Sporting KC may have learned a thing or two about playing short handed after all the issues last season and over the past few weeks, because they were firing on all cylinders last night against FC Dallas. They were helped by a first half red card to Dallas' Zach Loyd, but KC completely controlled their Western Conference rival and moved into a tie for second place.
Even before they went up a man though KC was controlling the game, in the 4th minute they should have grabbed the lead when a Graham Zusi corner was headed back into the middle by Jalil Anibaba. The cushioned header was met by Benny Feilhaber, but he couldn't keep his volley down as it skied over the bar. All the early pressure from KC paid off in the 19th minute. From a free kick outside the box, Zusi played a nice ball to the back post where Kevin Ellis beat Ryan Hollingshead to the ball, heading the ball back across goal where Krisztian Nemeth met it heading the ball in from a yard out to make it 1-0 KC. Like one of Dallas' goals in the first meeting it appeared that Nemeth was offside when Ellis headed the ball back across goal, but like the Dallas game, no call was made. KC should have doubled the lead in the 24th minute, as Feilhaber made a great move to get around his defender and 1v1 with Dan Kennedy in goal Feilhaber pushed his effort just wide. Nemeth was causing all sorts of problems for Dallas' back line, posting up and turning when he received the ball. In the 32nd he earned KC a dangerous free kick just outside the box and the first yellow card for Loyd. Unfortunately Feilhaber couldn't capitalize on the free kick as he tried to go under the wall, but it didn't jump. Another turn by Nemeth in the 39th, this time on Matt Hedges created another scoring chance, but Nemeth pulled just shot just wide of the post. In the 43rd minute, Loyd got him marching orders after bringing down Nemeth after he had poked the ball away from him near the side line and was starting to race past him. Loyd tackled Nemeth, bringing him down and David Gantar immediately pulled out the second yellow.
KC couldn't take advantage of the man advantage in the final minutes of the first half, and early in the second almost gave Dallas a way back into the game. Hollingshead played a nice ball into the box for Tesho Akindele, but Tim Melia was quickly off his line and blocked the shot out for a corner. KC though quickly re-established possession and in the 51st doubled their lead. After receiving the ball in the corner, Jalil Anibaba played a ball on the ground into Nemeth in the box. As he'd been doing all game, Nemeth turned on Hedges to face goal and proceeded to lay a ball off to Feilhaber who was running into the box. Feilhaber made no mistake slotting the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0. Six minutes later, KC made it 3-0. Off a Zusi corner, Ellis got open and ran free into the box heading it into the corner to make it three for Kansas City. Dallas tried to respond immediately off a free kick. Melia came and punched the free kick out of the box, but the cross was recollected and played wide for Kyle Bekker who played a nice cross into the box for Hollingshead, but he couldn't get his header on goal. Eventually it was cleared out for a corner. On the ensuing corner Dallas had another chance, but again couldn't get a shot on goal in the sequence. KC finished off the scoring in the 64th minute after a long ball down field was collected b Connor Hallisey, he cut inside and started dribbling across the face of goal. Zusi made a run the opposite direction and as Zusi passed him, Hallisey backheeled the ball to him. Zusi took a touch and finished past Kennedy to make it 4-0. Shortly after that the air really started to go out of the game as the likes of Mauro Diaz, Akindele, Hallisey, and Roger Espinoza were all subbed out of the game as both teams seemed content with the result the way it was. There were some half chances late on by David Texeira and Saad Abdul-Salaam but the game ended at 4-0 with KC having a dominate performance.
Wizards Man of the Match - Kevin Ellis - Really there's a number of people this could go to for last night's game, from Ellis, to Nemeth, to Zusi, to Feilhaber, to one name I hadn't mentioned yet, Soni Mustivar who did a great job of shutting down Dallas' Diaz. But I'm going with Ellis who was all over the place last night, did a great job of shutting down Dallas' attack along with getting his first MLS goal and an assist.
Honorable Mention - Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber
Player Ratings - Melia 6, Anibaba 6, Ellis 8, Besler 7, Dia 5, Mustivar 7, Espinoza 6, Feilhaber 7, Zusi 7, Nemeth 8, Hallisey 6. Subs de Jong 6, Carrasco 5, Abdul-Salaam NR.