Sporting Kansas City knows what it’s like to dominate a match across every statistical category at home — except the one that really matters, the score line — and come away wondering how the heck a victory got away.
Sporting KC got an opportunity to find out how sweet it is to steal three points, despite having fewer scoring opportunities than its opponent, in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place.
The Whitecaps had very little to worry about from Sporting KC in the first half and early into the second. The visitors didn’t earn their first corner kick until the 52nd minute. Sporting KC didn’t score on that set piece, but it found the net moments later.
Krisztian Nemeth had time and space in the corner of Vancouver’s 18-yard box. His cross into the middle of the box was met by the head of Oak Park grad Kevin Ellis, who directed the ball into the left side netting for his second goal of the season.
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Goalkeeper Tim Melia preserved the victory with many fine saves, but none bigger than the one he had in the 90th minute. Melia lunged to his right and knocked away a header destined for the back of the net.
Melia might have faced more drama simply getting to the match. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said Melia lost his passport and had to fly to Seattle and then drive to meet the team in Vancouver.
It didn’t stop Melia from earning his sixth clean sheet in nine MLS starts and his seventh across all competitions.
“The great thing about it is since he’s gotten (the opportunity), he hasn’t let it go,” Vermes said.
Sporting KC was playing its first MLS match since June 27 and first match of any sort since July 1. That, along with a pair of rookies on the back line and a fired up Vancouver squad playing its first home match in a month made for an interesting first half.
Saad Abdul-Salaam and Amadou Dia started at fullback, holding their own. They, along with Ellis, didn’t figure to be in the starting lineup when the season began.
“They obviously have an ability to not only play, but play in big games. They’ve matured quickly, all of them,” Vermes said. “Saad was tremendous tonight in his first start for us… and Kevin Ellis, forget about the goal. Game in, game out, he’s getting more and more consistent.”
Sporting KC improved to 8-3-6 and is two points behind Western Conference leaders Seattle and Vancouver.