Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong has rediscovered his scoring touch.
Better late than never.
Sapong notched the first multigoal game of his career Saturday, lifting Sporting KC to a sloppy 2-1 road victory against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Sporting KC side-stepped a heavy rain to match a season-best three-game winning streak, pulling the club even with New York atop the Eastern Conference standings.
"In the current situation we're in, this win is ginormous, "Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. "The conditions, the field, everything was not set up for a pretty game. It was set up for an absolute war."
Well, it wasn't pretty. Not in the least.
Except, of course, for the play of Sapong, who has three goals in the past two MLS matches after scoring just one over the first 28.
And a Sapong goal usually — well, always — spells good news for Sporting KC. The team improved to 16-0-2 when Sapong scores. Make it 1-0 when he nets two.
"It feels amazing to have a game like this, especially given the type of game it was," Sapong said. "We knew it wasn't going to a be a tactical game. It was a battle."
His teammates made the two goals Saturday relatively easy. With the soggy field playing unpredictably, Sporting KC elected to play the ball through the air instead. It twice proved effective with Sapong.
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 18th minute on a beautiful sequence through the air. Graham Zusi started the scoring play from 40 yards out, lofting a crossing pass that found Dom Dwyer. The ball never touched the ground again, as Dwyer cushioned a header to an unmarked Sapong, who buried another header past Toronto FC keeper Joseph Bendik. Zusi was credited with a secondary assist, his team-best seventh of the season.
"I thought we had numbers, so I did my best to get into the box," Sapong said. "I was wide open and Dom played a perfect ball back. I was there to simply finish."
Added Vermes, "That's definitely one of those goals you'll watch again and again."
Sapong collected his second goal of the afternoon — and fourth of the MLS season — on another header. He snuck through a Toronto FC defensive line that fell asleep on a crossing pass from Chance Myers and sent a diving header into the back of the net.
That served as the game-winning goal after Toronto midfielder Darel Russell capitalized earlier on a Sporting KC mistake to knot the score late in the first half. Russell took a pass from Alvaro Rey, who scooped up a careless pass from goalie Jimmy Nielsen to defender Aurelien Collin.
From there, Sporting KC limped into the halftime locker room, needing Jacob Peterson to clear a potential go-ahead goal off the line to preserve a halftime tie.
The club came out with a renewed energy in the second half and collected three much-needed points as a three-team battle for first place continues in the Eastern Conference.
"We took a playbook from the NFL — at the end of the day, it was all about field position (in the second half)," Vermes said. "We needed to get the ball into their end and make them play out of the back. That gave us good field position. The entire second half, we played in their end."
That made for a miserable second half for Toronto FC, which compounded the problem in the 82nd minute when Steven Caldwell was sent off for a red card after a dangerous tackle of Josh Gardner.
Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen didn't last much longer. He was ejected in extra time.