Monday, October 26, 2015

Sporting Punch Their Playoff Ticket

After some late season struggles, Sporting Kansas City as able to find a way into the playoffs taking out the LA Galaxy to clinch their spot in the playoffs and book a date in Portland on Thursday.

Early on in the game there was a bit of concern as the San Jose Earthquakes Quincy Amarikwa scored against FC Dallas to give them the lead. That put KC on the outside looking in at the playoffs. KC almost got themselves in front of LA in the 26th minute off a quick throw in by Saad Abdul-Salaam, Krisztian Nemeth got space down the wing. Nemeth played a great ball into the middle for Dom Dwyer. The KC forward got a sliding foot on the ball but his shot was right at Donovan Ricketts who knocked the ball away. The follow up by Graham Zusi was knocked away for a corner. KC kept the pressure up on the Galaxy and in the 38th minute found the lead. A long throw in by Matt Besler got knocked around in the box before falling to Chance Myers. The KC outside back fired a shot on goal that deflected off of Kevin Ellis and was saved by Ricketts. The rebound fell right to Ellis though who knocked the ball into the net to give KC the lead. On replays it was quite clear though that Ellis was offside when Myers took the shot but the flag never went up. At the same time as KC took the lead at Sporting Park, Dallas was leveling the game in Texas so the 38th was twice as good for KC. LA though started to really create chances of their own and should have been level in the 44th minute after a poor giveaway by Ellis sprung the Galaxy on the counter. Robbie Keane played the ball ahead to Giovani Dos Santos who played a square ball into the middle for Steven Gerrard who fired from the top of the box but his effort was poor and right at Tim Melia who made the easy save. A couple minutes later in first half stoppage time the Galaxy found the equalizer. Working right down the middle of KC's team Dos Santos found space before sliding a ball through to Keane who chipped it over Melia and into the net to level the game at 1-1 as the teams headed into the half time break.

KC came out in the second half with a renewed push and with the insertion of Benny Feilhaber got a bit more creativity as well. His insertion into the game paid dividends for KC in the 65th when he received the ball about 40 yards out from goal with space to dribble. KC's MVP took all the space getting close to the top of the box before laying it off for Dwyer with a perfect pass. Dwyer fired on goal, Ricketts got a foot on it but it wasn't enough to keep the ball from going into the net and giving KC the lead. Minutes later Nemeth almost made it 3-1 as he got some space near the top of the box and fired a shot on goal that Ricketts had to tip over the bar to keep out. KC got more help in the 79th minute when Dallas took the lead on San Jose, meaning that for KC to go out of the playoffs there needed to be a three goal swing to knock Sporting out. The KC defense held firm and switched to a five man back line in stoppage time with the insertion of Erik Palmer-Brown to help solidify the points. In the end KC still had to rely on Melia for one more big save to preserve the win. In the 93rd off a free kick Sporting only cleared the initial ball to Gyasi Zardes who fired a shot on goal that Melia did well to save right on the line and then jump on the rebound to preserve the win. KC held the Galaxy off and booked their ticket to Portland in the playoffs.

Wizards Man of the Match - Saad Abdul-Salaam - After starting the season on loan Abdul-Salaam has had a very good season for Sporting playing both wide defensive positions as well as the wide forward spots. Last night against the Galaxy he was predominately matched up with US national team player Gyasi Zardes and Abdul-Salaam did a fantastic job on him. Kept his involvement minimal and really shut him down when he did get the ball.

Player Ratings - Melia 6, Abdul-Salaam 8, Besler 6, Ellis 6, Myers 7, Mustivar 6, Nagamura 6, Quintilla 5, Nemeth 6, Dwyer 6, Zusi 6. Subs Feilhaber 7, Palmer-Brown NR.

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