So now everyone knows: Sporting Kansas City can take a punch.
Sporting rebounded from their first deficit of the year – and their first missed penalty kick in almost five years – in Sunday night’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas. And now, the team that didn’t pass the nine-point mark until mid-June in 2011 is there just three matches into the 2012 season.
“This is the proof of where we are right now,” said French defender Aurelien Collin, whose header in first-half stoppage time tied the score at 1-1 after Ricardo Villar’s free kick – the first goal scored against Sporting this year – put the visitors ahead in the 25th minute. “Confident. Fighting, but not crazy. The cold blood. I’m proud of the team tonight.”
Villar’s goal was just the first of two stings Sporting (3-0-0) had to endure Sunday night, though.
The second came in the 51st minute, when Dallas ’keeper Kevin Hartman made a spectacular save on Kei Kamara’s penalty kick. It broke a streak of 13 straight conversions since Sporting’s last miss in late July 2007.
Kamara provided his own redemption with the game-winner in the 88th minute, and gave credit to Hartman for the save.
“After the PK, he told me that he told me he was going to block it,” said Kamara, who has two goals in three games. “I didn’t hear him before. But it was well-saved. Before, maybe three or four years ago, I would have been killing myself. But it was early in the game. I just had to keep going and keep plugging at it.”
On Sunday, what nearly killed Kamara’s side were Dallas’ slow tempo and a string of calls that got into Sporting’s heads. That changed in the 35th minute, when goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen convened an onfield meeting while the injured Villar was being tended to.
His message: “This is not us. This is not how we want to play. We’ve got 10 minutes left in this half, and we’ve got to change it. This is not good enough. This is absolutely not good enough.”
Obviously, it got across.
“The guys had a good resiliency, and they believed they were going to get back in the game,” manager Peter Vermes said. “That’s a good mentality to have.”