Sporting Kansas City entered Saturday with eight matches remaining on the MLS schedule, and four points up in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Time is running short for those wanting to make a move.
Sporting KC seemed quite aware of that fact, judging by its play in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
The home side dominated from the opening whistle, and finished with nearly 62 percent of the possession, a 21-11 edge in shots, and an 8-5 advantage in corner kicks.
“We came in with a very specific game plan, and you could tell by the lineup out there, we changed some things around, and they executed very, very well,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “I think the biggest thing was the energy level. It wasn’t like the other team was dealing with the heat or anything. For us to be fitter than they were, I think, in the game was big-time for us.”
Sporting KC’s effort was rewarded in the 39th minute with Jacob Peterson’s fourth goal of the season. Nuno Coelho volleyed Benny Feilhaber’s corner kick toward the net, and Peterson was able to find the handle and thump it into the net.
“I think it was important for us to get a goal in that first half. We had a lot of set pieces, a lot of maybe not great, clear-cut chances, but we were in and around their box,” Peterson said. “I think it was important, especially a team like that that likes to sit back and counter, I think it was really important to get that goal.”
Peterson was pivotal in setting up Sporting KC’s second goal of the evening, drawing a foul in the box in the 62nd minute.
Whitecaps goalie David Ousted stuffed Feilhaber’s ensuing penalty kick, but was ruled to have come off his line early.
Feilhaber took full advantage of his second chance to push the lead to 2-0.
“I think he moved forward, from what the guys said, but I don’t think he moved side-to-side too much,” Feilhaber said. “He made it tougher on me, and I kind of shanked the first one to be honest.”
Feilhaber’s only thought on the re-take was to hit it hard, and luckily for him, he did.
“He did guess right again, and I was able to put a little more steam on it,” Feilhaber said. “Thankfully it just dribbled in there.”
Sporting KC improved to 11-11-5, and is tied for fourth place with the LA Galaxy with 38 points. It also improved to 6-1-3 against Vancouver in MLS play.
“Every game at home, we feel very much a sense of responsibility to get three points. Because where we are in the table, we’ve played more games than other teams. We’ve got to make sure we get those points,” Feilhaber said. “Forty-six, 47 points put you in the playoffs, but having said that, we’ve finished in fifth or sixth the last two years. We want to make sure we get those home games. Getting to that third or forth spot would really help as well.”
Vancouver, 8-12-6, hasn’t scored a goal on the road since June 25, a span of five matches.
These two teams will meet again on Tuesday at 9 p.m. in Vancouver, in CONCACAF Champions League pool play.
▪ Kerry Zavagnin was inducted into the Sporting Legends hall of honor at halftime of Saturday’s match. Zavagnin played for the then-Wizards from 2000-08, and holds the club record for games (237) and minutes played (20,516). He also had 21 caps for the U.S. Men’s National team.
Zavagnin has been an assistant coach with Sporting KC since 2009.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 2
KANSAS CITY: Alec Kaan; Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Nuno Coelho (Soni Mustivar, 45th minute), Brad Davis, Roger Espinoza (Paulo Nagamura, 80th), Jimmy Medranda (Saad Abdul-Salaam, 70th), Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson.
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, David Edgar, Kendall Watson, Marcel de Jong, Andrew Jacobson (Russell Teibert, 77th), Pedro Morales, Christian Bolanos, Nicolas Mezquida (Alphonso Davies, 68th), Giles Barnes, Blas Perez (Cristian Techera, 68th).
Kansas City: Jacob Peterson, 39th minute (Coelho); Benny Feilhaber, 64th (PK).
Shots on goal
Kansas City: Kevin Ellis, 10th minute; Matt Besler, 16th; Dom Dwyer, 77th.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Kevin Stott.
Assistant referee: Eric Weisbrod.
Assistant referee: Logan Brown.
4th official: Nima Saghafi.
Announced attendance: 20,159.