Benny Feilhaber: 'Gotta shoot to score, right?'
The ball departed his right foot, and Benny Feilhaber faded away, like a three-point shooter admiring his shot. Or perhaps he just wanted a better view.
Whatever the case, as the ball splashed into the net 25 yards in the distance, he turned toward an anxious crowd and held his fist in the air. The blue confetti dropped onto the Children’s Mercy Park field.
Yes, the wait is over.
For a goal. For a victory. All of it.
After a pair of scoreless draws to open the season, Sporting KC defeated San Jose 2-1 on Saturday in a victory that felt every bit as much sigh of relief as celebration.
“I felt like we needed to win,” Feilhaber said. “(But) we all felt comfortable the goals were going to come.”
They came in stark contrast on Saturday. Sporting KC (1-0-2) used a highlight goal from Feilhaber and a gift from San Jose keeper David Bingham to preserve its unbeaten record.
After Sporting KC took a 2-0 lead into extra time, San Jose defender Florian Jungwirth halved the margin in the 92nd minute. And Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia prevented a potential disaster with a diving save in the final minute.
“I thought we lost concentration,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I can tell you I’m not happy about that piece.”
Sporting KC received some help to push the advantage to 2-0 only minutes earlier. Bingham misplayed a shot from Soony Saad, allowing a long-distance, slow-rolling ball to crawl through his legs. His foot directed it into the back of the net.
“The power of his shot was too much for the goalie,” Sporting forward Dom Dwyer deadpanned.
The first Sporting KC goal of 2017 was a little more impressive. In fact, if the scoreless streak was going to end Saturday, Feilhaber couldn’t have picked a better way to do it. His 25-yard kick froze Bingham.
After 218 minutes, Sporting KC had its first moment of celebration for a new-look offense.
It could’ve arrived earlier, really. Jungwirth tripped Dwyer on the edge of the penalty box just 74 seconds into the match, but referee Jair Marrufo kept his whistle silent. The consensus inside the Sporting KC locker room was that Dwyer should’ve received a penalty kick, and that the call was not a difficult one.
Familiar? A year ago, Marrufo found himself in the middle of a postgame conversation when he failed to award Dwyer a penalty kick, a heavily-critiqued decision that also came against San Jose. The match Saturday was his first Sporting KC match since that incident.
Marrufo later gave Dwyer a yellow card for simulation in trying to draw another penalty kick. The replays were less persuasive.
“No comment.” Vermes offered on Marrufo’s evening.
In the end, it didn’t matter — the club broke its drought only 36 minutes later, after a handful of chances that probably could’ve ended it earlier.
Sporting KC insisted a lack of panic existed inside its locker room after being shut out twice, and Vermes’ absence of concern was transparent an hour before the match started. He trotted out an identical starting lineup to the previous two matches — using a front line of Dwyer, Gerso Fernandes and Jimmy Medranda. Saad replaced Medranda in the 78th minute for his 2017 debut.
“We know what we’re doing. We are completely resolute to how we want to play and how we’re going to build over the course of the season,” Vermes said. “That’s the most important thing.”
San Jose head coach Dom Kinnear missed the match because of an undisclosed illness. He traveled to Kansas City with the team but did not make the trip to Children’s Mercy Park.