Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 4 which features a save in overtime in the MLS Cup Playoffs..
After a 2-1 score through 90 minutes in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs New England, overtime would be required for Sporting Kansas City to advance in the playoffs. In the 109th minute, the Revolution's Juan Agudelo had a great opportunity in front of goal but goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was up to the task. The White Puma quickly came off his line and made the key save to keep it tied at 3-3 on aggregate. Four minutes later, Claudio Bieler would score a 113th minute goal that sent the club into the Eastern Conference Championship.
Here's No. 4 in our countdown, Nielsen's clutch save at Sporting Park on November 6.
To get everyone prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup, I'll be taking an in-depth look at Real Salt Lake with some help from broadcaster Brian Dunseth. In our first part of Scouting RSL, we look at the club's forwards.
Alvaro Saborio (12 goals, 2 assists) - One of the league's best strikers who has scored 12 goals in 16 matches this season. He has struggled with injuries in the postseason but is expected to be available for MLS Cup.
Robbie Findley (6 goals, 2 assists) - A forward with great speed who scored in RSL's only MLS Cup title (2009).
Devon Sandoval (3 goals) - A second round draft pick (29th overall) who has impressed during the postseason while filling in for the injured Saborio.
"I think the difference this year (compared to the last few years) is that if Fabian Espindola or Alvaro Saborio weren't scoring then Real Salt Lake wasn't necessarily scoring. I think this year having five different strikers (Saborio, Findley, Sandoval, Plata, Garcia) that can play in a variety of positions as well as affording to Jason Kreis different physical skills and talents. Sabo's the big post-up point striker. Sandoval can mimic what Sabo does but doesn't play the same way. Olmes Garcia has just strength and athleticism along with speed to burn. Jaoa Plata's small and diminuitive but yet at the same time can go up against any defender in the league and skin'em. And then Robbie Findley, who's a very very solid player pretty much all the way around. A lot of different options. A lot of different looks and in particular this year I think all five players afforded Jason Kreis the opportunity to get away from the diamond formation and play in a 4-4-3 or play in a 4-5-1 and allow Jason to change the look and complexion of the team depending on who they went up against."
- Real Salt Lake scored 57 goals in the regular season, second only to New York
- 51 of those 57 goals were scored inside the 18 yard box
- Real Salt Lake scored 26 goals in away matches, the most of any team this season
- Seven of Real Salt Lake's seven postseason goals have been scored on headers
- Real Salt Lake has not scored a goal outside the 18 yard box this postseason
- Real Salt Lake has hit the woodwork (post) two times this postseason
MLS Cup week kicked off on Monday as Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes and forward Dom Dwyer participated in Major League Soccer's media conference call to preview the match. The duo touched on a wide variety of topics as they responded to questions from the likes of Michael Lewis (Newsday), Kyle McCarthy (FOX Soccer), Arch Bell (Marca), Adam Jardy (Columbus Dispatch), Liviu Bard (Soccer Wire) and Steve Brisendine (MLSSoccer.com). Check out the transcript below...
Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match-up with Real Salt Lake…
They're a very good team. We have the utmost respect for them. They're good in all three phases of the game. They're very good with the ball, they have a lot of movement off the ball when they have it. When they don't have it, they are very competitive. Their guys are committed to winning the ball back quickly. And finally, they're a team that is very dangerous on set pieces and have a strong commitment to making sure they don't give up goals on those, as well. Just a very good team, always prepared and ready to play. It will be a huge challenge for us this weekend.
On overcoming the loss of Kei Kamara…
We spent most of the year, based on the fact that he went out on loan early on, with Kei not being here. Obviously the sale was a permanent thing. It was probably more closure for everyone. I would say for him, to figure out where he was going to land; whether he was going to stay here or go abroad. And then for us, to know whether he was going to stay here or go abroad. It was important for the team to know as well. Since that transpired, I think many different guys have filled in and done a very good job over the course of the season. Obviously, Kei brought a set of qualities to our team, just as the other guys that have played in that position whether it's C.J. Sapong or Soony Saad or Jacob Peterson. They all bring something different. Over the course of the season, they've all had an impact one way or another and have definitely helped us accomplish results in many different matches. We've lost quite a few guys from a year ago, realistically, in Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar and also Kei. But there's a strong belief from our staff in that we have a group of guys that are very committed to the philosophy of our team. When there's one man's absence is another man's opportunity. A lot of guys have stepped up this year. We've had a lot of rotation of our roster with the multiple competitions we've been in. Most guys have had a real positive contribution to the team.
