Dom Dwyer walked onto the Sporting Park field Saturday evening fastened in the longest scoring slump of his breakout season. The man with the most talked-about goal celebration in Major League Soccer this year hadn’t cherished one in five weeks.
His teammates joked the drought put Dwyer in a bad mood during practice — and he admitted his own frustrations with it after initially trying to shrug it off.
Better days are ahead.
Dwyer converted a pair of first-half penalty kicks in leading Sporting Kansas City’s 4-1 rout against visiting Toronto FC. Soony Saad and C.J. Sapong tacked on second-half goals to help the club extend its lead in the Eastern Conference to five points over second-place D.C. United.
“I was going to try and lie, but obviously it was (getting to me),” Dwyer said of the slump. “I was definitely frustrated. And it’s tough when you lose games. That’s when the frustration comes out.
“But this week I had a bit of time to refocus and get things together. Hopefully we’re back to the start of more good things.”
The onslaught of goals made a winner out of goalkeeper Jon Kempin in his first career MLS start, which came in front of 20,730 of his hometown fans. Kempin, a 21-year-old graduate of Blue Valley North, made two saves for his first career victory.
He had to work for it.
Toronto’s Gilberto Oliveira Souza executed a nifty flick to beat Kempin in extra time of the first half and cut Toronto’s deficit to 2-1, but Kempin would earn payback. With his club still clinging to the one-goal advantage, Kempin stoned Gilberto in a one-on-one chance only 6 minutes into the second half.
“That save kept us in the game,” manager Peter Vermes said. “If he doesn’t make it, it goes 2-2, and that really changes the momentum of the game.”
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber saw it coming. He pulled Kempin aside during halftime and offered a prediction.
“I came in at halftime, and Benny tells me, ‘You’re going to have to make one big save,’ “ Kempin said. “As (Gilberto) was coming down, that’s all I was thinking. Here’s my one big save. I was fortunate enough to make it.”
Toronto FC missed its chance.
Dwyer didn't miss his.
In notching his 15th and 16th goals of the season, he moved into second place on the franchise’s all-time single-season scoring list. Preki scored 18 goals in 1996.
Dwyer converted two penalty kicks — he’ss six for six from the dot this season — to secure his first goals since July 12 in Montreal. He has 10 goals against Canadian teams this season.
Saad had to work a bit more for his strike. He used only one touch to collect a ricochet off a corner kick, then turned and squeezed a 20-yard laser into a small crevasse in the left side of the goal. Saad also assisted on Sapong’s goal in the 77th minute.
That punctuated a bounce-back performance for Sporting KC, which only six days earlier was easily handled by Vancouver in a 2-0 loss — a defeat that Vermes later called embarrassing.
Feilhaber said the team’s performance in the match prompted a team meeting earlier this week. While he didn’t offer details of what exactly was said — or who said it — Feilhaber implied the overlying theme was the effort needed to improve.
It did Saturday.
“We put in a very convincing performance all-around, and the scoreline reflects that,” Saad said. “There were a lot of good things in this game, especially coming after the loss to Vancouver. We’v already established that were the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, and that’s why we’re on top.”