One game, 100 words (or less): What began as an opportunity for Toronto to join the race at the top of the Eastern Conference turned into a reminder: The Reds are not on Sporting Kansas City’s level. In the first half, that reminder was obscured by two penalty calls that went Sporting’s way, allowing the defending champions to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. Over the final 45 minutes, the control that’s become characteristic of Peter Vermes’s team wore down the Reds, allowing the home side to claim a 4-1 result.
Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (18′ p.k., 33′ p.k.), Soony Saad (64′), C.J. Sapong (77′)
Toronto: Gilberto (45′)
Three moments that mattered:
33′ – Drawing the call – Go to ground in the penalty area, and you’re taking a chance, if you’re a defender. You’re giving the referee an out, something a savvy attacker can exploit.
That’s exactly what happened in the 33rd minute. With Toronto having already giving up a goal from the spot, Doniel Henry went down in front of Dom Dwyer, and while the initial move didn’t draw contact, the Sporting attacker made sure Drew Fischer was left with a difficult call.
Moments later, Sporting was up, 2-0.
45′ – Reason for hope – Benny Feilhaber is one of the best middle-of-the-park distributors in Major League Soccer, but just before halftime, the former U.S. international looked like one of us. Scuffing a pass inside his own half, Feilhaber allowed Collen Warner to put Dominic Oduro behind the defense. Moments later, Gilberto’s near post run allowed the Reds to cut their deficit in half moments before intermission.
66′ – The inevitable – The early moments of the second half reminded us why Sporting is one of the league’s best teams with a lead. Between their quality in defense and ability to control the ball, Kansas City is more capable than most of seeing out a one-goal game.
Mid-way through the second half, that ability went from defining to irrelevant. After a Graham Zusi corner was cleared to the edge of the penalty area, Soony Saad put his second goal of the season into the right side netting, quelling any hope a second KC mistake could pull Toronto back even.
Sporting KC: Jon Kempin; Igor Julião, Aurèlien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Benny Feilhaber (Jorge Claros 73′), Graham Zusi; Soony Saad, Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 80;), Sal Zizzo (C.J. Sapong 64′)
Toronto: Joe Bendik; Jackson, Nick Hagglund, Doniel Henry, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Daniel Lovitz 74′), Michael Bradley (Kyle Bekker 84′), Collen Warner, Jonathan Osario; Gilberto, Luke Moore (Bright Dike 78′)
Three lessons going forward:
1. Toronto wasn’t, isn’t this bad – Sporting was the better team, no doubt, but don’t look too deep into this final score. There was a certain momentum to the second half, one that belied the competitive nature of the first half hour. In the face of two penalties, Toronto may have thought the game was taken from them (players are never that rational about penalties). From that perspective, tonight’s result was a bit aberrational.
2. Best job in MLS: Goalkeeper for SKC – Jon Kempin’s first Major League Soccer start was ultimately a successful one, but just as we saw when Andy Greunebaum, Eric Kronberg, and Jimmy Neilsen have been in goal, being Sporting’s number one has its perks. Between the team’s possession and the play of Collin and Besler, Sporting keeps those shots on target low. Tonight, Kempin only faced three.
3. Wanted: Right backs – Toronto pressed Jackson into service at fullback tonight, a decision that backfired when the Brazilian midfielder conceded the game’s first penalty. Mark Bloom is approaching a return, but in its first choice’s absence, Toronto has had trouble finding reliable solutions at right back.
Where this leaves them:
- The win moves Kansas City to the top of the Supporters’ Shield case, with tiebreakers giving them the edge on Real Salt Lake, who also has 42 points.
- Toronto stays third in the East, now only two points up on the victorious Crew.