Recap: Sporting KC defeats San Jose 2-0 to punch ticket to Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs

Sporting Kansas City punched its ticket to the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday afternoon at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.

Benny Feilhaber buried a first-half penalty kick before Graham Zusi iced the result with a superb late strike, ensuring Sporting Kansas City a club-record sixth straight playoff appearance on the final day of the 2016 regular season.

No. 5 seed Sporting Kansas City (13-13-8, 47 points) will now travel to face No. 4 seed Seattle Sounders FC (14-14-6, 48 points) in Thursday's Western Conference Knockout Round at Century Link Field — the same site where Sporting KC began its 2016 campaign in March. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT on FS1 and UniMas as Sporting Kansas City looks to reach the conference semifinals for the first time since 2013.

PLAYOFF TICKETS: Tickets for Sporting Kansas City's potential home playoff game in the Western Conference semifinals next Sunday, Oct. 30, will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. CT Monday morning via Ticketmaster.com.

UPHORIA: The day after Sporting KC wins, Sporting KC Uphoria users can enjoy a complementary appetizer with a $20 purchase at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.).

PAPA JOHN'S: The day after Sporting KC scores two or more goals, use promo code SPORTINGKC at papajohns.com to get 50% off each regular menu price pizza in an order placed with participating Kansas City area locations.

Manager Peter Vermes — who is poised to tie an MLS record with his 13th MLS postseason trip as either a player or head coach — fielded an unchanged lineup from last weekend's 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake. Matt Besler hit a major milestone with his 200th regular season appearance for the club, while goalkeeper Tim Melia and midfielder Soni Mustivar both played their 50th regular season matches in Sporting KC colors. For the second straight game, captain Roger Espinoza featured in a wide attacking role alongside Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi.

Sunday’s match was one of 10 to kick off simultaneously on Decision Day as all 20 MLS clubs drew curtains on the regular season. Sporting Kansas City began the day in sixth place, but rose to fifth when Seattle defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. RSL took the sixth and final playoff spot in the West, while the reigning MLS champion Portland Timbers crashed out with a 4-1 defeat at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

The hosts controlled proceedings for large periods of the match, yet it was San Jose who threatened to open the scoring after 10 minutes. A Sporting KC giveaway at midfield led to a breakaway for Chris Wondolowski, but Besler recovered phenomenally to block his U.S. international teammate’s effort at full extension.

The Earthquakes conjured another opportunity in the 24th minute, with Melia extending his glove to poke the ball off Wondolowski’s feet as the forward attempted to round the goalkeeper. Wondolowski kept possession and lofted a pass far-post to Tommy Thompson, whose cushioned header back across the face of goal was nodded clear by Ellis.

Children’s Mercy Park erupted in delight when Sporting Kansas City was awarded a penalty kick in the 27th minute on a handball from defender Cordell Cato. Feilhaber dispatched the ensuing spot kick to tally his seventh goal of the season and give his side a precious lead.

Knowing three points would effectively secure a playoff berth, Sporting Kansas City tightened up defensively while remaining dangerous in attack. Espinoza and Zusi both had clean looks inside the box on 66 minutes, but neither pulled the trigger and instead Ellis saw his low drive smothered by Bingham.

San Jose was already eliminated from playoff contention entering Sunday’s contest but lacked no ambition, creating its best second-half chance in the 79th minute when Wondolowski headed high on a cross from substitute Shea Salinas.

Feilhaber continued to pull the strings as Sporting Kansas City’s midfield conductor, threading the needle with a gorgeous through ball to Dwyer in the 82nd minute, but the Englishman was denied a shot by the sliding Cato.

Zusi sealed the victory in the 88th minute on a swift break downfield, collecting a diagonal pass from Feilhaber and firing high into the roof of the net from the right side of the box. The U.S. international midfielder tallied his second goal of the year on the play, while Feilhaber notched his team-best 13th MLS assist — and the 50th of his Sporting Kansas City career in all competitions.

Sporting Kansas City swept Sounders FC in the regular season series, earning a 1-0 win in Seattle on March 6 before cruising 3-0 on July 24. Thursday marks the first playoff meeting between the clubs.

2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 34 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 20,371 (87th straight sellout)
Weather: 75 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas&nbsp;City&nbsp;(13-13-8, 47 pts)
San Jose Earthquakes (8-12-14, 38 pts)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Paulo Nagamura (Ike Opara 87), Soni Mustivar, Benny Feilhaber; Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer (Jimmy Medranda 91+), Roger Espinoza (C)

Subs Not UsedAlec Kann, Nuno Coelho, Lawrence Olum, Connor Hallisey, Jacob Peterson

San Jose Earthquakes: David Bingham; Cordell Cato (Chad Barrett 84), Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Jordan Stewart; Tommy Thompson, Darwin Ceren, Fatai Alashe, Alberto Quintero (Shea Salinas 61); Chris Wondolowski (C), Simon Dawkins

Subs Not UsedAndrew Tarbell, Andres Imperiale, Shaun Francis, Kofi Sarkodie, Kip Colvey

Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; unsporting behavior) 33
SJ -- Fatai Alashe (caution; dissent) 49
SKC -- Dom Dwyer (caution; unsporting behavior) 50
SJ -- Victor Bernardez (caution; unsporting behavior) 54
SJ -- Tommy Thompson (caution; unsporting behavior) 69
SKC -- Soni Mustivar (caution; unsporting behavior) 70

Scoring Summary:
SKC -- Benny Feilhaber 7 (penalty kick) 27
SKC -- Graham Zusi 2 (Benny Feilhaber 13) 88