The Full 90

Sporting KC eliminated from playoffs (poll)

Houston withstands one Sporting KC attack after another, advances with 2-1 aggregate goal victory.

Updated: 2012-11-08T17:03:30Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

It’s one of those oddities of soccer.

Sporting Kansas City won Wednesday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Houston Dynamo at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Check that, Sporting KC dominated — outshooting the Dynamo 20-3, including 13 attempts from inside the penalty area to go with a 5-0 edge on corner kicks, a 31-1 edge on open-play crosses and 71.4 percent of possession.

Manager Peter Vermes referred to it as perhaps the club’s finest performance in his three-year tenure as coach, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a two-goal deficit from the first leg as Houston advanced 2-1 on aggregate.

For all that dominance, Sporting KC, which won the Eastern Conference regular-season championship for the second straight season, only managed one goal — Seth Sinovic’s picturesque diving header in the 64th minute, which re-energized the crowd of 20,894 — as the Dynamo ended another promising season short of the MLS Cup final.

“It’s unfortunate, but I’m proud of the players,” manager Peter Vermes said. “It was definitely not an easy game, but they kept their composure and I couldn’t ask them to do anything else. They did everything they could other than get the second goal.”

It was the unlikeliest of scorers who came through with the first as Sinovic found the back of the net for the first time in 75 career MLS appearances.

Forward Kei Kamara set the play in motion, making an weaving run through traffic inside the right edge of the box before laying off for midfielder Graham Zusi, who lofted a high chip across the face of goal where Sinovic buried his first career goal.

“Everything about that goal was great,” Sinovic said. “My part was the easy one. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get another one.”

With no time to celebrate, Sinovic ran into the goal, scooped up the ball and raced back to the center circle as Sporting KC tried to seize that momentum and catch the Dynamo reeling.

“As soon as they scored, I whispered to (goalkeepers coach) Tim Hanley, ‘I think we’re in trouble,’ ” Kinnear said. “And we were, but lucky for us we had a couple bounces go our way, but it was a long 26 minutes.”

Sporting KC’s best chance to knot the series came nine minutes later when Kamara rolled a perfectly weighted pass into C.J. Sapong’s path, but the second-year forward chipped the ball over the goal despite beating Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall to the ball.

“I saw Tally Hall coming out, and I just tried to flick it over him,” Sapong said. “I didn’t feel like I hit it too hard, but obviously I missed it.”

Flash forward another eight minutes, after a poor clearance of midfielder Oriol Rosell’s cross, center back Matt Besler drove a right-footed shot barely over the bar.

Midfielder Roger Espinoza drove a shot from distance in the 91st minute, but Hall had it covered easily.

Sporting KC lobbed a few more promising crosses into the box, but the Dynamo defense held even without center back Jermaine Taylor, who was injured in Sunday’s first leg.

During the first half, Sporting KC created a bounty of chances beginning with a hopeful drive by Kamara in the fourth minute from just outside the Dynamo penalty area.

Perhaps the best opportunity before halftime came four minutes later when Zusi dropped a free kick into the box at the back post, but Kamara’s header sailed well wide of the net.

Sapong, Zusi and Kamara all had terrific chances inside the box or just outside of it, including a drive in the 27th minute by Kamara that smacked Houston center back Bobby Boswell in the back of the leg.

“We created more than enough chances (to get a second goal), but sometimes that’s the way it goes,” Vermes said. “Tremendous all-around performance for 90-plus minutes.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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