Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo played to a thrilling 3-3 draw on Friday night in the 100th MLS regular season match at Children’s Mercy Park.
Jacob Peterson’s early strike and Roger Espinoza’s wonder goal gave Sporting Kansas City a first-half cushion, but the Dynamo hit back on either side of halftime through Mauro Manotas and Alex to level proceedings. Dom Dwyer restored the hosts’ lead in the 81st minute before Raul Rodriguez provided a last-gasp equalizer in the 94th minute to split the points.
The draw keeps Sporting Kansas City (11-12-6, 39 points) seven points clear in the Western Conference playoff race, four points ahead of the Portland Timbers and seven ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes. Houston (5-11-11, 26 points) extended its regular season unbeaten run at Children’s Mercy Park to six matches but remains rooted to the bottom of the table.
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Sporting Kansas City entered Friday night with a six-game home winning streak, one shy of tying a club record, and appeared well on their way to equaling that mark with a rampant start. Dwyer was the first to test Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis, who sprung left to punch the Englishman’s 20-yard belter wide of the post.
Peterson landed the first punch in the 14th minute, becoming the first Kansas City player to score in four straight regular season home games since Scott Sealy in 2006. Saad Abdul-Salaam’s low cross from the right flank was hammered goalward by Peterson, requiring Willis to make a reflex save. The Dynamo keeper then thwarted Dwyer’s rebound effort from point blank range, but Peterson made no mistake on the third attempt by rifling into the roof of the net for his career-high fifth MLS goal of the campaign.
Vermes’ men kept their foot on the pedal and almost had a second goal in the 17th minute when Benny Feilhaber’s free kick deflected through Houston’s four-man wall and skipped inches clear of Willis’ righthand post.
The second goal would come in spectacular fashion courtesy of Espinoza. With Sporting KC applying pressure in the attacking third, the Honduran international intercepted an outlet pass from Collen Warner and sent a 25-yard laser into the top left corner. The jaw-dropping goal was Espinoza’s first of the season and his fourth in Sporting KC colors.
Houston responded positively and cut into the deficit on the half-hour mark. Boniek Garcia found a pocket of space in the right channel and slid a through ball into the box for Manotas, who tucked low into the far corner for his first MLS goal and his third of the season against Sporting KC, having scored twice in Houston’s 3-1 U.S. Open Cup win on June 29.
A heart-stopping second half unfolded before an 85th straight sellout crowd at Children’s Mercy Park with both sides looking dangerous. The visitors would tie the match in the 59th minute when Sporting Kansas City failed to clear a ball swung into the penalty box, allowing Alex to prod low past goalkeeper Alec Kann.
The Dynamo nearly surged ahead just after the hour mark when Kann saved a drive from Alex and Ricardo Clark flicked a rebound attempt wide of the frame. Less than a minute later, Manotas narrowly missed out on his brace after placing a shot just beyond left post.
After surviving the series of scares, Sporting Kansas City found a second wind of its own. Willis did well to deny Dwyer on two occasions, blocking a venomous strike off Brad Davis’ cross in the 66th minute and making a one-on-one save following Connor Hallisey’s splendid through ball into space.
Dwyer’s resilience was rewarded in the 81st minute when he bagged his team-leading 13th goal of the year. Espinoza’s shot off a Benny Feilhaber corner kick was blocked in a crowded goalmouth, but Dwyer was well positioned to smash home and send Children’s Mercy Park into rapturous celebration. Feilhaber was credited with his team-leading eighth assist while Espinoza set a new MLS career-high with his fifth helper of 2016.
The tense affair would deliver one final sting in the tale, even after Abdul-Salaam cleared Will Bruin’s effort off the goal line in the 87th minute. Houston was awarded a free kick in the final minute of second-half stoppage time, and Garcia took full advantage. The veteran midfielder whipped his set piece into the penalty area where Rodriguez rose to glance a header off the woodwork and into the net, stunning more than 19,000 fans in attendance. Sporting Kansas City had conceded its latest goal of the season and fallen seconds short of an historic seventh straight home victory.
Sporting Kansas City faces a quick turnaround with Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC slated for 7 p.m. CT at Children's Mercy Park. Vermes' men must emerge with a victory to salvage any hopes of finishing atop Group C, as Vancouver (2-0-0, 6 points) currently has a five-point cushion on both Sporting Kansas City (0-1-1, 1 point) and Central FC (0-1-1, 1 point) with two group stage games remaining. Tickets for the all-important clash are available at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.
2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 29 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,331 (85th straight sellout)
Weather: 81 degrees and cloudy
Watch: Peterson scores early (14')
Watch: Espinoza wonder goal (26')
Watch: Dwyer converts late (81')
Final: Full highlights
|Sporting Kansas City (11-12-6, 39 pts)||2||1||3|
|Houston Dynamo (5-11-11, 26 pts)||1||2||3|
Sporting Kansas City: Alec Kann; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Nuno Coelho (Seth Sinovic 63), Matt Besler; Benny Feilhaber, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza (C); Jacob Peterson (Ike Opara 88), Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis (Connor Hallisey 69)
Subs Not Used: Tim Melia, Paulo Nagamura, Cameron Porter, Diego Rubio
Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Sheanon Williams, Raul Rodriguez, Jalil Anibaba, DaMarcus Beasley (Keyner Brown 76); Collen Warner (Will Bruin 83), Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark (C), Alex, Cristian Maidana (Eric Alexander 80); Mauro Manotas
Subs Not Used: Devin Perales, Kevin Garcia, Jose Escalante, Yair Arboleda
|Shots on Goal||9||5|
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; unsporting behavior) 18
HOU -- Collen Warner (caution; unsporting behavior) 65
HOU -- Alex (caution; unsporting behavior) 83
SKC -- Jacob Peterson 5 (unassisted) 14
SKC -- Roger Espinoza 1 (unassisted) 26
HOU -- Mauro Manotas 1 (Boniek Garcia 7) 30
HOU -- Alex 4 (unassisted) 59
SKC -- Dom Dwyer 13 (Roger Espinoza 5, Benny Feilhaber 8) 81
HOU -- Raul Rodriguez 1 (Boniek Garcia 8) 94+