By ALAN HAINKEL
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — On Wednesday, Columbus Crew interim coach Brian Bliss said about his club’s match with Sporting Kansas City this weekend, “It will be nice to go in there and punch the bully in the nose.”
Unfortunately for Bliss, who served as interim head coach for the then-Kansas City Wizards in 2006, it was the Crew who ended up getting punched, early and often, as Sporting Kansas City cruised to a 3-0 home win on Saturday night. The announced attendance of 19,211 marked the 31st consecutive sellout crowd for Sporting KC.
“It is always nice when the opposing coach gives you some motivation with previous comments that have been made before game day,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. “It makes my job of motivating the players really easy.”
Sporting KC got an early indication of how the game would go in the sixth minute. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber was taken down in the box by Crew midfielder Will Trapp. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero did not hesitate as he pointed to the penalty spot. Claudio Bieler converted from the spot for his tenth goal of the season.
Sporting KC got another chance about seven minutes later from a set piece. Feilhaber put a free kick into the box that goalkeeper Matt Lampson got to first, but spilled the ball. Lampson was able to collect the ball just before C.J. Sapong was able to pounce on the loose ball.
Five minutes later, Sporting KC came close to adding to their lead. Midfielder Paulo Nagamura fed a ball out to Saad on the right wing. Saad found Josh Garner in the area, but Gardner’s shot was just wide and hit the side netting.
Sporting KC doubled their lead just before halftime. In the 41st minute, Bieler pushed the ball out toward the left wing to Saad. Saad drove into the penalty area, froze defender Eric Gehrig, and put a shot in the upper 90 on the far post. Lampson did not have a chance to make a save.
Ten minutes after the break, Sporting KC got their last tally of the night. Midfielder Uri Rosell made an inch perfect cross into the area for Sapong, who beat defender Tyson Wahl to head home his second goal of the season.
The strong performance was an important one for Sapong, who has endured a tough season with Sporting KC.
“I feel that it was more of a statement to myself,” Sapong said. “It was nice to show everyone that I can provide an impact on this team and in the games.
“I have taken it as it has come, and it has become a night that I can celebrate,” Sapong said. “It was just a matter of getting some confidence back, and hopefully that will continue on to the end of the season.”