Sporting KC back in first with 2-0 win over Crew

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May 4, 2014 (ISN) – Sporting Kansas City re-claimed a share of first place in the Eastern Conference on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew at Sporting Park. Jacob Peterson and Claudio Bieler scored their first goals of 2014 while Eric Kronberg made four saves for his fourth shutout of the season, most among MLS goalkeepers.

Sporting Kansas City remains unbeaten at Sporting Park in their last 11 games in all competition dating back to 2013, highlighted by the team’s MLS Cup triumph over Real Salt Lake. Prior to Sunday’s match, Sporting Kansas City players, coaches and staff were formally presented with their championship rings in a special pre-game ceremony held on the field.

Peterson, making his second league start of the year and first since the regular season opener, struck for the game-winning goal in the 10th minute. Chance Myers’ cross from the right flank connected with Paulo Nagamura, whose first-time shot was blocked by Giancarlo Gonzalez but eventually fell to Peterson following a deflection off Michael Parkhurst. A nine-year MLS veteran, Peterson made no mistake in a side volley from 10 yards out for his 14th career MLS goal and first since the final game of the 2012 regular season.

Kronberg made his first of four saves, and the match’s best, in the 31st minute on the Crew’s only shot on goal of the opening 45 minutes. Bernardo Anor rose high to re-direct a well-struck service from Wil Trapp, but Kronberg reacted quickly make a one-handed stop low to his right to stop the header on the goalline.

Seth Sinovic nearly doubled Sporting Kansas City’s lead three minutes later, settling a pass from Oriol Rosell behind the Crew backline and forcing a kick save from Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark. Dom Dwyer led all players on Sunday with four shots, coming close in the 49th and 66th minutes on the receiving end of Graham Zusi crosses.

Kronberg made three important saves in a seven-minute span during the second half to preserve the clean sheet. In the 58th minute, he dove to his left to hold a curling effort from Anor and followed that with an extension effort to his right to deny Federico Higuain five minutes later. His final save of the day came in the 65th minute, again on Anor as he pushed away the attempt from 30 yards out. The rebound fell to Jairo Arrieta from point blank range and that too was turned away by Kronberg, though the Costa Rican was ruled to be in an offside position.

After Sunday’s shutout, Sporting Kansas City has allowed only one goal at home in six matches in all competition in 2014 and lowered the team’s league-leading goals against average to 0.75 per game. As part of the club’s Shutout for Slices promotion with Papa John’s, all Sporting KC fans can receive 50% off any regular price online order at local participating Papa John’s retailers over the next two days by entering the code ‘SPORTINGKC’ online at PapaJohns.com.

Bieler would eventually put the game out of reach in second-half stoppage time, the culmination of Sporting Kansas City’s offense creating continued chances during the game’s late stages. Feilhaber went forward with an individual effort in the 72nd minute, forcing a turnover and firing a shot from the top of the penalty area that carried narrowly wide.

The Crew were left shorthanded for the final 10 minutes upon Trapp being shown his second caution in the 80th minute for bringing down Feilhaber in the final third of the field. Sporting Kansas City quickly capitalized on the man-advantage, testing Clark with shots from Dwyer in the 83rd minute and rookie Alex Martinez in the 88th.

Bieler, the beneficiary of a pinpoint chip from Zusi, put the final touch on the 2-0 victory in the 95th minute with the fourth latest goal scored in regulation in the team’s 18-year history. Soony Saad, making his 2014 debut, won the ball from Parkhurst to start the scoring sequence and Zusi made the key play with a first-time, left-footed chip over the outrushing Clark. Bieler calmly slotted his shot into the empty net for his first goal of the campaign after leading the team in scoring in 2013.

With the assist, Zusi moves into a tie with Davy Arnaud for third most in club history with 35 assists in the regular season. The U.S. Men’s National Team starter has now played a part in 56 goals (17 goals, 39 assists) in MLS competition since the start of the 2011 season, sixth most among MLS players.

Sporting Kansas City will next travel to Montreal to take on the Impact (1-4-3, 6 pts) at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, live locally on KMCI 38 the spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV. The team’s official watch parties will be held at the Johnny’s Tavern locations in KC Power and Light district (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Overland Park (6765 W. 119th St.), featuring select Boulevard draft specials and the Blue Believer signature cocktail.

