In a game with loads of cards, a penalty kick, humid weather and plenty of injuries, it was fitting that several of the aforementioned factors came together on the game’s decisive play.
Benny Feilhaber separated his shoulder setting up the game-winning goal in Sporting KC’s 10-man, 2-0 win over the home Houston Dynamo on Friday night on a play that earned Eric Brunner a yellow (and could’ve gotten a straight red on another day).
It wasn’t a game for the officiating highlight reel. To be fair, it wasn’t a game for any highlight reel. Toni Dovale was given a red card in the 21st minute for this casual and wayward elbow to Alexander Lopez, one of a handful of worthwhile reds (but the only one given). See below:
Soony Saad scored KC’s first goal off a Feilhaber feed, and then Dom Dwyer converted a penalty kick to give the game its final score line. Dwyer’s 10th goal of the season fittingly came on a penalty that probably shouldn’t have been given, as a shoulder block was given as a handball.
Houston picked up four yellows, while KC was handed two yellows to go with Toni’s red. Kansas City is within a point for first place New England with the win, while Houston remains in fourth place.
Both goalkeepers were strong, Eric Kronberg with the clean sheet and Houston’s Tyler Deric with a strong first performance of 2014.
The brutal heat played a role, but there’s no excuse for a match like the one we watched in Houston. Not so good, Al.
Sporting KC is looking to follow up a championship season by doing what the Galaxy did in 2012: make it back-to-back MLS Cups.
It’ll be tough, if only due to the congested schedule headed KC’s way due to more CONCACAF Champions League soccer. There’s depth in the engine room, but what will be KC’s answer for the retiring Jimmy Nielsen in goal? Who will emerge as the No. 1 strike target up top? Or will multiple players battle for the mantle?
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Players In: Sal Zizzo (trade from Portland), Andy Gruenebaum (trade from Columbus), Jimmy Medranda (transfer from Deportivo Pereira)
Players Out: Teal Bunbury (traded to New England), Jimmy Nielsen (retirement), Kyle Miller (waived), Brendan Ruiz (waved), Federico Bessone (out of contract)
Key Players: Eric Kronberg and Gruenebaum
Who replaces Jimmy Nielsen? It’s a question that has to be at the front of every KC supporter’s mind. He was integral to what they do in so many ways. Kronberg will get every opportunity but look out for that veteran from Columbus, Gruenebaum. Heavy will be the head that takes over for the crowned.
Manager: Peter Vermes
What else needs to be said about Vermes, who is the only player in MLS history to win an MLS Cup as a player and coach for the same club? His job is to develop a true strike threat while navigating the change between the sticks.Outlook:
Pretty good. The defense is pretty much back together and there should be little adjustment there and in the midfield. The big questions are at the extreme ends of the park. Will the goalkeeping and finishing be enough to keep KC a threat for a championship? I tend to think so. As long as Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (both right) and company are helping with the build-up, there should be plenty of opportunities for Soony Saad, CJ Sapong, Claudio Bieler or Dom Dwyer to bury balls behind the goal line.