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Sporting tops Columbus 2-0, claims first in East

By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star

Sporting Kansas City moved back into sole possession of the first place in the Eastern Conference with its fifth road victory of the season Saturday, 2-0 over Columbus at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Jacob Peterson continued his torrid play of late with a sixth-minute goal, while Teal Bunbury notched his first MLS goal in nearly two months and iced the match off a beautiful feed from Kei Kamara in the 82nd minute.

Peterson, who scored four goals as a rookie with the Colorado Rapids, had managed only five more goals in his next 118 league games. But Peterson, whose minutes have increased in Bobby Convey’s absence, recorded his third goal in the last six games.

“Oh my gosh, he’s one fire,” Bunbury said by phone after the match. “Offensively and defensively, he works as hard as anyone. Now, he’s getting his chance and he’s done a great job getting in behind and finishing balls. He’s had a great season.”

Peterson Joseph, who started in place of All-Star midfielder Graham Zusi, earned the assist when he beat three defenders with a superb through ball. Peterson, who sprained his ankle in the 13th minute and was subbed off before halftime, did the rest, beating Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, an Overland Park native, with a sliding right-footed roller to the far post.

That allowed Sporting KC, 11-5-3, to settle in and focus on protecting that early lead, which it did in posting the season’s eighth regular-season shutout and 11th across all competitions.

“It wasn’t up to us to drive the game here at their place,” manager Peter Vermes said by phone. “We wanted them to come at us a little bit and open some space in behind. Once we got that early goal, I thought we defended well the rest of the half.”

Sporting KC improved to 5-3-2 on the road this season — the second-most road MLS victories behind only San Jose, which is 6-3-2 away from home. Sporting KC leads the Eastern Conference with 11 wins and 36 points.

“It’s huge for us to be in first place right now,” Bunbury said. “We go into every game with the mentality that we want to win. That’s not always easy on the road, but to be able to be in first place in the East right now is a great feeling. It maybe wasn’t the prettiest win maybe, but we’ll take it.”

Bunbury, who entered the game in the 51st minute for Soony Saad, was the beneficiary of Kamara’s takeaway and breakaway at midfield.

“It was an excellent ball by Kei and an excellent first touch by Teal,” Vermes said. “The separation, I say it all the time, if you give (Bunbury) a shred of daylight, he is going to make you pay and he did right there.”

Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen had four saves.

Nielsen came off his line in the 29th minute and forced Justin Meram into a panic shot right into Nielsen’s chest. Nielsen dodged a bullet in the 48th minute when Meram’s header banged off the crossbar and later smothered the Crew’s only other serious threat — an Emilio Renteria try in the 75th minute, which Nielsen dealt with using a feet-first slide.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com

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