On how his time in Spain influenced him as a head coach…
A tremendous amount. Actually, last year at this time, I was in Spain looking at some players and doing some education, if you will, for myself. I met up with my old coach. He was a major influence on me. He had an incredible attention to detail in all phases, whether it was edification of players, the breaking down of the opponent to the preparation of your team. He was very, very good. The biggest thing I take away from it is the passion for the game was second to none. It was a great experience for me there and it's definitely had an influence on me as a coach.
On juggling roles as technical director and head coach…
For me, when I first became the interim head coach and I was still doing the technical director responsibilities, I have to say that it was a very difficult time for me. Trying to figure out how to manage both and how to prioritize the important aspects of each of the positions was very difficult for me in the beginning. I would say that as I got half way through the next season is when I started to really get a foothold on being able to deal with both positions. That was really only accomplished because I have such a great staff here. The other coaches on my staff, Kerry Zavagnin and Zoran Savic, were instrumental and they have been ever since for me being able to delegate responsibilities to them that ultimately help us in all aspects of the team whether it's preparing for the next game or whether that's looking at the next player that may become a Sporting player in the future. Obviously, it's much easier today because I've got a pretty good handle on it and we have a great staff. In the beginning it was a monumental task, for sure. My philosophy in that respect has always been to hire people that are better and smarter than myself. I think you have to surround yourself with the best people you can. When you do that, you just have better minds in the room. You make better decisions ultimately at the end. That's always been my philosophy and it's something I would always stick with for sure.
On the club's transition with re-brand and new stadium...
It's obviously been a tremendous experience to live through, for sure. You've seen a club go from 19th on the list in most categories and I don't mean just on the field type things but I mean off the field, as well, whether it's merchandise or what have you. We've made a significant turnaround in all aspects of the club. So from that point of view, it's been a great experience no doubt. So much of it has to do with the ownership group and their vision and commitment, and not just commitment from a financial aspect but it's also their influence and their participation within the community of Kansas City. That's been a major impact into our team. The one thing I take away from this is that there are soccer fans in every city. It's really about finding out how, number one, to tap into them. Number two is providing them with a product on the field that they themselves, one, can be proud of. A couple years ago our stadium won stadium of the year in the world. That's great and there's a lot of people that want to come to our stadium to see a game there. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to come back. I think what keeps bringing them back is when they see the players on the field and the way they play. Their commitment to the team, to the game and trying to entertain. I think, because of that, it's really changed our place in the sports community here in Kansas City which obviously has been massive.
On where MLS Cup 2013 ranks in Kansas City's soccer history…
The significant thing I think about this game is that it's the first time MLS Cup will be held here in Kansas City. I think that gives it some more importance, even then the prior championship in 2000 just because it was at a neutral site away from home. I think that brings a little more significance to it.
Forward Dom Dwyer
On his 2013 season…
It's been a crazy season. Very up and down but definitely on the up right now. It's going good. I enjoyed my time down in Orlando. I learned a lot and got some consistent playing time. Now being back in Kansas, obviously it's been going well. I've been getting lots of opportunities and I've been taking them okay. Obviously scored the winner last game, but more importantly I helped the team win. I haven't been pushing myself to have to score. It's been more as long as we win, then the goals will come. It's been going good.
On his confidence gained…
I've always been a very confident player. The biggest thing going down to Orlando was just to get me regular playing time. I had to go down there and do well consistently. That was one of the main things, just kind of getting used to playing week in and week out, and getting back into the flow of things. It worked out perfectly and it benefited both sides.
On his time at Tyler Junior College…
It was a fun experience.Obviously it was very different being from England and then coming to Texas. There was a company called Soccer Icon in England. I went for a trial there, not really a serious thing -- more of a kickabout. Someone saw me and a couple of my friends and said I can get you guys out to America in a month and a half to Texas. We kind of floated around the idea and weren't real sure. We just jumped at it and it went from there on. It was kind of a leap of faith. It came to work out pretty well.