FAST FACTS

  • Sporting KC defeated the Columbus Crew 2-0 at Sporting Park on Sunday.
  • With the win, Sporting KC moves into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Today’s match marked Sporting KC’s first Sunday contest of the year.
  • The win marks the fourth straight win against Columbus, including three straight at Sporting Park.
  • Sporting KC moves to 4-2-2 on the season and remains undefeated at home with a record of 4-0-2 in all competition.
  • Sporting KC are 23-21-6 against the Crew all-time and 13-9-2 at home in the series.
  • Jacob Peterson opened the scoring on Sunday with a goal in the 10th minute.
  • Peterson was making his second MLS start of 2014. His last start came in the season opener.
  • The goal is Peterson’s first in MLS since October 24, 2012.
  • The 10th minute goal is the earliest goal scored by Sporting KC in 2014.
  • The loss is the Crew’s second of 2014 and breaks a three-game unbeaten streak for Columbus as they fall to fourth in the Eastern Conference.
  • The shutout is Kronberg’s fourth in 2014, most in MLS, and his 0.75 goals against average is the best in MLS among goalkeepers with more than three games played.
  • All four shutouts for Sporting KC during the 2014 MLS regular season have come at home. Four home shutouts are the most in MLS this season.
  • Sporting KC has allowed only one goal at Sporting Park in five MLS matches this season.
  • Sporting KC is in the midst of a 360-minute shutout streak at Sporting Park (four consecutive games).
  • Kronberg’s four saves on Sunday is a season high, tied with his four saves at Seattle in the season opener.
  • Wil Trapp received two yellow cards on Sunday, resulting in his ejection in the 80th minute of the match.
  • Soony Saad entered the match as a second half substitute for Jacob Peterson in the 60th minute. The appearance marks Saad’s first in 2014.
  • Claudio Bieler scored the second goal of the match in second half stoppage time (95+). The goal is Bieler’s first of the season after leading the team in goals scored in 2013.
  • Bieler’s goal is the fourth latest goal scored in regulation in team history and third latest at home.
  • Bieler now has 11 goals during regular season play in his two-year MLS career.
  • Zusi earned the assist on Bieler’s goal, the 35th of his regular season career. Zusi is now tied with Davy Arnaud for third on the club’s all-time charts.
  • Zusi led all players with five chances created on Sunday.
  • Zusi has tallied an assist in each of his last two matches against Columbus and has an assist in four of his last five matches against the Crew.
  • Benny Feilhaber led all players with four tackles won and 10 duels won on Sunday.
  • Columbus maintained 50.2% of the possession to Sporting KC’s 49.8, marking the first home match in 2014 that Sporting KC has not had the majority of the possession.
  • Matt Besler moved into a tie for the ninth most regular season games started in club history on Sunday, matching Michael Harrington and Josh Wolff with 128.
  • Besler also moved into 10th place on the club’s all-time chart for regular season minutes played (11,601), passing Matt McKeon.
  • The first 10,000 fans to arrive on Sunday received a pair of Sporting KC sunglasses courtesy of match sponsor Sabates Eye Center.
  • Prior to the match, Sporting Kansas City players and coaches received their MLS Cup championship rings. The 2013 MLS Championship Rings are handcrafted in 10-karat white gold with 94 white round brilliant cut diamonds and 17 blue round brilliant cut diamonds, and weighs approximately 57 grams.
  • Attendance on Sunday was 20,565, marking the 41st consecutive sellout in MLS competition at Sporting Park.
  • Columbus heads straight to Houston and will play their second consecutive road match on Wednesday.
  • Sporting KC will also play their next match on the road as they travel to Montreal for a 3 p.m. CT kickoff on Saturday.
  • QUOTES

    Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

    Thoughts on the match…

    Start to finish, an excellent performance by us. I think it’s the best performance of the year for us. One of the most difficult things in the game today was the weather. We haven’t had a chance to play in this kind of weather. All you guys know that are around here, the weather has been pretty cold. And having to come out here with it going into the 80’s, it was very difficult. These guys left everything on the field.

    On driving the game…

    I thought our organization to press them and not allowing them to play, especially when we were high up the field, was excellent. And then we weathered the storm a little bit in the second half, maybe for about 10-15 minutes when they had a little bit of the ball. But we really didn’t give too much and we made sure we dropped our line well and cleared everything out of the box. Kronberg made a big save in the first half, which we need him to do and he does it. And we scored two goals. The only criticism I have is we should have scored two more, easily. Outside of that, we were big time today.

    On the play of Eric Kronberg…

    The big thing is, we don’t give up a lot. And it’s very difficult for a goalkeeper to keep himself in the game and make the saves that he needs to at the right time. In the first half, the one save that he made on the header from 6-8 yards out was a great save. That keeps us in the game from a perspective of, we’re still driving. Scoring early helped us as well, but his performance was good. I thought he was good with his feet. All around, he had a good performance.

