Recap: Sporting KC secures playoff berth with 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy

Sporting Kansas City clinched a postseason berth for the fifth straight season on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on the final day of the MLS regular season. The club will open the playoffs at the Portland Timbers on Thursday (9 p.m. CT on UniMas and 38 the Spot) in the Western Conference Knockout Round.

If Sporting Kansas City advances, the team would host FC Dallas on Sunday, Nov. 1 at Sporting Park in the opening leg of the two-game Western Conference Semifinals series. Tickets for that match are on sale via Ticketmaster.com while supplies last. 

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

JACK IN THE BOX: The day after Sporting KC has four or more shots on goal, receive a free breakfast biscuit sandwich with any purchase at Jack in the Box locations in the Kansas City area. 

Kevin Ellis opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the year, tied for the most by an MLS defender during the Opta era (2011-present). Dom Dwyer, for a second straight year, secured the team's Golden Boot - presented by the Kansas City Marriott Downtown - with his 12th goal of the regular season and 17th goal in all competitions.

The Englishman nearly opened the scoring in the 26th minute, directing Krisztian Nemeth's cross goalward from the top of the six-yard box only to be denied by Donovan Ricketts with a kick save. Graham Zusi was first to the rebound, however LA Galaxy centerback Leonardo did well to block the follow-up effort with a sliding intervention.

In front of the 70th straight sellout at Sporting Park, the home side took a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute with all four of the team's defenders contributing to the goal on consecutive plays. Matt Besler's long throw-in was flicked by Saad Abdul-Salaam, then volleyed by Chance Myers and re-directed by Ellis. The initial attempt was again turned away by the foot of Ricketts but the Homegrown defender buried the second chance into the back of the net.

LA nearly drew even in the 44th minute on a counterattack that came to an end when Tim Melia dropped low to block Steven Gerrad's shot from the top of the 18-yard area. On the opposite end, Dwyer snapped a header from the penalty spot that flashed wide of the post after a cross from Paulo Nagamura. 

With just 30 seconds remaining in the first half, the Galaxy equalized as the Designated Player duo of Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane combined in the central channel. The Mexican playmaker split Sporting KC's backline with a pass off the outside of his left foot into the path of Irish international, who lifted his shot over Melia with a delicate first touch. Since 2012, Keane has the most regular season goals of any MLS player with 71 - highlighted by his single-season MLS high with 20 goals in 2015.

Melia made his second save of the night less than two minutes into the second half, again on a shot from Gerrard. The former Liverpool midfielder unleashed a first-time strike from 20 yards out that carried straight into the awaiting arms of Melia and then made an important defensive block moments later to deflect Benny Feilhaber's free kick over the endline.

Sebastian Lletget raced forward in the 55th minute with a chance to give his team the lead, eluding Ellis and Soni Mustivar before having his shot blocked by Besler mid-flight. Gyasi Zardes was the next Galaxy player to threaten and sent his onto the wrong side of the near post less than two minutes later.

The decisive goal on Decision Day would come from Dwyer in the 65th minute. Feilhaber, who came off the bench to start the second half, provided a pinpoint pass for his 15th assist of the regular season, second most in MLS, and 20th assist across all competitions, a single-season club record, while Dwyer slipped the shot past Ricketts prior to a celebrating with a customary backflip.

Sporting KC came close to adding a third goal in the 68th minute when Nemeth forced a full-extension save from Ricketts. The Hungarian international then was first to the ensuing corner, though his glancing header skipped wide of the far post and a subsequent header in the 76th minute was held by Ricketts.

LA entered the match in second place in the West - in position for a Knockout Round bye and home field advantage in the Conference Semifinals - yet slipped to fifth place following the loss. Zardes had nearly rescued a result in the game's final minute if not for Melia getting block gloves behind the shot to push it away.

Meanwhile, Sporting KC extended the club's home unbeaten streak against the Galaxy to seven straight games dating back to 2008 and matched the team's single-season record with 14 home wins across all competitions. The team has now won 14 times at home in 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2015 -- all of which are represented on the stadium's championship wall as a result of winning major trophies in those seasons.

Sporting KC will now begin pursuit of a third MLS Cup title on the road in the Rose City on Thursday. Sporting KC went unbeaten (1-0-2) against the Timbers in three matches this year, most recently earning a 1-0 win at Providence Park on Oct. 3.

Major League Soccer
Regular Season: Game 34
 
 Sporting Park | Kansas City, Kan.
Attendance: 19,422 (70th straight sell out)
Weather: 62 degrees and sunny
 
SportingKC.com Links
1st Half: Kevin Ellis Goal
2nd Half: Dom Dwyer Goal
Full Time: Video Highlights
Full Time: Photo Gallery
Vote: BurgerFi Man of the Match
Postgame: Peter Vermes
Postgame: Dom Dwyer
Postgame: Benny Feilhaber
Postgame: Matt Besler
Postgame: Quote Sheet
 
Available to Download
Photos: Courtesy of Mike Gunnoe
Video: Match Highlights
Video: Postgame Soundbytes

Score

1

2

F

Sporting KC (14-11-9, 51 pts)

1

1

2

LA Galaxy (14-11-9, 51 pts)

1

0

1

 

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Matt Besler (c), Kevin Ellis, Chance Myers; Paulo Nagamura, Soni Mustivar, Jordi Quintilla (Benny Feilhaber 46); Krisztian Nemeth (Erik Palmer-Brown 90), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi

 

Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Jalil Anibaba, Amadou Dia, Jacob Peterson, Bernardo Anor

 

LA Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts; A.J. DeLaGarza (Alan Gordon 81), Leonardo, Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Rogers; Juninho (Mika Vayrynen 85), Steven Gerrard, Sebastian Lletget (Jose Villarreal 79); Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane (c), Giovani dos Santos

 

Subs Not Used: Todd Dunivant, Dave Romney, Brian Rowe, Baggio Husidic

 

Stats

SKC

LA

Shots

16

12

Shots on Goal

6

4

Saves

2

4

Fouls

16

12

Offside

2

2

Corner Kicks

5

5

 

Misconduct Summary:

SKC -- Dom Dwyer (caution; unsporting behavior) 17 

LA -- A.J. DeLaGarza (caution; reckless tackle) 24 

SKC -- Chance Myers (caution reckless tackle) 58 

SKC -- Paulo Nagamura (caution; reckless tackle) 66

SKC -- Benny Feilhaber (caution; delaying a restart) 92+

 

Scoring Summary:

SKC -- Kevin Ellis 4 (unassisted) 38 

LA -- Robbie Keane 20 (Giovani dos Santos 5) 46+ 

SKC -- Dom Dwyer 12 (Benny Feilhaber 15) 65