On the significance of MLS Cup at Sporting Park...
It's huge for the city. I've only been here two years but I've already seen it grow in that short space of time I've been here. It's grown so much. There's more and more hype, there's more and more attention about it. I'm starting to get noticed out around the city a lot more which just shows how much it's grown. A lot of people are talking about it, too. It's not just the Chiefs or the Royals. It's Sporting, too. It's very cool.
On playing in two league championships…
It's exciting. I've been lucky enough to have two opportunities now. I didn't do too well in the first one in Orlando - I'm just kidding. It was good to have that opportunity in the final in Orlando. It's nice to get another one and obviously this is a bigger stage now. I'm really looking forward to it. Two quality teams. It's a big match-up. This is what we've been working for since January or before January since we started offseason training in December. We've been working hard up to this moment and ready to finish it off the right way. I think I'm more excited about experiencing this with everyone else. That's the nicest thing about being on a team. You get to celebrate with everyone else. If you do something good, you get to see everyone else happy. That's the most rewarding feeling. It was nice after the Orlando game, I sat back and watched those guys celebrate. I knew I had a bigger job to do. I knew I had to come back to KC and finish this season off right. It was nice to see all of them happy. It was a big buzz around here two weekends ago when we beat Houston. That was really nice. Now I'm looking forward to more of that feeling. Whenever you feel that taste of something good, you want more of it. I want more.
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 5 which features late game heroics from an unlikely source.
Heading into the final match of the regular season at Philadelphia, Sporting KC still had an opportunity to win the Supporters' Shield and guarantee they'd host MLS Cup. After a Graham Zusi goal, the Union fought back to level the match late in the second half but still needed another goal to keep their playoff hopes alive. Sporting KC responded in stoppage time with a Lawrence Olum goal, the midfielders' first ever in MLS play. The win was vital in that it meant if Sporting KC reached MLS cup, it would be played at Sporting Park.
Here's No. 5 in our countdown, Olum's game-winning goal at PPL Park on October 26.
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 6 which features a clinical finish from Graham Zusi.
The goal was the difference in a 2-1 victory which was crucial in keeping pace in the Eastern Conference and Supporters' Shield races and improved the club's record to an impressive 12-0-1 record all-time when Zusi scores.
Here's No. 6 in our countdown, Zusi's 88th minute goal at Sporting Park on August 31.
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. To kick things off, we start with No. 10 which features a late game-winning goal from forward Kei Kamara.
It was an important goal for Sporting KC as the team had seen a two-goal lead slip away at the death in a 2-2 draw at FC Dallas a week earlier, confounding the team's elimination from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and a home loss to Conference leaders Montreal that same month. The win was the start of a five-match unbeaten streak during which the club collected 13 of a possible 15 points, including road wins at Chicago and Real Salt Lake.
Here's #10 in our countdown, Kamara's 80th minute strike against Columbus for his second goal of the game on June 29 at Sporting Park.
The Tuesday night trio of Callum Williams, Andy Edwards and Carter Augustine will be back in the Sports Radio 810 WHB studios tonight for The Sporting KC Show from 7-8 p.m. CT. On the agenda for this week's episode are interviews with Sporting KC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin and Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerway to look ahead to MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park, along with a wrap-up of Saturday's Eastern Conference Championship victory over the Houston Dynamo.
Join the conversation by calling 913-3-810-810 and listen live locally on 810 AM, online at 810WHB.com or via the station's free mobile app. You can also tweet your questions to @CalWilliamsSKC, @AndyEdMLS and @ElJefeAugustine.
And there's plenty more audio coverage of Sporting Kansas City availalble. Check out the following interviews:
Sporting Kansas City defeated the Houston Dynamo 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Championship to book their spot in the 2013 MLS Cup (to be played at Sporting Park). Houston took the lead in the third minute but Sporting KC countered with goals from C.J. Sapong and Dom Dwyer to earn the victory.