    On getting goals from Peterson and Bieler…

    First off, Jake hasn’t necessarily had a ton of starts. I always know that Jake’s going to give us everything he has. He’s always going to be busy and around the box. He found himself in a good place. It was a good action for us going forward. And then at the end, Zusi could probably have been a little selfish and maybe hit that thing but he played a great ball over to Claudio and builds his confidence as well. I think that’s the great team spirit of the guys. We really don’t care who scores, we just want to make sure that we get the three points.

    Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi

    Thoughts on the game…

    I thought we executed the game plan to near perfection today, especially the first half. They didn’t have a sniff really. And I think we could have had a few more. I thought we did very well today to take them out of their game and not let them get into a rhythm where they could be good.

    On disrupting the Columbus possession…

    They’re a team who is extremely confident coming out of the back. We knew that. Even if we had a guy five yards from one of their players, they have no problem with getting that guy the goal. I thought our initial pressure on that guy was great. And then the follow-up stuff around him, that’s the ball-winning guy. It’s not necessarily the first guy’s job to win the ball. It’s the two guys behind him. The reason our high pressure worked today wasn’t just one or two guys. It was 11 guys behind the ball stepping up to cause them trouble.

    On receiving his MLS Cup ring…

    The ring ceremony was fantastic. It’s a really special occasion and I thought the best part of it was to be able to do it with the fans. They deserve that kind of recognition just as much as we do. To share that moment with them was pretty cool.  I think it can boost you a bit. The fans were fantastic again today. In tough conditions, we definitely use them to push us through the 90 minutes.

    On the similar styles of play…

    We’ve been building what we have now for 3-4 years. It doesn’t come overnight. It takes years and years of buying into to make it all work and connect. Columbus is a team who seems to be trying to play a similar system to us. It takes some time obviously and it’s not going to happen overnight. They’re a great team, a solid team. I think since we’ve been doing it for so long now, that can come to our advantage.

    Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg

    On making two impressive saves, one in both halves, to earn his MLS-leading fourth shutout…

    The save in the first half was just a quick, reaction save. It was a good cross and a good header, but luckily I was able to get my hand down to it and (Matt) Besler cleared it out. The second one was a shot that was moving at me. I didn’t really (punch) it where I wanted to-I wanted to punch it wide of goal. And then I saved the rebound, but that was offside anyway. So I’m happy to get the clean sheet, and I thought it was a fantastic result for us.

    On the warmer playing conditions…
    Today was a change in weather, for sure. It’s something we’re not quite used to, but we will get used to it. I thought both teams were very good in possession and both teams high-pressed each other. That makes for a lot of running. Because both teams pushed hard in the first half, you could kind of see the game slow down and get stretched out in the second half. Luckily we kept our shape pretty well and kept them from scoring.

    On the pre-game MLS Championship ring ceremony…

    That was incredible. I was curious to see what the rings were going to look like. I’ve heard stories that they looked great, and I’d say the ring definitely lives up to those stories. It’s a fantastic looking ring-the owners held nothing back.

    Sporting KC forward Jacob Peterson

    On scoring his first MLS goal since October 2012…

    It felt really good. Going into the game, we ultimately knew (Columbus was) on a really good run of form. They’ve made some big improvements this year. The most important things for us, coming off a lost last week, was to test ourselves against a good team. Fortunately we came out on top today.

    On the pre-game MLS Championship ring ceremony…

    It was a lot of fun. It was a good culmination to last year’s hard work. The rings are absolutely unbelievable. The ownership did a great job putting those together. So pre-game was definitely a little different. But if anything, it really motivated us. We obviously started the game really well and got an early goal.

    On the warmer playing conditions…

    Going from playing in the 60s to the 80s is definitely a transition. The first hot game of the year is always difficult for both teams. In the second half, I think you saw the game get stretched out because of that. The field was a little dry because the sun dried up all the water, which slowed down the game. I think it was a good test fitness-wise for us, and ultimately we sealed it by drawing a red card and getting a goal late. I think it was a good performance, but there are definitely things that we can work on. As we all know, Kansas City summers aren’t the most pleasant, especially during the day, so we’ll have to be ready for that.

    Columbus head coach Greg Berhalter

    On Columbus’ improved performance in the second half…

    I thought we came out with more aggressiveness in the second half. In all honesty, Kansas City is a better team right now. We’re not there yet. But I think it’s the way that we presented ourselves in the first half that I’m disappointed with. In the second half, we played how we know how to play, and it was a lot better. For that, I am proud of the guys. I think they worked hard in the second half and we had them on the ropes for a little bit. Unfortunately we didn’t get that tying goal.

