Sporting Kansas City emphatically snapped a two-game losing skid Sunday by administering a 4-0 beatdown of Chivas USA.
Forward Claudio Bieler notched his first brace (two-goal game), midfielder Graham Zusi added a goal and an assist and forward C.J. Sapong ended a season-long scoring drought on a chilly afternoon with 18,811 in attendance at Sporting Park — Sporting KC’s 21st consecutive sellout, including the playoffs.
“The difference is every guy on the field worked from the opening minute to the final minute,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “The other piece is they all won their individual duels with or without the ball. When we do that here at home, we wind up dominating teams physically, technically, tactically and psychologically. Today, we broke that team.”
Playing the final 33 minutes with a man advantage, Sporting KC, 5-3-2, didn’t permit a shot on goal for the second time this season and eighth time in club history in moving back into a tie for first place atop the Eastern Conference.
Things went sideways early for Chivas, 3-4-2, which picked up the first of its four cards in the opening minute when defender Joaquin Velazquez took down Bieler a step outside the box.
However, it took until the 41st minute before the dam broke.
Making his first start since offseason shoulder surgery, Jacob Peterson’s hustle to get to loose ball forced Chivas USA right back Bobby Burling into a poor touch that Zusi pounced on before slotting it across the penalty area for Bieler.
Bieler then chopped the ball around oncoming goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who slid by and was helpless to stop the Sporting KC Designated Player from cracking a left-footed shot between Burling and Carols Borja for a 1-0 lead.
“I almost missed it,” said Bieler, who didn’t get much behind his shot, “but it’s a reflection of my teammates. A lot of movement off the ball created a lot of problems for their defense. That resulted in a lot of chances.”
It got worse — much worse in the second half — when Kennedy was shown the exit in the 54th minute after taking down Paulo Nagamura at the top of the box.
Zusi, who was anchored in the middle of Chivas’ half with his back to goal, played a direct ball for Nagamura off a quick turn.
With the defense soundly beaten, Kennedy again came well off his line and wound up clipping Nagamura’s right heel as dribbled by toward an empty net.
Referee Baldomero Toledo showed Kennedy a straight card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
Bieler, who now has an MLS-leading six goals in 10 games, made it 2-0 with a rocket into the left side on the ensuing penalty kick against Patrick McLain, who came in cold off the bench for Kennedy and guessed the wrong way.
Less than 10 minutes later, second-half sub Josh Gardner, who made his Sporting KC debut set up Zusi for his third goal of the season with a cross from the left flank in the 65th minute.
Finally, Sapong, who came on for Zusi in the 67th minute, ended a season-long scoring drought in the 87th minute off a cross from Mechack Jerome, who started at right back in place of Chance Myers.
“It felt (freaking) amazing,” Sapong said. “I’m sorry, but you asked me how it felt. It’s been a while obviously. It’s been rough and I’ve been tested, but that’s what makes it all the more beautiful when it goes in.”
The four goals are the most Sporting KC has scored since a 4-2 win against Toronto FC on July 23, 2011, and tied for the most in Sporting Park history.
Sporting KC also had two goals waived off — one in each half — for offside infractions.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recorded his MLS-best sixth shutout of the season and set a new club record with his 38th shutout for the Wizards/Sporting KC.