corner to give KC the 1-0 lead. Like last week against Saprissa, KC continued to pile on pressure looking for a second goal. Bieler had another good opportunity, this time after Graham Zusi got free down the left, but Bieler scuffed the shot after goalkeeper Justo Lorente committed to coming towards Zusi, leaving the goal free. Zusi shortly after had a chance of his own, getting played in behind the Esteli defense, Lorente came off his line, but Zusi beat him to the ball, chipping it over him, but putting it just wide of the near post. As the first half continued, Bieler forced a good save out of Lorente off a free kick that was headed towards the lower corner, but Lorente turned it around the post for a KC corner. Bieler also appeared to have a penalty shout as he appeared to get knocked down in the box, but was waived off by the referee. Esteli had some chances on goal, but the other efforts ended up being right at Kronberg. The big talking point of the half, and the game as a whole was the yellow cards. Six yellows were handed out in the first half, three for each team. Two more were handed out to KC in the second, one of which went to Zusi who will now miss the game in October against Saprissa due to yellow card accumulation.
KC continued their pressure in the second half, looking to add to their lead, but were unable to find the net. Esteli looked dangerous coming the other way, but didn't create much in the way of dangerous scoring chances. Finally in the 69th, KC won a chance to add to their lead. Bieler was brought down in the box again, and this time won the penalty kick. Bieler stepped up himself and buried the PK past Lorente to make it 2-0. KC kept up the pressure and were able to make it 3-0 in the 78th. After winning a corner kick, Toni Dovale played the corner to the near post where Sal Zizzo flicked the ball on with his head over Lorente and into the net to make it 3-0 KC. Even with the three goal lead, KC still didn't sit back as they looked to pad their goal difference in the group. Zizzo just missed playing Paulo Nagamura through for an open chance, and Bieler just missed finishing off his hattrick late on. In the end KC had to settle for a 3-0 win over Esteli.
KC will now head into the final game against Saprissa knowing that a win, draw, or one goal loss will see them through. A two goal loss is where things would get iffy, with a 2-0 loss seeing KC eliminated, a 3-1 loss seeing a drawing of lots. Any other two goal loss would see KC go through on away goals in the head to head match up with Saprissa. Any loss by more than two and KC will be eliminated.
Wizards Man of the Match - Claudio Bieler - Had two goals, could have easily had four. Hopefully this is a step towards Bieler finding some form, which would be good for KC as a chance to spell Dom Dwyer a little bit and in case he hits some poor form or gets hurt.
Player Ratings - Kronberg - 7, Juliao 6, Palmer-Brown 5, Besler 6, Sinovic 7, Olum 6, Nagamura 6, Feilhaber 5, Zusi 6, Bieler 7, Dovale 6. Subs Zizzo 6, Claros 6, Medranda NR.