Sporting Kansas City became the first visiting team in MLS history to win at BBVA Compass Stadium, snapping the Houston Dynamo’s 36-match home unbeaten streak Sunday with a 1-0 victory.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Exactly one year to the day after the $95 million stadium opened, Sporting KC, 6-4-2, posted its seventh shutout and rode a 73rd-minute goal by defender Aurelien Collin to the history-making win.
“We played the game tonight with a will and a fight,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “Those guys wouldn’t be denied tonight. It’s a great step forward for this group. Tonight was an absolute fight and the boys came prepared for it. I’m very proud of them from that perspective, because obviously this is a tough place to play.”
The Dynamo, 6-3-2, entered the match 17-0-7 at home in MLS games, including the playoffs, since BBVA Compass Stadium opened May 12, 2012. It also went unbeaten in their last 12 at Robertson Stadium.
“Being able to do what they did for as many as games as they did is incredible, it’s truly fantastic,” Vermes said. “My hat goes off to them and I truly applaud them.”
Of course, Vermes and company also relished ending that run, especially in light of Houston’s recent playoff success against Sporting KC.
The Dynamo ended Sporting KC’s season in the 2011 Eastern Conference final and the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals en route to back-to-back MLS Cup appearances.
“The streak aside and everything, that’s a big win for us,” left back Seth Sinovic said. “That’s a team that’s had our number the last year or two.”
The game’s only goal came in the 73rd minute when Sinovic launched a ball into the middle of the penalty box with a Matt Besler-esque long throw-in.
Collin found space amid a sea of orange-clad defenders and nodded a ball off his occipital bone past goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Caught flat-footed at the near post, Hall had no chance to stop Collin’s second goal of the season. Left back Corey Ashe valiantly tried to keep the ball out of the net with a diving head-first stab to no avail.
Asked if he knows anyone who scores more goals with the back of his head than Collin, Sinovic said, “I don’t think so, but it’s pretty impressive. When you’ve got the shaved head like that and you’re sweating, the ball slides off there and gets some momentum, I guess. But it was really a great finish, because he had guys draped all over him.”
Of course, the Dynamo didn’t simply wilt and instead ramped up the pressure in search of an equalizer, which almost came in the 80th minute.
Midfielder Brad Davis drove a corner kick from the left side to the back post for rookie forward Jason Johnson, who was making his MLS debut.
Johnson’s header had Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen beaten, but veteran midfielder Paulo Nagamura was in the right place at the right time to head the ball to safety.
“We work on corners a lot and we train for that situation, so it’s not something that was lucky,” Nagamura said. “It comes from training sessions, but obviously it’s a big-time play in a big-time win.”
Nielsen made a diving save on a header by Ricardo Clark two minutes later and also swallowed up a shot by Davis in the 88th minute to preserve the result as well as his MLS-best seventh shutout of the season.
“I can’t make one critical comment about our team tonight,” Vermes said. “The attention to detail, following the game plan and more importantly absolutely battling for every ball was fantastic.”
The most significant development before halftime was the yellow cards referee Chris Penso issued to Collin and midfielder Uri Rosell, the fifth of the season for both players who will be suspended for Sporting KC’s next match at D.C. United.
“We had a point to prove after the loss to Seattle and tonight I think we made a statement to the rest of the league that we’re a good team,” Nagamura said. “Getting a win in this stadium is a magnificent result.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.