On a night when the attention of Major League Soccer was focused on Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City delivered a statement 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
After 20 games, Sporting KC are atop the Eastern Conference with 35 points — two points ahead of last year’s MLS Cup pace. Over the last eight days, Sporting KC has earned nine points. That’s really good.
Playing off the energy in the stadium — 21,493 in attendance, the largest regular-season crowd in Sporting Park history — Kansas City controlled tempo and frustrated the talented Galaxy attackers for most of the match.
There was also the pretty big announcement before the match that Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are going to stick around Kansas City for a while.
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Up next, KC travels to Toronto next Saturday. For now, here are three thoughts and a gif from the win over LA.
1. Dom Dwyer finally getting some help
Since I wrote about the lack of help the English forward has received this year from his teammates, Sporting KC has scored four goals — none of them by Dwyer.
Benny Feilhaber scored his second brilliant goal of the week with a free-kick just 10 minutes into the game.
For the season, Dwyer has 14 goals and the rest of his teammates have 15.
2. Kansas City controlled the tempo and kept the game relatively open
From the outset, Kansas City took the game to a sluggish-looking Galaxy and outplayed them for most of the first half. KC were deservedly ahead after Feilhaber’s incredible free kick in the 10th minute.
Using an aggressive press, Kansas City’s forwards were able to put the Galaxy under pressure when trying to build from the back and forced Los Angeles to play on KC’s terms. The pressure most noticeably prevented the Galaxy from releasing Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan into dangerous counter-attack chances.
The Galaxy finally warmed to the challenge in the second half. Even though they controlled possession and were chasing the game, Los Angeles never quite seemed completely comfortable with the pace.
Sporting remained aggressive committing numbers to win back the ball and charging into attack even when up two goals.
It was a dangerous game for Kansas City to play — the Galaxy had a few good chances — but the defenders hung on and kept LA to just two shots on target.
3. Should Andy Gruenebaum have been sent off?
There were many voices calling for a red card after a particularly nasty challenge between Sporting KC’s goalkeeper and Robbie Keane. Should Gruenebaum have been shown a red?
No. With the benefit of a replay, that’s not a red card. Gruenebaum didn’t deny an obvious goalscoring chance because Keane had kicked the ball away before the challenge came in. It’s a foul — which wasn’t called by referee Allen Chapman — and it’s not in the penalty box.
It should’ve simply been a Galaxy free kick from near the same exact spot where Feilhaber scored in the first half.
Man of the Match: Graham Zusi
Perhaps it was the rush of signing a designated player contract, but Zusi was particularly lively for Kansas City. He had six key passes and was a general terror when attacking LA’s back line.
GIF of the Night
This was a no-brainer. Feihaber gives MLS its newest meme with the score and shrug.