On a youth soccer field in the outskirts of Kansas City, a World Cup veteran watched a group of 9-year-olds conduct a few practice drills. In his first week in a new city, Brad Davis waited until the end of the session, then approached the team, which was coached by his older brother.
A conversation turned into a minor interrogation, of sorts.
After Sporting Kansas City had acquired Davis from rival Houston earlier in the month, parents were concerned about finding a way to root for a player they had spent the last several seasons loving to hate.
“I hope they don’t boo me,” Davis joked.
That worry evaporated Sunday.
Davis cemented his new status in Kansas City with a 70th-minute goal to lift Sporting KC to a 1-0 victory against visiting Toronto FC.
A crowd of 19,867 fans at Children’s Mercy Park didn’t boo.
It chanted his name.
“Usually there’s a couple of curse words before it,” Davis said.
The goal kept Sporting KC, 3-0-0, perfect through three matches, claiming the spot atop the Western Conference standings. It played the final 10 minutes without midfielder Roger Espinoza, who was sent to the locker room in the 84th minute after a challenge on Marco Delgado. That will come with a mandatory one-game suspension.
Far from enough to spoil a day reserved for Davis.
Davis — a former Children’s Mercy Park nemesis — subbed into the match at halftime. His goal arrived in the 70th minute, after he knocked Justin Morrow off the ball, dribbled into the box and slid a shot to the far post.
Toronto FC players raised their arm for a foul, and coach Greg Vanney called the play, “sketchy at best.” Unsurprisingly, Davis called the move a clean play.
He celebrated with two arms in the air as he shouted toward the Children’s Mercy Park stands.
“I give a lot of credit to our fans,” captain Matt Besler said, “because he’s made it tough on us for a lot of years.”
In a match in which the offensive chances were sparse for both teams, the Sporting KC back line made the goal hold up for a victory. Again. Sporting KC has not allowed a goal during the run of play in three matches — using a back line of Chance Myers, Andre Nuno Coelho, Matt Besler and Amadou Dia.
Forward Sebastian Giovinco, the reigning MLS most valuable player, gave Toronto FC its best opportunity in the 62nd minute with a clever flick to a streaking Tsubasa Endoh. Endoh found himself one-on-one with Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia, who redirected the shot off the crossbar to preserve his second shutout in three matches. He has allowed only one penally kick goal this season.
“I think there’s a lot of attention to detail,” Besler said. “I think our organization defensively has been excellent — when the (other) team has the ball, and then when we have the ball as well.”
Toronto FC had only four shots on goal.
Sporting KC managed only three.
It had the one that counted.
“I said (before the year) that (Davis) is probably going to get us seven points on his own,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He wound up getting a winner tonight, so that’s three.
“He’s got four more to get us over the course of the season.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 1
TORONTO FC 0
TORONTO: Clint Irwin, Justin Morrow, Josh Williams (Jay Chapman, 86th), Steven Beitashour, Damien Perquis, Tsubasa Endoh (Molham Babouli, 77th), Marco Delgado, Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou (Jozy Altidore, 77th), Will Johnson, Sebastian Giovinco.
KANSAS CITY: Clint Irwin, Justin Morrow, Josh Williams (Jay Chapman, 86th), Steven Beitashour, Damien Perquis, Tsubasa Endoh (Molham Babouli, 77th), Marco Delgado, Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou (Jozy Altidore, 77th), Will Johnson, Sebastian Giovinco.
Toronto: None. Kansas City: 1, Davis 1 (Dwyer), 70th minute.
Shots on goal
Toronto: Cheyrou (unsporting behavior), 60th; Morrow (dissent), 71st.
Kansas City: Melia (time wasting), 87th.
Kansas City: Espinoza (serious foul), 84th.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo.
Assistant Referees: Eduardo Mariscal.
Assistant Referees: Jason White
4th Official: Fotis Bazakos.