Much of Sporting Kansas City’s 2015 season has been defined by missed opportunities.
Sunday’s match against the Philadelphia Union at Sporting Park was shaping up as another one that got away, right up until Sporting KC scored twice in stoppage time to seize a dramatic, if not somewhat miraculous, 3-2 victory.
A pair of Sporting KC newcomers made themselves known to the 19,545 in attendance by scoring the go-ahead and game-winning goals.
Jalil Anibaba flicked home a cross from Roger Espinoza in the 91st minute to tie the match at 2-2.
“It was just about doing anything and everything I can to get the team three points. My emotions got the better of me (after the goal),” Anibaba said. “I kind of lost sight of the fact that we were still tied 2-2. The guys pulled me out of the corner and got me re-focused.”
Sporting KC struck again, decisively, in the 94th minute. Krisztian Nemeth positioned himself in front of the net on a corner kick, and was able to score when Matt Besler flicked the ball to him.
Nemeth out-fought Raymond Lee for the ball. Lee, a rookie and a Park Hill graduate and Sporting KC Academy product, made his MLS debut in the 78th minute.
“I tried to go before the defender, and I touched it a little bit,” Nemeth said. “It was crazy. This is a good direction for the team, and I hope in the future we can keep it like this.”
Philadelphia, 0-3-2, did its best to kill the clock to secure its first victory of the season.
“I actually think there should’ve been more than six minutes of injury time,” coach Peter Vermes said. “There was no doubt in my mind those guys were milking everything that they could all the way until the end, but at the end I think we deserved the three points in this game.”
Sporting KC, 2-1-2, thought it had the equalizer in the 59th minute, when Dom Dwyer headed home what would have been his second goal of the night and season. The goal was disallowed when Dwyer was whistled for a foul.
“It was a goal. Everybody knows. That’s how they do it sometimes, but I’m happy about the result, so I don’t mind,” Dwyer said.
Sporting KC has found itself on the wrong side of a couple of controversial calls this season.
“I have no idea how you can take that goal back, but I love the perseverance and determination of this team,” Vermes said. “I think you could sense in the stadium that we were going to come back, and that’s a great thing.”
Philadelphia nearly stopped the comeback before it started. A Union counter-attack in the 87th minute was wasted when one shot banged off the post and another sailed over a wide-open goal.
Ultimately, Nemeth’s first goal for Sporting KC was a game-winning milestone. It marked the club’s 1,000th goal scored in all competitions.
Sporting KC was able to capitalize on the momentum of last week’s victory over NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. And it shouldn’t be lacking for confidence when Real Salt Lake comes calling on Saturday.
“You can’t say enough about the way we didn’t give up. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve been a part of in a long time,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “We weren’t our best in certain parts of the game, but we managed to win the game. That’s all that matters.”
Philadelphia entered Sunday not having scored in more than two matches. The Union ended that streak early, with plenty of help from Sporting KC.
Goalkeeper Luis Marin attempted to punch away a Philadelphia corner kick in the third minute. He missed, and the ball deflected off of Sporting KC forward Jacob Peterson and into the net for an own goal and a 1-0 Philadelphia lead.
Union goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi returned the favor in the 16th minute. Benny Feilhaber’s corner kick sailed over his M’bolhi’s outstretched hand and into the path of Dwyer, who knocked home his first goal of the season. It was a long time coming for Dwyer, who set a Sporting KC record with 22 goals in MLS play last season.
Philadelphia took the lead in the 19th minute with a set piece that stood on its own merits. The Union was awarded a free kick near the right sideline when Sporting KC defender Marcel de Jong was issued a yellow card.
Sebastian Le Toux whipped in a curling free kick, which Fernando Aristeguieta headed past Marin’s outstretched hand and into the upper right corner of the net.
The box score is here.