Recap: Sporting KC unbeaten run reaches five games with comprehensive 3-1 home win over New York City FC

Sporting Kansas City claimed a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC on Sunday night at a sold-out Children’s Mercy Park, extending the club’s unbeaten run to five MLS matches.

Benny Feilhaber fired the hosts ahead in the 8th minute and Jimmy Medranda belted his first MLS goal eight minutes later, restoring the lead after Frank Lampard had equalized for New York City FC. Ike Opara sealed the victory with a close-range effort early in the second half, giving Sporting Kansas City its 50th regular season win at Children’s Mercy Park.

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The result snaps New York City FC’s four-game winning streak and solidifies fifth place in the Western Conference for Sporting Kansas City (8-8-4, 28 points), who enjoyed their second straight three-goal game in a convincing performance from beginning to end. NYCFC (8-6-6, 30 points) remains atop the East after suffering defeat in their inaugural trip to Kansas City.

Manager Peter Vermes' starting lineup featured two changes from Sporting Kansas City's 3-2 win over Columbus Crew last weekend. Striker Diego Rubio replaced Dom Dwyer, who missed his first match of 2016 through yellow card accumulation, while a late scratch from Graham Zusi (right hamstring tightness) gave winger Brad Davis his 10th start of the season.

Sunday’s match commenced with a feverish tempo, producing three goals in the first 16 minutes. Sporting Kansas City landed the first punch on eight minutes, moments after Davis had a left-footed strike saved by the outstretched Josh Saunders. Medranda’s looping cross from the left wing was deftly redirected goalward by Jacob Peterson’s extended knee. Saunders touched the ball onto the crossbar, but Feilhaber was in the right place to poke the rebound into an empty net for his fifth MLS goal of the season and his fourth over the last five games in all competitions. The scoring play also marked Sporting Kansas City’s 200th goal in Children’s Mercy Park history (including friendlies).

New York City FC entered the evening with a league-best five road wins and lacked no attacking confidence of their own. The visitors nearly responded in the 10th minute through Jack Harrison, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, but Tim Melia produced a fine save to extinguish the breakaway threat.

Patrick Vieira’s side would draw level just four minutes later, however, cashing in on Sporting KC’s giveaway near midfield. Italian World Cup champion Andrea Pirlo dribbled toward goal and spread it down the left side to Ronald Matarrita, who found Frank Lampard with a cutback pass near the penalty spot. The former England international beat Melia with a one-time shot just inside the left post, bagging his fourth MLS goal in five games.

Parity was short-lived, however, as the hosts would reclaim the lead two minutes after Lampard’s equalizer. Feilhaber’s shallow corner kick was cleared only as far as Medranda, who pulled the trigger with his patented left boot from 25 yards. The swerving strike skipped past Saunders and just inside the near post, allowing the diminutive Colombian to open his scoring account on his 40th career shot attempt.

What started as a delicately poised encounter slowly transformed into a dominant display from Vermes’ men. Roger Espinoza tried his luck from distance with a 27-yard knuckler to the top right corner, but Saunders sprung impressively to push the ball wide of the post. The industrious Rubio nearly doubled his side’s advantage a minute before the break, gaining possession after Saad Abdul-Salaam intercepted a pass deep in NYCFC’s half, but the Chilean hammered high from eight yards. Seconds later, Peterson glanced a header narrowly wide following a teasing cross from Medranda.

Sporting Kansas City kept their foot on the pedal in the second period, ultimately sealing the win in the 51st minute. New York City FC failed to clear their lines after a Davis corner kick and the ball rolled kindly to Opara, who poked past Saunders from five yards. The center back marked his 50th appearance for Sporting Kansas City in all competitions with his first goal since March 28, 2015 — coincidentally at New York City FC.

Medranda asked further questions of the NYCFC defense in the 57th minute, linking up delightfully with Rubio before skying a shot from the left side of the box. Rubio created another chance eight minutes later, spinning past a defender and teeing up Davis, who curled inches over the woodwork from atop the box.

The final 15 minutes plus stoppage time saw Saunders deny both Feilhaber and Espinoza from distance. Rubio almost grabbed a goal for himself in the 89th minute, settling the ball after Hallisey’s low cross from the left wing was sliced high into the air, but the forward couldn’t steer his shot on target.

Sporting Kansas City has now scored 10 goals in its last four league games after netting just seven in their previous 11. The recent upswing includes three consecutive wins at Children’s Mercy Park, which sold out its 81st straight MLS match on Sunday evening.

A challenging week awaits Sporting Kansas City with two road games over the next six days. The club will first visit Eastern Conference bottom dwellers Chicago Fire (3-8-5, 14 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT Wednesday before traveling west to face the second-place Colorado Rapids (9-2-7, 34 points) at 8 p.m. CT. Both matches will be televised locally on 38 The Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV, including 30 minutes of pregame and postgame coverage.

2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 20 of 34

Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,881 (81st straight sellout)
Weather: 88 degrees and sunny

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (8-8-4, 28 pts) 2 1 3
New York City FC (8-6-6, 30 pts) 1 0 1

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara (Nuno Coelho 84), Lawrence Olum, Jimmy Medranda; Benny Feilhaber, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza (C); Jacob Peterson (Connor Hallisey 71), Diego Rubio (Justin Mapp 92+), Brad Davis
Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler

New York City FC: Josh Saunders; Jason Hernandez (Mikey Lopez 80), Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, R.J. Allen; Frank Lampard (Patrick Mullins 63), Andoni Iraola, Andrea Pirlo; Jack Harrison, David Villa (C), Ronald Matarrita (Tommy McNamara 46)
Subs Not Used: Eirik Johansen, Ethan White, Federico Bravo, Khiry Shelton

Shots 19 4
Shots on Goal 9 3
Saves 2 6
Fouls 17 11
Offside 1 4
Corner Kicks 9 1

Misconduct Summary:
NYC -- David Villa (caution; unsporting behavior) 83

Scoring Summary:
SKC -- Benny Feilhaber 5 (unassisted) 8
NYC -- Frank Lampard 4 (Ronald Matarrita 3, Andrea Pirlo 7) 14
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda 1 (unassisted) 16
SKC -- Ike Opara 1 (unassisted) 51