It took Chris Wondolowski all of 85 minutes to find a chink in Sporting Kansas City’s armor Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
It took just 45 seconds for Kansas City to deliver a response to San Jose’s opening salvo, going from dejected to delighted in the blink of an eye via the right foot of Teal Bunbury.
With the ball barely removed from Sporting’s net, substitute C.J. Sapong wove his way into the teeth of the Earthquake’s defense and fed Bunbury for a simple finish that gave Kansas City a 1-1 draw and yet another valuable point with two regular season games remaining.
“Our first thought wasn’t ‘Oh, let’s put our heads down. The game is over,’” Bunbury said. “We picked ourselves up, and we went right at them immediately. We kicked it off, C.J. did his magic and I knew that I had to take off, make a good run in behind and finish it.”
Alone on goal for the second time after being foiled by Jon Busch 25 minutes before, Bunbury made no mistake, firing the ball low and hard to give Sporting a road point that provides a tiny bit more wiggle room in their quest for the Eastern Conference title.
“It was tremendous,” Manager Peter Vermes said. “The reaction was huge. To come back right away and score a goal, especially away from home, was big time. We’ve been on the end of that a couple times this year.”
To be fair, a point was arguably the very least Sporting deserved after fashioning a handful of prime scoring opportunities through the first 80 minutes but coming up empty while the Earthquakes bossed possession and the run of play but failed to test goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
San Jose finished with 20 shots – 10 of which were blocked – but only two on frame while Kansas City made up for holding just 42 percent of possession by forcing Busch and his back line into a handful of last-ditch saves and clearances.
“In the first half, I thought [San Jose] was the better side,” Vermes said. “They were playing at home, and I thought they really put us under pressure. They tried to drive the game and took a page out of our book.”
Fortunately, the Earthquakes also mirrored Sporting’s tendency this season to give up late goals, especially in quick succession after one of their own.
So even though Kansas City failed to extend their lead at the top of the East to more than a game, Sporting is two points adrift of the Union, they still managed to pull together a result on the road in dramatic fashion.
And that’s just fine by Vermes, especially considering his team’s reaction falling behind late.
"We would like to have won,” he said, “but sometimes you have to battle and scrape and scrap the way we did in the first half. The bottom line is that the game is 90 minutes plus injury time. The guys did a really good job of staying in the game and realizing that it wasn’t over until the end.”