By DAN KARELL
After suffering a rare home defeat in week nine of Major League Soccer action, Graham Zusi and Sporting Kansas City were determined to remind the league that they are still the team to beat.
Attacking from the opening minute, the U.S. international Zusi had his best games of the season, assisting on a goal and scoring one himself as Sporting Kansas City pummeled ten-man Chivas USA, 4-0, on Sunday afternoon at Sporting Park. SKC forward Claudio Bieler scored twice against an over-matched Chivas side that lost goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in the 54th minute to a straight red card.
The hosts were in the mood to score early and often, with both winger Jacob Peterson and Bieler getting opportunities on goal within the first 20 minutes of the match. Kennedy denied the SKC attack on more than one occasion, and one attempt on goal was headed away in the box by Chivas defender Mario de Luna.
In the 41st minute, Zusi picked up a loose ball in the final third, passing along his right to Bieler, who faked a shot to round Kennedy before finishing with his left foot. It was a long time coming, but there was more to come after halftime.
SKC nearly scored in the opening seconds of the second half but Zusi’s pass across the box couldn’t find a streaking Peterson. The crowd of 18,811 didn’t have to wait long for the game’s turning point in the 54th minute, when Zusi cut open the three-man Chivas defensive unit with a through ball to midfielder Paulo Nagamura, who slid the ball past Kennedy, forcing the Chivas ‘keeper to take Nagamura down in the box.
Kennedy was shown a straight red card, and three minutes later, Bieler powered his second goal of the day from the spot, sending backup Chivas goalkeeper Patrick McLain the wrong way to take a two goal advantage.
Both Zusi and Nagamura were eventually taken off in the second half, but not before Zusi rounded off his superb performance with a goal of his own in the 65th minute, taking a pass from SKC debutant Josh Gardner in the box and finishing off the underside of the crossbar for his team’s third goal of the match.
Peter Vermes’ side added more misery to El Chelis and his Chivas USA squad when C.J. Sapong notched his first goal of the season in the 87th minute, taking a pass from Mechack Jerome on the right and finishing with a side-footed volley to make it 4-0.
The win was the 50th MLS victory for Vermes and was the 38th shutout for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, an all-time record for the club. Despite being without starters Chance Myers and Matt Besler in defense, the Chivas offense was so out of sorts that Nielsen didn’t have to make a single save.
Here are the match highlights (in Spanish):