A stunning strike from Benny Feilhaber and a late own goal paced Sporting Kansas City to a 2-1 triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park. San Jose salvaged a consolation goal through Florian Jungwirth in second-half stoppage time, but the hosts preserved their lead to enter the victory column for the first time in 2017.
The comprehensive performance extended Sporting Kansas City’s unbeaten start and handed the Earthquakes (2-1-0, 6 points) their first defeat of the campaign. Goalkeeper Tim Melia’s regular season shutout streak ended at 456 minutes dating back to last year, the third longest run in club history, as Sporting Kansas City (1-0-2, 5 points) claimed its 12th win in 13 home matches against San Jose across all competitions.
An unchanged Sporting Kansas City lineup saw Dom Dwyer make his 100th career start in the MLS regular season. The England-born striker, who became a U.S. citizen Thurday, was denied a penalty kick as soon as the second minute when he raced onto Jimmy Medranda’s cross and tumbled under Jungwirth’s challenge inside the box. Referee Jair Marrufo was unconvinced and waved play to continue, and less than a minute later Gerso’s low drive was smothered by San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men remained on the ascendancy and nearly landed the first punch on 18 minutes. Feilhaber settled a lovely diagonal ball from Medranda, squared up his defender and pulled the trigger from 15 yards, but the left-footed effort whistled inches wide of Bingham’s left-hand post.
San Jose’s only first-half glimpse of goal was fleeting: Simon Dawkins found a pocket of greenery and accelerated into the box in the 20th minute, but Matt Besler and Ike Opara were quick to extinguish the danger.
Feilhaber gave his side the lead — and its first goal of 2017 — in jaw-dropping fashion. With 37 minutes on the clock, Graham Zusi was afforded space on the right wing and played centrally to Feilhaber 30 yards from goal. The midfielder took a single touch and unleashed a sensational right-footed strike that swerved over a frozen Bingham and nestled into the far left corner of the net, igniting rapturous celebrations at Children’s Mercy Park.
With momentum firmly seized, Sporting Kansas City made an immediate bid to double its advantage. Gerso lofted a delightful pass down the right side for Feilhaber, who clipped the ball across the face of goal to an open Medranda on the opposite side of the penalty area. The Colombian hammered his volley cleanly but was unable to steer it on frame, giving San Jose a temporary reprieve.
Bingham was forced into action twice within the first 10 minutes of the second half, saving Gerso’s low shot before almost losing the ball at his feet with Dwyer applying heavy pressure. San Jose finally mustered its first shot on goal in the 56th minute, a long-range attempt from Fatai Alashe that Melia saved comfortably. Shortly thereafter, Roger Espinoza sliced the backline with a precise through ball to Dwyer, who dragged his shot agonizingly wide.
Sporting Kansas City continued to hold a firm grip on proceedings and went ahead 2-0 in the 89th minute thanks to a costly error from Bingham. Substitute Soony Saad’s deflected shot was skidding narrowly wide of the target, but as Bingham attempted to scoop up, the ball trickled through his mitts and crawled over the goal line to seal San Jose’s fate.
The Earthquakes staged a furious rally in added time, nearly salvaging a point after failing to test Melia for most of the night. The deficit was cut in half in the 91st minute when Anibal Godoy’s long free kick into a crowded penalty area was chested down by Danny Hoesen and hooked into the roof of the net by Jungwirth. Melia produced a phenomenal save less than 60 seconds later, diving to his left at full extension to push Dawkins’ low effort just beyond the post.
Sporting Kansas City is off next weekend as the FIFA international window takes center stage with World Cup qualifiers across the globe. Zusi will join the U.S. Men’s National Team, while Espinoza will link up with Honduras ahead of two pivotal fixtures in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal. The U.S. and Honduras will square off next Friday in San Jose, California before taking the field again four days later against Panama and Costa Rica, respectively.
Following the international break, Sporting Kansas City will visit defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC (1-0-2, 5 points) on March 31 in a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff on FS1.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 3 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,282 (89th straight sellout)
Weather: 60 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (1-0-2, 5 points)||1||1||2|
|San Jose Earthquakes (2-1-0, 6 points)||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber (Soni Mustivar 85), Ilie, Roger Espinoza; Jimmy Medranda (Soony Saad 78), Dom Dwyer, Gerso
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Kevin Ellis, Igor Juliao, Daniel Salloi, Latif Blessing
San Jose Earthquakes: David Bingham; Nick Lima, Victor Bernardez, Florian Jungwirth, Shaun Francis; Jahmir Hyka (Shea Salinas 61), Fatai Alashe (Tommy Thompson 80), Anibal Godoy, Simon Dawkins; Chris Wondolowski (C), Marco Urena (Danny Hoesen 68)
Subs Not Used: Andrew Tarbell, Andres Imperiale, Kofi Sarkodie, Darwin Ceren
|Shots on Goal||4||3|
SKC -- Dom Dwyer (caution; simulation) 16
SJ -- Marco Urena (caution; unsporting behavior) 52
SKC -- Graham Zusi (caution; unsporting behavior) 84
SKC -- Benny Feilhaber 1 (Graham Zusi 1) 37
SKC -- David Bingham (own goal) 89
SJ -- Florian Jungwirth 1 (Danny Hoesen 1, Anibal Godoy 1) 91+