Sporting Kansas City signed midfielder Oriol Rosell from Barcelona FC’s youth system expecting that he would be an impact player.
But not even Sporting KC would have predicted that his impact would be quite so immediate.
Making his second MLS appearance, Rosell - whose jersey simply says “Uri” - delivered a 2-1 win against Toronto FC with his 87th-minute goal Saturday at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“He has great qualities as a player,” coach Peter Vermes said. “I told him jokingly that I thought we brought him in here to be a midfielder and not a center forward who scores goals. But he is very good at circulating the ball and reads the game very well.”
Right back Chance Myers collected a pass outside the box on the right flank and played it back to Rosell just inside the top of Toronto FC’s penalty box. Rosell, who Sporting KC signed Aug. 2 and played the final minute Aug. 11 against D.C. United, wasted no time cracking a shot through traffic that beat Toronto FC goalkeeper Freddy Hall at the far post for the game-winning goal.
“He does it all the time in practice, so I never had a doubt,” Myers said.
The goal came in Rosell’s 10th minute as an MLS player and allowed Sporting KC, 15-7-5, to claim its first win this season when trailing at halftime.
“It was a completely dominating first half, but we couldn’t score our chances and couldn’t hit the target enough,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “We had a little shocker in the end when they scored off nothing, so we were kind of (ticked) off when we came into the locker room. But we all agreed to start the second half fresh and keep doing what we were doing.”
Sporting KC, which hadn’t won 15 games since 2000, appeared headed for a loss before midfielder Paulo Nagamura, who had a secondary assist on Rosell’s goal, authored a cheeky equalizer in the 60th minute.
Fellow midfielder Graham Zusi set up the game-tying sequence with a restart ticketed for Toronto FC’s far post from just outside the penalty box on the left side.
Defender Jeremy Hall popped the cross into the air, but it landed at Nagamura’s feet and Toronto FC captain Darren O’Dea was slow to close down Nagamura.
Nagamura, who hadn’t scored a goal during the MLS regular season in nearly two years, didn’t get a perfect strike and instead pounded the ball into the turf, but he sent it rainbowing over Freddy Hall for the equalizer.
“He was in the right place and it was a good shot,” Vermes said. “It was on frame, and that’s what it takes sometimes. Not every goal is going to be upper-90, bent into the far post or whatever. But he finished well.”
Sporting KC fell behind in the 44th minute off a seemingly innocuous turnover that went to Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley, who floated a chip shot into Sporting KC’s box for midfielder Ryan Johnson.
Johnson had slipped behind Myers along the left flank and caught center back Lawrence Olum napping for an easy one-on-one put-away.
Johnson later banged a left-footed try from 20 yards out off the post in the opening minutes of the second half, while Freddy Hall temporarily preserved the draw in the 71st minute.
Outside of that, Sporting KC dominated, including a 24-6 edge in shots, claiming a win on forward Kei Kamara’s 28th birthday.
“I wish him a happy birthday and am very glad we could share a victory together on his birthday,” Rosell said via Abner Aceves, who served as postgame translator.
Zusi crushed a shot from the left edge of the box and twisted as it rose toward the upper right corner of the goal, but Toronto FC’s goalkeeper knocked it clear with a left-handed punch.
It was Nielsen’s turn in the 79th minute as he stonewalled forward Luis Silva on a drive from 15 yards, setting the stage for Rosell’s game-winner.
“It’s a huge difference between one point and three points tonight,” Nielsen said. “We can take the break now with a little peace of mind and get our heads away from soccer for a little.”