Sporting Kansas City coughed up points in its first two MLS matches of the young season by conceding goals in the waning moments.
San Jose stole a point in its MLS opener with a goal deep into stoppage time.
Fortunately for Sporting KC, recent history wasn’t repeated Saturday.
Forward Dom Dwyer converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute, and Sporting Kansas City made the goal stand in a 1-0 victory over the Earthquakes at Sporting Park.
It was Sporting KC’s eighth consecutive home victory over San Jose, and it was set up by a handball.
There was a scrum in an attempt to corral a bouncing ball, and San Jose’s Steven Lenhart reached across his body and slapped the ball away. The Earthquakes disagreed with the call, particularly defender Clarence Goodson, who was issued a yellow card for his strenuous objection.
Dwyer used the time to get a ball and get his mind right. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch dove to his left, but Dwyer calmly slotted his shot to the opposite side.
“Sometimes I have a think about it, but (Busch) was standing a little bit to that side where I went,” Dwyer said. “I figured he was a little bit of a small goalie, so he was going to take a step. I just waited for him to move the other way.”
There wasn’t much discussion as to who would take the shot.
“I think forwards should take penalties. They’re the goal-scorers. That’s what they should do. I felt confident and I wanted to do my job,” Dwyer said. “I’m never going to argue with a guy if he’s feeling it at the time. I managed to find a ball. Benny was like, ‘Do you want it?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s it.”
It was the first goal by a Sporting KC forward in 567 minutes, dating back to Dwyer’s goal against Houston in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals.
“It’s nice to get a goal. I don’t care, to be honest. As long as we keep scoring goals and keep winning, it’s no problem with me. I’ll do what I can to score and help out the team, but at the end of the day, we’ll take 1-nil every single day,” Dwyer said.
So will Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes. The club worked on preserving late leads, and it showed with Saturday’s result.
“That’s something we’ve been talking about because of our last two games in league play where we’ve given up goals late,” Vermes said. “We’ve got to be able to manage the game at the end and manage the result. The guys did a tremendous job. It’s good to see that hasn’t left us. In the past we’ve taken lessons and learned from them and this is a good example of that. It was an excellent win for the team tonight.”
Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronburg didn’t have to work hard for his first MLS victory since 2011.
Kronburg made the first save of the game in the opening minutes and never faced another shot on net.
“It feels really good. The team played fantastic in front of me defensively. I didn’t have much to do. Props to them,” Kronburg said. “We really held down the fort against a good team that gets numbers forward and bumps the ball. We held our own.”
Sporting KC, 1-1-1, was well aware of San Jose’s penchant for late-game heroics, and made a point not to relax its guard.
“I think a lot of it started with our positioning from the back line to the midfield to forward,” defender Ike Opara said. “Dom was doing a great job of putting their defenders under pressure so they didn’t have as much time as they would like. Finding a way to win that first ball with our midfielders and our outside backs to win the second ball, that was the key for us tonight.”
Sporting KC has scored two goals in three MLS matches, and four goals in five matches overall.
Vermes would like to see crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but he’s not concerned about the lack of multi-goal games.
“If you can’t create chances you’re never gonna score, it doesn’t matter how good your players are. We wind up creating them. It’s just a matter of us getting into that rhythm. I have all the confidence in the world,” Vermes said. “Shoot, Ike should’ve scored two goals tonight by himself. And he knows I’m right.”
Opara, seated next to Vermes, gave a sheepish grin and agreed.
Multiple goals would be nice, but Sporting KC didn’t need more than one Saturday.