Sporting KC rolls to Eastern Conference final

KCwins (Getty)

 

By GARRETT DAVEY

Sporting Kansas City went into their Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against the Colorado Rapids needing to hold onto a 2-0 lead from the first leg. 

Sporting KC didn't just hold on, they added to that lead and booked the first ticket into the MLS conference finals in the process.

On a wet and blustery night at Livestrong Sporting Park, goals from Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong gave Sporting KC a 2-0 victory over the Rapids and a 4-0 aggregate series victory. The win booked Sporting's place in the Eastern Conference final on Sunday against the winner of the Houston/Philadelphia series.

Collin opened the scoring with a 28th-minute header off a Graham Zusi free kick which caught Matt Pickens reacting late and out of position.

“Every game Zusi is very good from set-pieces and I have to work hard to score because every game I have two or three opportunities,” Collin said.

Zusi came through with another stellar set piece in the 76th minute when he floated in a dangerous ball that rookie C.J. Sapong headed home to make the score 2-0 and put the series out of reach.

After their win in the first leg, Kansas City could have sat back and defended to protect their two-goal series lead, but they pushed the tempo from the opening whistle.

“I know lot of people thought (we were) going to bunker in and keep the two-goal lead," Vermes said. "We (said) we have to be smart, we can’t just expose ourselves but and when the moments are there we’re going to go and the guys went and they had good balance and shape when they went.”

Sporting really bossed possession throughout the match and played with great confidence, connecting their passes well and beating Colorado to most of the fifty-fifty balls.  They just couldn’t seem to find a final bit of quality around the box, and were found wanting on many occasions.

Over the two-match series, Sporting delivered a comprehensive beating of Colorado who it must be said were decimated by injuries.  Sporting had an injury of their own for this match that saw forward Omar Bravo out with a muscle tweak, but that didn't stop KC from dominating the Rapids over the course of two matches.

“As games go on we get better and better” Vermes said, “because they’re playing with a level of confidence that they believe when one guy steps here the other guy is going to step there.”

The series victory moves Sporting KC into their first conference final since reaching and losing the 2007 Western Conference final to Houston.

This was the fourth consecutive shutout for Kansas City, who will face the winner of the Houston and Philadelphia series, which will conclude on Thursday night. The Dynamo lead the series after posting a 2-1 victory in the first leg at PPL Park.

The Eastern conference final kick-off at Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday, with the winner moving on to the MLS Cup Final on November 20.

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14 Responses to Sporting KC rolls to Eastern Conference final

  1. Hopper says:

    Gotta give props to KC this year. They’ve really turned it around, and their fans have really gotten behind them in a big way. Nice to see.

    *wrings out socks from Sounders game*

  2. downintexas says:

    Great job KC!! Clearly the better team. Rapids can’t win another lucky MLS Cup by going through the “weaker” conference.

  3. @downintexas “lucky MLS Cup by going through the “weaker” conference”??? Just so we’re clear, they also went through the best team the Western Conference could throw at ‘em. Here’s your tissue FCD fan.

    With that said, props to KC. It would have been nice to see the Rapids play the series with a full squad though.

  4. RB says:

    You’re going to need a lot of tissues.

  5. Athan says:

    It is clearly time for a Zusi and perhaps Sapong call-up in January! Zusi’s set pieces alone require a call-up!!

  6. Rory says:

    You know, going into the playoffs I would have picked KC as my second favorite team, but after the way they played that first game in Colorado (dirty hits and horrible dives), I just don’t think I can root for them now. What a shame, I toured their stadium this summer and loved the place and the orginization (anyone know any other stadium tour that takes you into the lockeroom and the physio rooms and the owner’s suite?).

  7. Mouf says:

    Oh no! Rory isn’t going to be on the bandwagon! A team played physical against a physical opponent and dominated them, what a travesty!

  8. jim b says:

    Oh please, SKC plays attractive attacking soccer and have quality all over the pitch. If you can’t recognize that then I don’t know why you even bother watching the game at all.

  9. SombraAla says:

    Disclosure that I am an SKC fan, so I may be wearing sporting blue glasses, but I do try to be as objective as possible.

    I understand that many people saw SKC’s play in COL to be overly physical, but I think that you gotta take a step back for a second and consider that A) we are a physical team, for sure, but being physical alone isn’t a crime and B) this was the first (MLS) playoff game that any of these players had played since at least ’08 (for Kamara and Arnaud) and most had never played in one before – they were amped up and over-zealous at times, but getting stuck-in because you’re over-excited is different than because you’re being malicious or dirty.

    Case-in-point, last night’s game included a lot of questionable conduct by the Rapids players… pushing players to the ground or sometimes coming close to striking SKC players. I didn’t _like_ that because I’m an SKC fan, but I can understand that the Rapids were putting it all out there and were also getting frustrated at times – it wasn’t malicious (well, I haven’t reviewed all of the incidents but… I’m giving the benefit of the doubt), it was just the emotions and excitement of playoff soccer.

    I know that not everyone is a huge fan of having a playoff system, but we have one and we might as well appreciate the nuances of the playoffs – that means that players are going to be more emotional and pushing their limits. So it’s not like any of the players are really out there, calmly assessing the situation and deciding to making questionable tackles.

    Basically – if you can’t get over how SKC played in COL bearing in mind that this is the playoffs we’re dealing with, maybe you’re not ready for MLS playoff soccer.

  10. Beech says:

    Comments from Gary Smith after last nights game: “I thought the game across the two legs has been played in a really competitive fashion and while some of my comments may have suggested the Kansas City guys were a little over zealous in the first leg. But listen, I looked at the challenges again, I have no issues whatsoever. I thought the game was played in a very decent fashion, a competitive fashion, the sort of passion you might expect in a playoff game.”

    If you look at the challenges from the 1st leg, they were all 50/50 and Collin was even called for a foul when he didn’t even touch a the guy. Besler slid out the ball and the Colo player got hurt on his follow through. Kansas City is physical but not dirty. They will shoulder up, out jump, and run past you if they can but it’s not dirty.

  11. JP says:

    Sporting KC is a very dangerous team, currently playing the best overall soccer in the league.

    As a neutral fan, I admit that this playoff quality is one of the best in recent years.

  12. RB says:

    I understand your initial reaction, Rory, but I can’t really blame SKC. The issue instead is that glaring double standard from those commenting on the situation. You and I and everybody who follows MLS knows that if the situation had been reversed and SKC had lost 3 players to injury in the firs leg, each after having been tackled by Rapids players, this place would be full of the same old tiresome moaning about what hacks and thugs the Rapids supposedly are and how they represent all the worst of American soccer and are ruining the sport, and so on (and on and on and on).

    But instead people just say it’s the playoffs and continue to describe SKC’s style as attractive, attacking soccer.

  13. Kevmueller says:

    I will also admit I am a Sporting fan and season ticket holder. I thought the game was personally called a little too tight last night on a slick field, but understand that the MLS did not want the game to get ugly.

    However if you were not there you missed all the off the ball crap that was happening. Thompson and Larentowicz were both thugs pushing and tripping off the ball. Then Nyassi at the end take out Myers (re-watching the broadcast the quote was something like well the tackle was not that bad, if he wanted to he could have really hut him).

    I question some of the play by Sporing players at times, but it is them wanting to make a play (and being young in most cases) and not trying to take someone out.

  14. RB says:

    “However if you were not there you missed all the off the ball crap that was happening…”

    Well I was there and didn’t see what you described. (The only exception is that I had to leave before the Nyassi play/booking.) I saw things from the SKC end you don’t mention, as well.