Man of the Match
Benny Feilhaber assisted on the game-winning goal and continously created chances throughout the match. Feilhaber showed his great skill by flicking a pass to Dwyer, who calmly slotted it past Houston's Tally Hall in the 63rd minute. Feilhaber completed 88.6% of his passes, created six chances, and had three tackles.
C.J. Sapong's 14th minute goal was a needed response after Houston took an early first half lead. The Dynamo's Boniek Garcia stunned the Sporting Park crowd with a 3rd minute strike but Sapong's reply flipped the momentum back towards the home side. Sporting KC were the dominant for the majority of the match and eventually found the game-winning goal 18 minutes into the second half.
A few stats
- Sporting KC is 17-0-2 when C.J. Sapong scores a goal
- Graham Zusi and Aurelien Collin both won 60% of their duels
- Aurelien Collin had 19 clearances, six tackles, and six interceptions
What are you thoughts on the first leg which ended in a 0-0 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium?
"The thing about the first leg is we just kind of have to throw it out because you are talking about two tired teams and a couple of absences for Houston (Ricardo Clark and Will Bruin left the matches early with injuries, Corey Ashe was suspended yellow cards). I guess what I'm saying is I just don't know how much we can look at the last game and say what it's going to do for the game coming up in Kansas City. I just think it's going to be a completely different look all around."
What are you expecting to see from Saturday's match?
"I haven't seen the latest injury updates on Ricardo Clark or Will Bruin so I think that really does affect them. Ricardo Clark means so much to Houston. If he's able to play, Houston gets just a little more push out of the midfield. They're going forward a little bit more. If Will Bruin is healthy, I think Kansas City centerbacks have to be a little more honest in how they approach it. Will Bruin isn't a fast player but he's got a little bit of a burst of speed where he can time things and get by guys. If those two guys aren't playing, then I think it's a lot of Houston sitting back a little more and waiting for the counterattack. If they are playing, Houston might come out and try to possess the ball a little bit more. Either way, I think Houston's approach in these kind of games is to be pretty cautious and then attack selectively and hope that the other team makes the mistake like what happened in New York. They'll have the faith that the other team will make the mistake. I think we'll see a game of more energy but I think we will see a pretty cautious approach from Houston and that makes it incumbent upon Kansas City to go take the game to them. If Kansas City gets an early goal, then Houston has to come out and play."
What things will you be watching for from Saturday's match?
"I think it's always interesting to see the way Kansas City uses Graham Zusi and the way he plays his way into the game. Does he start out wide as we've seen before. Does he tuck inside pretty quickly and come back to do a little bit more of the playmaking from those interior areas. Does he figure out on that day that he needs to stay out a little wider if Benny Feilhaber's in the lineup. If so, maybe Graham can stay a little bit wider and let Benny playmake from those central areas. Honestly, when I watch Kansas City I just always like watching Matt Besler play. His instincts are so good, the way he reads the game is so good. I always just end up watching a lot of that guy because I comitted 18 fouls this year. For a central defender, that's not very much and it's because he reads the game so well and I just enjoy watching him against Will Bruin or whoever it is, might be Omar Cummings. A guy he'll have to play a little differently because he is so fast. Just watching him is something I'll always end up doing a lot of."
What's your prediction for Saturday's match?
"2-0 Kansas City is what I would probably say. I'm not really quite sure who the goals come from because Kansas City tends to get goals from a lot of different players including Aurelien Collin (two goals in playoffs)."
Psst, we're almost 24 hours away from the game we've all been waiting for...a postseason rematch with the Houston Dynamo, on our home field, with an MLS Cup berth awaiting the winner. It all kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday night at a sold out Sporting Park. Check out the videos below to get ready for leg two in the Eastern Conference Championship.
Start it off with the hype: One Game. 90 Minutes.
And a :15 teaser for NBC Sports national TV broadcast...
Molly Dreska serves up gameday info in our Matchday series...
And a little MLSsoccer.com love for All-Star Graham Zusi...
Still need more? Check out videos from Thursday's press conferences with Manager Peter Vermes and Matt Besler. And keep an eye out on the video page at MLSsoccer.com for four more videos coming to preview #SKCvHOU through the eyes of Besler, Benny Feilhaber, Kerry Zavagnin and Kyle Martino.