Sporting Kansas extended their 100% record to seven straight wins after a battling 3-1 win in Vancouver. Goals from Aurelien Collin, an own goal by Martin Bonjour and Kei Kamara secured 3-0 lead before a late consolation from Seb Le Toux.
The win extends their Eastern Conference lead to a massive eleven points over second place New York Red Bulls and if they are not derailed in Portland on Saturday, will extend it further.
The keeper who had faced just eight shots in his last six games, Jimmy Nielsen, was made to work much harder tonight so much so that Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes, credited him with the victory:
“Jimmy Nielsen was the difference. His save at the end was big-time; it was tremendous. That’s what really, at the end of the day, saved it because they were on us the last 10 minutes of the game.”
The Whitecaps line up showed some changes with Atiba Harris joining Gershon Koffie, John Thorrington and Davide Chiumiento in midfield. Jordan Harvey kept his place at the expense of the injured Alain Rochat. Teal Bunbury started on the bench in his formerly native country. Paulo Nagamura replaced the injured Julio Cesar.
The first flash point came in the fifth minute, when a clearly frustrated Eric Hassli lashed out at Kei Kamara and was booked by referee Baldomero Toledo.
Vancouver had their first break when Davide Chiumiento put Sebastein Le Toux through on goal. Le Toux decided to pass rather than shoot and promptly fed the ball to Harris, who was in an offside position.
Aurelien Collin received Kansas’ first yellow card after pushing Le Toux into the advertising boards on Vancouver’s left wing in the 18th minute.
Collin then opened the scoring for Sporting in the 24th minute, as he met Zusi’s cross from the left. Collin’s initial header across the box was quite played back in, first by Espinoza and then miskicked by C.J. Sapong. The miskick landed kindly for the visitors, and Collin did not miss his second opportunity.
Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was called into action but saved Le Toux’s header comfortably in the 28th minute after Lee crossed from the right side. It was Nielsen’s ninth save in seven games.
Vancouver was beginning to pose a threat, with Nielsen being forced to come off his line on more than one occasion. He got a crucial touch on a cross from his left to deny an opportunity on goal.
Just before halftime, Hassli appeared to swing a boot at Collin, who was not slow to draw the referee’s attention to it. With the Caps players pleading for leniency and the Sporting players for a second yellow card, Toledo opted for the former.
Vancouver had better chances at the beginning of the second half.
In the 48th minute, Eric Hassli chipped a ball over the top to Gershon Koffie, but Nielsen was quick off his line again to stifle the Whitecaps attack.
Again in the 50th minute, Hassli and Le Toux played a one-touch combination on top of Sporting’s 18-yard box that resulted in a through ball. Nielsen had to come off his line to collect.
The Whitecaps were then floored by a self inflicted wound. On a Matt Besler long throw in the 52nd minute, Martin Bonjour chested the ball into the right corner of his own goal, giving Kansas City a second goal, and Joe Cannon no chance.
The favor was nearly returned within two minutes. Seth Sinovic’s bizarre attempt at a clearance from a Le Toux cross at 25 yards from goal forced Nielsen into a spectacular save from the top right-hand corner.
Twice thereafter, Kansas City players blasted over with the goal at their mercy. First it was Kamara, then Zusi; one thing was clear: Sporting was not going to sit back on its lead.
The boos of a scorned lover greeted the arrival of Teal Bunbury when he came on for Sapong in the 62nd minute, followed by chants of, “Traitor, traitor” from Canadians still rankled by his decision to represent the USA.
Kansas City increased its lead to three with 25 minutes to go. Kamara fed Myers out on the right. His cross was perfectly arrowed into the danger zone, where Kamara finished off the chance he began.
Le Toux snatched a goal back for Vancouver in the 80th minute. Omar Salgado, just onto the field, crossed the ball in from the left after getting around Myers, and Hassli thundered a header off the crossbar. Nielsen dove but couldn’t get a finger on it, and Le Toux put back the rebound.
After the goal, Nielsen stormed over to assistant referee Ian Anderson, convinced Le Toux was offside. Despite Nielsen’s impassioned complaint, the goal stood, and Kansas City’s shutout streak was ended at 415 minutes.
Nielsen was more inspired than distracted by what he perceived was a missed call. He saved Camilo Sanvezzo’s shot high to his left just after conceding, then Hassli’s shot low to his right a minute later.
Long Tan came on for Bonjour in the 87th minute, moving Vancouver to a 3-4-3 formation. Although the Caps pressed for the last three minutes plus three of stoppage time, looking for a repeat of last season’s three-goal comeback against Sporting, Kansas City held up under pressure and extended its record to 7-0.
They take their seven game winning streak to Portland’s four game losing streak on Saturday. On this form, that will be eight and five, with the result being a 14 point lead in their conference.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 15.Martin Bonjour (23.Long Tan 87′), 6.Jay DeMerit, 3.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 11.John Thorrington (37.Camilo Sanvezzo 60′); 9.Atiba Harris (17.Omar Salgado 79′), 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 29.Eric Hassli
Substitutes: 18.Brad Knighton, 16.Matt Watson, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 27.Jun Marques Davidson
Sporting Kansas City
1.Jimmy Nielsen; 7.Chance Myers, 78.Aurelien Collin, 5.Matt Besler, 16.Seth Sinovic; 6.Paulo Nagamura (13.Lawrence Olum 77′), 15.Roger Espinoza, 8.Graham Zusi; 23.Kei Kamara, 17.C.J. Sapong (9.Teal Bunbury 62′), 11.Bobby Convey (37.Jacob Peterson 52′)
Substitutes: 21.Jon Kempin, 2.Michael Harrington , 22.Soony Saad, 32.Luke Sassano