Soccer matches don’t get much wilder than Sporting Kansas City’s 3-2 victory Saturday against the Columbus Crew at Sporting Park.
Forward Kei Kamara doubled his season total with goals in the 34th and 80th minutes, while designated player Claudio Bieler added his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
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“When we move off the ball like we did tonight, it’s very difficult for teams to defend us,” Vermes said.
That’s especially true when Kamara is active off the ball as he was in fueling Sporting KC’s first home victory in MLS play since May 5 before a crowd of 20,128 — the 25th straight sellout.
“I tell him all the time, when he runs off the ball, I don’t think there’s a player in the league that’s as dangerous or a player that can stop him,” Vermes said. “How are you going to stop a 6-3 guy coming at you who can absolutely fly down the field.”
Kamara’s second tally delivered a late victory and obscured the fact, at least momentarily, that Sporting Park isn’t the unbreachable fortress it once was.
For the second time this season, Sporting KC, 7-5-5, took the lead twice in the same game, but failed to hold either lead.
But unlike April 27, when the Portland Timbers FC claimed a stunning 3-2 victory after going down a goal twice, Sporting KC had the last laugh this time.
“It’s a very big win for us,” defender Matt Besler said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how we won, because we have another game on Wednesday. But I can’t really explain how important it is. It’s almost gets us back on track I feel like.”
Sporting KC grabbed its first lead in the 34th minute when Aurelien Collin stepped up to pick off a misplayed ball from Jairo Arrieta and quickly tapped the ball forward to forward Soony Saad.
From a few strides into Crew territory, Saad lofted a diagonal cross 40 yards from right to left, where Kamara settled the skipping ball with a superb first touch and blasted Sporting KC into the lead.
Crew centerback Chad Marshall was unable to recover to challenge Kamara’s shot, while goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum couldn’t get off his line quickly enough to cut down the angle before the Sierra Leone international’s strike blistered the right side-netting.
“I was just happy that Gruenebaum didn’t get a touch on it, because he’s a really good goalkeeper. Anything that comes to him, he gets it,” Kamara said.
Then came the first eight minutes of the second half.
Arrieta knotted the game at 1-1 in the 48th minute after sliding a shot under goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after a 65-yard run from the Crew’s half of the field into Sporting KC’s box.
Two minutes later, Sporting KC retook the lead on Bieler’s team-leading eighth goal of the season, which came courtesy of a Chance Myers cross (and after a slight deflection by Crew left back Tyson Wahl).
That lead didn’t last either.
Three minutes after going back in front, Sporting KC allowed Columbus to knot the game again on an awful back pass from Seth Sinovic, who was tracking back on a ball and gently touched it back toward Nielsen.
Trouble was, speedy Crew forward Dominic Oduro was in hot pursuit and beat Nielsen to the ball, tapping it around Sporting KC’s befuddled goalkeeper and into an empty net.
“The two goals we gave up were just absolutely horrendous,” Vermes said. “It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good at all. It was terrible actually.”
The match remained 2-2 until Kamara’s goal in the 80th minute off a feed from Bieler.
Kamara gathered in the pass and calmly drew Gruenebaum off his line before dribbling right and rifling the game-winner inside the near post.
“It puts us in a position to start riding the wave a little bit, and that’s what we’ve got to do starting again on Wednesday night,” Vermes said.