Jacob Peterson and Dom Dwyer scored second-half goals as Sporting Kansas City battled the LA Galaxy to a gripping 2-2 draw on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
A national television audience on FOX saw the Galaxy (11-4-15, 48 points) grab an early lead through Alan Gordon, but Sporting Kansas City (11-12-7, 40 points) surged ahead when Peterson struck in the 50th minute and Dwyer tallied his 50th regular season goal in the 69th. Sunday's remarkable plot twist was provided by Landon Donovan, who came off the bench to score with 14 minutes remaining for his first goal since coming out of retirement.
The result extends Sporting Kansas City’s home unbeaten streak to eight games and leaves the club with the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, five points ahead of seventh-place Seattle. LA’s winless run in Kansas City hit nine games, but the visitors stole a valuable point to stay within touching distance of Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Dallas.
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Hosting the five-time MLS Cup champions in their penultimate home game of the 2016 regular season, Sporting Kansas City fielded a lineup that included two changes from last Friday’s 3-3 draw against the Houston Dynamo. Tim Melia stepped between the posts for his first league appearance since July 24, while left back Jimmy Medranda returned to the side after serving a one-game suspension.
With temperatures in the mid-80s at sunny Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City dominated proceedings from beginning to end. The hosts manufactured their first chance in the fourth minute when Matt Besler launched a long throw into a crowded penalty area. Peterson met the ball with a header that whistled over the crossbar, much to the relief of outstretched goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
The Galaxy were content to absorb pressure and attack on the counter throughout the afternoon, and the league’s top-scoring team showed its potency with the opener on seven minutes — the earliest goal conceded by Sporting KC this year. Sebastian Lletget played Emmanuel Boateng into space along the left flank, and Gordon was positioned at the far post to nod the ensuing cross into the back of the net.
Peter Vermes’ men staged a furious search for an equalizer, outshooting LA 14-1 in the first half while enjoying 67 percent possession. Dwyer came close in the ninth minute, hooking a left-footed attempt wide of Rowe’s righthand post after racing onto Benny Feilhaber’s long ball. Feilhaber was denied nine minutes later when his low drive on goal was blocked off the line by center back Jelle Van Damme.
Another tireless shift from Roger Espinoza included a superb service into the box on 35 minutes, but Peterson couldn’t steer his header on target. Sporting Kansas City continued to stifle their opponents as Peterson, Dwyer and Brad Davis all had shots blocked in a single foray, shortly before Espinoza’s long-range blast was parried wide by Rowe. The last play of the first half saw Espinoza tee up Peterson once more, only for the resulting header to creep over the bar.
Sporting Kansas City’s stranglehold finally paid dividends five minutes into the second half. Dwyer settled the ball on the right edge of the box and clipped a delightful ball to the back post, allowing Peterson to nod home and restore parity. Dwyer recorded his career-high third assist of the season on the play, while Peterson became the second player in club history to score in five consecutive regular season home games. The veteran forward now has six goals in 2016, double his total from 2013-2015 combined.
Momentum had swung in firm favor of the home side, and the Galaxy were breached again in the 69th minute. Feilhaber’s quick free kick pierced the LA back line and allowed Saad Abdul-Salaam cross low, where Dwyer finished ruthlessly into a gaping net. Abdul-Salaam entered a tie among MLS defenders with his sixth assist of the season, while Feilhaber was credited with his team-best ninth helper of 2016. Dwyer, meanwhile, became the 50th player in MLS history to score 50 regular season goals.
Sunday’s script took a wild turn in the 76th minute. Forced out of his defensive shell upon falling behind, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena introduced Donovan to the match at the 74-minute mark. The U.S. soccer icon would make a near-instant impact, running onto Robbie Rogers’ cutback pass and tucking an impressive strike into the far left corner past Tim Melia. Donovan had extended his lead atop the all-time MLS scoring charts with his 145th regular season goal — his first since coming out of a two-year retirement less than a fortnight ago.
The final quarter-hour was delicately poised as both teams ventured into the attacking third, but neither was able to find a winner.
With a three-game homestand in the books, Sporting Kansas City will now prepare for three straight matches away from Children’s Mercy Park. The road stretch begins next Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CT when the club travels to face the ninth-place San Jose Earthquakes (7-8-13, 34 points) at Avaya Stadium. Kansas City is winless in 18 straight trips to San Jose dating back to 2001, but the Earthquakes have just two wins in their last 17 MLS matches and sit seven points below the red line in the West.
2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 30 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,480 (86th straight sellout)
Weather: 83 degrees and sunny
Watch: Jacob Peterson goal (50')
Watch: Dom Dwyer goal (69')
Postgame reaction: Saad Abdul-Salaam
Postgame reaction: Roger Espinoza
Final: Full highlights
|Sporting Kansas City (11-12-7, 40 pts)||0||2||2|
|LA Galaxy (11-4-15, 48 pts)||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda (Nuno Coelho 87); Benny Feilhaber, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza (C); Jacob Peterson, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis (Diego Rubio 64)
Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Ike Opara, Seth Sinovic, Paulo Nagamura, Cameron Porter
LA Galaxy: Brian Rowe; Robbie Rogers, Daniel Steres, Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole; Raul Mendiola (Landon Donovan 74), Jeff Larentowicz, Sebastian Lletget, Emmanuel Boateng (Rafael Garcia 82); Robbie Keane (C), Alan Gordon (Baggio Husidic 74)
Subs Not Used: Dan Kennedy, A.J. DeLaGarza, Dave Romney, Giovani dos Santos
|Shots on Goal||3||2|
LA -- Jeff Larentowicz (caution; unsporting behavior) 44
LA -- Alan Gordon 2 (Emmanuel Boateng 5, Sebastian Lletget 7) 7
SKC -- Jacob Peterson 6 (Dominic Dwyer 3) 50
SKC -- Dom Dwyer 14 (Saad Abdul-Salaam 6, Benny Feilhaber 9) 69
LA -- Landon Donovan 1 (Robbie Rogers 2)