Playing the first of six consecutive games against Western Conference teams, Sporting Kansas City tapped into the late-game goal-scoring magic it manufactured a year ago in pulling out a 2-1 win Sunday against FC Dallas at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Kei Kamara, whose 51st-minute penalty kick was saved by former Wizards goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, slipped in the game-winning goal in the 88th minute and kept Sporting KC perfect on the young season.
Right back Chance Myers won a foot race with FC Dallas defender Hernan Pertuz for a pass up the right sideline from midfielder Graham Zusi, and Myers tapped it into the box with a sliding stab.
Kamara collected the pass and calmly rolled the ball past Hartman, who had come off his line in a futile attempt to close down Kamara.
“I knew if he hit it that it wasn’t going to go far, so that was in my mind,” Kamara said. “The whole thing was like a movie. I can’t believe it actually happened, but it felt great. It felt so great that I couldn’t even celebrate it. All I could do was stand there and let my guys tackle me.”
Sporting KC secured the second 3-0 start in its history, matching the 2006 team.
“The first half, we didn’t play very well,” coach Peter Vermes said. “We let (FC Dallas) dictate the tempo, but we had halftime to make some adjustments and the second half we were a much different team. The guys had good resiliency and believed they were going to get back into the game. I’m happy with the way we fought back to get the result today.”
Ricardo Villar ended Sporting KC’s shutout streak starting the season in the 25th minute when he bent a free kick from a half-yard outside the penalty box over the Sporting KC wall for the go-ahead goal.
FC Dallas forward Blas Perez drew a foul as he tried to split Myers and fellow defender Aurelien Collin on a direct run and Villar took advantage of a disorganized Sporting KC defense, but the tide turned 11 minutes later as Villar was attended to after a reckless foul by Myers.
Sporting KC captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen huddled up his teammates and delivered an animated message.
“This is not us, and this is not how we want to play,” Nielsen told his teammates. “We have 10 minutes left in this half, and we’ve got to change it, because that was not good enough. That was absolutely not good enough.”
Things changed for the better by intermission, to the delight of the 15,161 in attendance.
During first-half stoppage time, Zusi bent a free kick from 35 yards out toward the right post, where Collin beat Hartman with a no-look flick with the back of his head.
“It was a great header by Collin to put us back in it, because we weren’t really in that game,” Kamara said. “They controlled the whole first half, so to get three points feels great right now.”
The game-tying sequence was set up by midfielder Roger Espinoza’s hustle. He cut in front of an FC Dallas player to intercept a pass and was shoved to the ground from behind by Daniel Hernandez, who was booked for dissent after the foul.
Sporting KC whiffed on a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 50th minute when sloppy clearance by FC Dallas defender George John led to penalty kick after Ugo Ihemelu took down Myers in the box, but Hartman denied Kamara with a diving stab to his right.
It was the club’s first missed penalty kick since July 29, 2007, against Chivas USA — a Carlos Marinelli attempt that went awry.
Kamara narrowly missed heading home the ensuing corner kick from Zusi as well, leaving the match still knotted at 1-1.
“It was one of those days where I kept punching myself in the head, but I also kept telling myself, ‘Keep going; it’s gonna come,’ ” Kamara said. “It bites for a second when it doesn’t come, but you just have to forget it quickly and move on.”