Sporting Kansas City continued its perfect start to the 2016 MLS season with a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday at Children's Mercy Park. Second-half substitute Brad Davis scored the game-winning goal as Sporting Kansas City moved atop the Supporters' Shield standings and became the only MLS club with a 3-0-0 record through Week 3.
Davis, a 15-year MLS veteran who joined Sporting Kansas City from the Houston Dynamo in January, provided the breakthrough in the 70th minute of a tightly contested affair between 2015 playoff teams. Goalkeeper Tim Melia made four saves, including three after halftime, to give the hosts their second shutout of the season before a capacity crowd of 19,867. Sporting Kansas City (3-0-0, 9 points) extended its unbeaten streak against Toronto FC (1-1-1, 4 points) to seven games, also keeping the Reds winless in seven trips to Children's Mercy Park.
UPHORIA: The Day after Sporting KC wins, Sporting KC Uphoria users can enjoy a complimentary appetizer with a $20 purchase at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.).
Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes deployed the same starting lineup for the third straight game — an occurrence that never happened in 2014 or 2015. The first 45 minutes saw both sides limit chances in the attacking third, though Toronto FC carved out an opportunity five minutes before the break. Reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco cut into the middle from the left wing and served a pass to an open Will Johnson, who sent an 18-yard blast straight at Melia.
The visitors nearly snatched the lead in the 62nd minute, but heroics from Melia kept Toronto off the scoresheet. Giovinco was again at the heart of the attack, sliding a through ball between Sporting KC's back line and into the path of Tsubasa Endoh. The rookie side-footed a shot on target, but Melia sprung to his left and touched the attempt onto the underside of the crossbar, allowing Amadou Dia to clear the danger.
Four minutes later, Giovinco provoked another nervous moment for the home fans. The diminutive striker eluded multiple defenders with a series of delicate touches inside the box, but lashed his shot inches over the woodwork.
The decisive moment of the match came with 20 minutes remaining. Dom Dwyer received a bouncing pass from Graham Zusi and played the ball into the right channel for Davis, who battled to win possession on the edge of the penalty area. The winger then took two touches to the middle and fired low into the far corner past the outstretched Clint Irwin, netting the 59th goal of his regular season career (including playoffs).
Sporting Kansas City has yet to concede a goal from the run of play in 2016, but Toronto applied significant pressure in the final stages. Melia denied Giovinco from a tight angle in the 74th minute before Johnson headed wide following a cross from Michael Bradley three minutes later. Giovinco tested Melia again in the 80th minute, but the keeper dove right to corral the bending strike from outside the box.
Toronto FC's bid for an equalizer was aided in the 84th minute when Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza was ejected for a challenge on Marco Delgado. Yet Vermes' men continued to repel Toronto's late forays while also creating another chance in the first minute of added time. Chance Myers beat Justin Morrow down the right sideline and flashed a looping cross to Dwyer, who nodded wide of Irwin's righthand post.
The game's final scoring opportunity fell to Toronto FC, who won a free kick 28 yards from goal in the 94th minute. Giovinco bagged five free kick goals last year but was thwarted this time as his effort struck Sporting KC's four-man wall.
Sporting Kansas City has equaled its best three-game start to a regular season in club history, having opened 2006 and 2012 with 3-0-0 records. The club is off next weekend during the FIFA international window as Espinoza (Honduras), Matt Besler (United States) and Soni Mustivar (Haiti) will join their respective national teams for 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the CONCACAF region. Sporting KC returns to action on April 2 at 7:30 p.m. CT, hosting rival Real Salt Lake at Children's Mercy Park. A limited number of tickets for the 2013 MLS Cup rematch are available at Ticketmaster.com.
2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 3 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,867 (72nd straight MLS sellout)
Weather: 48 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (3-0-0, 9 pts)||0||1||1|
|Toronto FC (1-1-1, 4 pts)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Chance Myers, Nuno Andre Coelho, Matt Besler, Amadou Dia; Soni Mustivar, Jordi Quintilla (Lawrence Olum 81), Roger Espinoza; Connor Hallisey (Brad Davis 46), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Jimmy Medranda, Daniel Salloi
Toronto FC: Clint Irwin; Steven Beitashour, Damien Perquis, Josh Williams (Jay Chapman 86), Justin Morrow; Marco Delgado, Michael Bradley, Tsubasa Endoh (Mo Babouli 77), Will Johnson, Benoit Cheyrou (Jozy Altidore 77); Sebastian Giovinco
Subs Not Used: Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta
|Shots on Goal||3||4|
TOR -- Benoit Cheyrou (caution; unsporting behavior) 60
TOR -- Justin Morrow (caution; dissent) 71
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (ejection; serious foul) 84
SKC -- Tim Melia (caution; time wasting) 87
SKC -- Brad Davis 1 (Dom Dwyer 1) 70