Sporting KC regains Supporters’ Shield lead with 2-1 win over Philadelphia

10/27/2013 7:14 PM

10/27/2013 7:14 PM

Your move, New York.

Sporting Kansas City has spoken. The club regained the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race Saturday with a dramatic 2-1 victory in its regular season finale against Philadelphia at PPL Park.

Sporting KC used an extra-time goal from Lawrence Olum — his first professional goal since 2010 — to counter Philadelphia’s game-tying goal four minutes earlier.

“At this stage, that’s definitely the biggest goal of my career,” Olum said.

His strike puts the pressure squarely on New York.

With the win, Sporting KC gained a two-point advantage over New York in the race for both the Supporters’ Shield and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference — meaning the Red Bulls must win their regular season finale Sunday against Chicago or concede both races to Sporting KC.

“That took unbelievable determination,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said of the game-winning goal. “It’s all about the opportunity. We talked about that before the game. You don’t want to leave these opportunities on the table. We wanted to put other teams in the position of dealing with pressure.”

Mission accomplished.

Sporting KC is searching for its first Supporters’ Shield since 2000, though the opportunity nearly disappeared in the waning moments Sunday.

Graham Zusi gave Sporting KC a 1-0 lead two minutes after halftime when he finished off a chance that started with an in-bounds pass from Matt Besler and subsequent header from Olum. Both players were credited with an assist.

After gaining the advantage, Sporting KC opted to rely on its defense to make the score stand — a defense that entered the day on a three-game shutout streak in MLS play.

It wouldn’t be four.

Needing a victory to keep its postseason hopes alive, Philadelphia substituted leading scorer Jack McInerney into the game after halftime. He responded.

After Sporting KC negated a rash of chances — including one requiring defender Seth Sinovic to clear a McInerney shot off the line — McInerney notched the equalizer in the 88th minute. The goal ended Sporting KC’s shutout streak in MLS play at 411 minutes.

“They still had to win the game — a tie did them no good — so we knew we could still create a chance to win the game,“ Olum said. “We had to hang in there, and we got a good breakaway.”

And they made it count.

Taking advantage of Philadelphia’s required aggressiveness, Sporting KC utilized the counter attack. Forward Jacob Peterson nearly regained the lead with strike from the edge of the box in the 91st minute, but keeper Zac MacMath was ready for the shot.

MacMath didn’t have a chance against Sporting KC’s next strike.

One minute later, Teal Bunbury found an opening in the goalie box, but he passed up a shot to set up a wide-open Olum, who didn’t miss on his point-blank look.

“He goes down in history if everything turns out well (Sunday),” Vermes said.

That, of course, rests on New York and Chicago.

If Chicago is able to earn a result — either a win or draw — Sporting KC would clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, including the MLS Cup, should it reach that stage.

It would also guarantee Sporting KC a spot in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League next season.

“I’ll definitely be watching,” Olum said. “I don’t know where yet, but I’ll definitely be watching.”

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