Friday, October 30, 2015

Sporting Season Ends on Penalties

Sporting Kansas City fans have gotten used to the drama of the penalty kick shootout over the past few years with the team winning all three of their titles from the penalty spot. Last night in Portland though was a new feeling for fans as KC fell for the first time in  seven years in a penalty kick shootout, falling 7-6 after a 2-2 draw.
The Portland Timbers came out very aggressive from the start and within the first couple minutes had already forced a save out of Tim Melia and won themselves a corner. The Timbers spent much of the first half keeping Kansas City pinned in their own end and seemed to be controlling play. In the fifth minute only a clearance off the goal line by Paulo Nagamura kept the game from becoming 1-0 to the Timbers. While KC and Portland split the possession 50-50 in the first half, the Timbers by far felt like the more likely team to score and only some mistakes on their part, like Lucas Melano mishitting a shot, or some good goalkeeping by Melia, coming quickly off his line in the 37th to cut out a through ball to Fanendo Adi, kept the score 0-0 as the teams headed into half time.

The second half saw Kansas City come out much better than they had in the first half. KC got Krisztian Nemeth more involved in the play and he was able to create chances for Sporting. Nemeth set up Dwyer in the 49th minute beating his defender on the end line before laying the ball off to Dom Dwyer who controlled and fired a shot just wide of the near post. Minutes later Dwyer almost capitalized on a giveaway by Darlington Nagbe, racing towards goal and firing a shot that went just wide of the post. While KC was the more aggressive side to start the second half it was the Timbers that finally broke their goal drought against KC. After KC only partially clearing a shot by Nagbe that Melia punched away the ball came back to Diego Valeri. In a scramble to shut him down the ball popped to Rodney Wallace who fired a shot into the far corner and in past Melia to give Portland the 1-0 lead.
The game, which had been physical for much of the night started to really get out of hand from there. In the 69th minute Melia raced off his line to grab a ball played into the box ahead of Wallace. Melia easily beat Wallace to the ball and the Portland player attempted to jump over Melia but didn't get high enough and caught the KC goalkeeper in the face. Many KC players took exception to this as Melia was checked for a concussion. Wallace received a yellow card for his efforts but that didn't appear to be the end of it. In the 76th Nemeth went into the book for another cynical play. After he'd fouled Melano and Melano was on the ground Nemeth kicked the ball into Melano's head. Nemeth was lucky to only escape with a yellow there. Melia's injury that he picked up on the incident with Wallace would eventually force him out of the game to be replaced by Jon Kempin. The physical play continued and shortly after Kempin came on, Sporting's Matt Besler had to go to the sideline and change shirts and get cleaned up after catching an elbow from Adi right in the nose. While Besler was getting cleaned up in the 87th minute though KC found the equalizer. After a corner was only cleared partially, the ball came back wide to Graham Zusi who played a perfect ball to the near post where Kevin Ellis got in front of Liam Ridgewell and flicked a header past him and into the far side netting leveling the score at 1-1.
The score stayed level and the two teams headed to extra time. Once again KC came out the more aggressive side and it paid off in the 96th. After receiving the ball down near the end line, Nemeth cut inside his defender and fired a shot from a tight angle into the net to put KC up 2-1, a superb individual effort from Nemeth to put KC in front. From there KC was looking to absorb pressure from the Timbers. Just before the end of the first period of extra time Jack Jewsbury fired a header from a corner just over the bar to keep the score at 2-1 KC. Sporting continued to hold out in the second period and created some chances of their own with Dwyer almost setting up Jacob Peterson before just missing another chance himself. Those missed chances would hurt in the 118th when Dairon Asprilla collected a throw in with Soni Mustivar on his back. Asprilla was able to turn and get a cross into the box where Maximiliano Urruti had gotten some space against Ellis and volleyed the ball past Kempin and into the net to level the game again.
In penalties Portland shot first and Kempin made a bit save on Valeri on the first kick guessing right and getting a strong arm on the shot to keep it out. Benny Feilhaber put KC in front with his effort. Penalties were level after the second round as Nat Borchers scored and Dom Dwyer had his effort saved by Adam Kwarasey. The third round saw Ridgewell and Zusi both put their efforts away before Jewsbury and Besler both put their penalties over the bar in the fourth round. In the fifth Urruti scored followed by Paulo Nagamura to send the penalties to sudden death. In the sixth round Kempin again came up big making a save on Jorge Villafana but KC couldn't capitalize as Ellis hit the base of the post. The seventh and eighth rounds saw both teams make their PKs as Asprilla, Mustivar, Nagbe, and Peterson all scored. In the ninth round Kempin made his third save of the shootout to give KC another chance to win, but in KC's half of the ninth round Saad Abdul-Salaam hit the base of one post, the ball rolled along the goal line, hit the other post and bounced back out of the goal sending the penalties into a tenth round. George Fochive and Amadou Dia rounded out the field players by making their penalties to send it to the goalkeepers. Kwarasey powered his past Kempin but Sporting's goalkeeper couldn't beat his counterpart and the Timbers advanced.
Wizards Man of the Match - Jon Kempin - Coming in cold off the bench in a playoff game is far from an ideal situation for a goalkeeper, but to come in and then come up with three saves in the shootout, Kempin played fantastic. There is nothing more that could have been asked of him during the shootout; it was crushing to see him be the one that missed the final penalty after he'd given KC multiple opportunities to win it before hand with some very good saves on Portland penalty kicks.
Honorable mention - Matt Besler
Player Ratings - Melia 6, Abdul-Salaam 6, Ellis 6, Besler 7, Dia 6, Mustivar 6, Nagamura 5, Feilhaber 4, Nemeth 5, Dwyer 4, Zusi 4. Subs Kempin 7, Peterson NR.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree, Kempin was good. Never would have guessed at start of season that Sporting would start the playoffs with 4 of the 5 in the back Melia/Abdul Salaam-Ellis-Besler-Dia. That being said, I think Vermes has developed two potential long term replacements for Seth and Chance and found a good goalie and backup. Also, have to give Ellis credit. He has some limitations due to size, but improved, developed as an offensive threat similar to Collin, and was playing his best at the end of the season. Vermes did a good job turning over some major parts of the team.