Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2012

With draw, Sporting KC now one point out of first in East

June 21, 2012

Sporting Kansas City remained unbeaten in six straight matches with a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field Wednesday, inching ever closer to the Eastern Conference lead.

It was Jacob Peterson who again helped put Sporting KC (9-3-2) on the board early, this time doing the scoring himself in the eighth minute. The Aurelien Collin-assisted strike was Peterson’s first goal scored since joining Sporting KC in the offseason and 10th of his career.

“Jake is a very good finisher,” coach Peter Vermes said. “He hasn't had a chance to show that as much lately but he can finish well.”

The advantage didn’t last long. In the 15th minute, Mauro Rosales sent a free kick to Patrick Ianni, who stretched out for a scissors kick to even the score. It was the earliest goal allowed by Sporting KC this season.

Still, the result puts Sporting KC (29 points) just one point behind D.C. United (9-4-3) in the conference standings, with the rest of league play to be contested against Eastern Conference foes.

“Getting a point is what we wanted," Peterson said.

Vermes made good on his promise to draw upon his team’s depth as it continues a stretch of five games in 14 days — which, including Wednesday’s match, featured a back-to-back east coast-west coast swing. Soony Saad, Peterson Joseph and Michael Thomas had their first starts for the club, while perennial starters Julio Cesar, Seth Sinovic and Konrad Warzycha received a rest. Defender Matt Besler remained sidelined with appendicitis.

The match’s final 75 minutes would not relent from the frenetic pace established early. Four minutes after Seattle’s score, Roger Espinoza sent a through ball to Saad, whose first goal eluded him when his left-footed strike hit the crossbar. Seattle (7-4-4) kept the pressure up from its end, forcing goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to deflect a shot by Alex Caskey from 18 yards out before halftime. On defense, Collin cleared the ball out of play on a crisp Sounders attack in the 45th minute.

Winless in its last six, Seattle was hungry to give the home crowd something to celebrate. The Sounders would notch 16 shots (three on goal) before the final whistle. Sporting KC recorded 14 shots (four on goal), each side seeing opportunities mount in the final minutes.

Kei Kamara returned to action late in the match, having returned from international play and a lengthy plane ride from Sierra Leone. Kamara and C.J. Sapong were inserted late so as to ramp up Sporting KC’s attack.

“I knew just the travel in itself was going to be tough for him,” Vermes said. “That's one of the reasons we didn't start him tonight but it was good to get that thirty minutes of the game.”

Lawrence Olum continued his stellar work in place of Besler on defense, coming up with perhaps the play of the match, an 88th minute clearance of a driving shot from Fredy Montero that beat Nielsen and clanged off the right post.

The match concluded Sporting KC’s regular season play against Western Conference clubs this season, against whom it finished 6-1-2. The club will now travel to meet the Philadelphia Union at 6 p.m. on Saturday at PPL Park before returning home on Tuesday, June 26 to continue the U.S. Open Cup.

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