    On the current strength of his team…

    At this stage, we’re looking at the performance. That’s what is most important to us. I think our performances have been (good) for the most part. We’re still developing our team. When I say Kansas City’s the better team-that’s right now. We expect to get there, so we’re going to keep working and keep developing the squad.

    On playing at Houston Dynamo three days after this match…

    We need to get guys recovered from this game. Obviously it’s been warm, so we have to recover and get prepared for the next game. We’re going to focus, right from the beginning, on playing our game. That’s our focus. We want our guys to look at this game and see what they could have done better. We’ll give them feedback about what they could have done better and we’re going to move forward.

    On missing Wil Trapp due to red card suspension for the next game…

    I don’t think there is a like-for-like replacement in our whole league for Wil Trapp. I think he’s a good player. For his age, I think he’s one of the better midfielders in the league. So the short answer is no, there isn’t a like-for-like replacement. We’ll have to find someone who can perform.

    Columbus Crew forward Dominic Oduro

    On the team’s play after going down a goal

    We came back really strong. I want to say we had them pretty much the whole half; we just couldn’t put anything on target. We have to play [the whole game] like we did in the second half. We don’t have to wait all the way until we are down until we start playing. We have to put pressure on them and start like that and then hopefully we can get good results. We know we can play and that we are a good team. They are also a good team. I think today they just outworked us a little bit. We just have to go back and figure things out.

    On the difference between the first and second half

    In the second half, we put pressure on them. We didn’t wait for them to pressure us.  That’s what we were doing in the first half. Second half we just had to dictate the game and that’s what we did and we were able to find a little result out of it. We just have to play hard again and put pressure on them.

    On what needs to change heading into the next game

    Nothing. Regardless of how the first half went, I don’t think we played that bad. We are a good team and we believe that. We are just going to keep doing what we are doing which is keep the ball and just try and find the ball in the net. It’s as simple as that.

    Columbus Crew midfielder Bernardo Anor

    Thoughts on the match

    It was a tough loss against a very good opponent. We just have to keep working harder and harder. Just keep doing what we have been doing since the beginning of the season and hope for the best.

    On the difference between the first and second half

    We came out in the second half with a better attitude; more hunger. We wanted to tie the game, come back and get a good result. I think the energy was what got us motivated we knew we that we were capable of doing it. We just have to do a better job in the beginning of the first half and we’ll be better off.

    On replacing Wil Trapp in the next match

    We have a lot of guys that can step in and do the same job. Obviously, he’s an important player for us but anybody who steps up is going to be ready.

    On rebounding ahead of Wednesday’s match in Houston

    We are just going to stay positive and leave that in the past. The heat is a factor that influences both teams so we cannot let it affect us. We are just going to come out with all that we have and do our best.

    Please note: When discussing our team, please refer to the club on first reference as Sporting Kansas City or Sporting KC. The team plays at state-of-the-art Sporting Park and will host the Philadelphia Union on May 14. Visit SportingKC.com  for the full schedule and ticket info.

    Score

    1

    2

    F

    Sporting KC (4-2-2, 14 pts)

    1

    1

    2

    Columbus Crew (3-2-3, 12 pts)

    0

    0

    0

    Sporting Kansas City: Eric Kronberg; Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Paulo Nagamura (Alex Martinez 78), Oriol Rosell, Benny Feilhaber; Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 61), Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 87), Graham Zusi

    Subs Not Used: Igor Juliao, Andy Gruenebaum, Antonio Dovale, Jimmy Medranda

    Columbus Crew: Steve Clark; Josh Williams, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis; Hector Jimenez (Dominic Oduro 46), Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Bernardo Anor (Justin Meram 69); Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta (Ethan Finlay 82)

    Subs Not Used: Eric Gehrig, Matt Lampson, Tyson Wahl, Dan Paladini

    Stats

    SKC

    CLB

    Shots

    14

    10

    Shots on Goal

    6

    4

    Saves

    4

    4

    Fouls  

    16

    7

    Offside

    3

    4

    Corner Kicks

    4

    3

    Misconduct Summary:
    SKC — Lawrence Olum (caution; reckless tackle) 38
    CLB — Wil Trapp (caution; reckless foul) 45
    SKC — Seth Sinovic (caution; tactical foul) 68
    CLB — Wil Trapp (caution; reckless tackle) 80
    CLB — Wil Trapp (ejection; second caution) 80
    CLB — Ethan Finlay (caution; reckless tackle) 86
    CLB — Tony Tchani (caution; unsporting behavior) 87
    SKC — Benny Feilhaber (caution; tactical foul) 92+

    Scoring Summary:
    SKC — Jacob Peterson 1 (unassisted) 10
    SKC — Claudio Bieler 1 (Graham Zusi 4) 95+

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