Sporting Kansas City fell 2-1 to Toronto FC on Saturday at the Rogers Centre, suffering the team’s first defeat in 14 MLS regular season games dating back to last August. Designated Player Claudio Bieler scored his second goal in as many games for the club off of a volley in the 77th minute, but a pair of first half goals from Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshaw earned the full three points for Toronto FC in their first home match of 2013.
Toronto FC started the match strong, notching a goal in the third minute of play when Earnshaw intercepted a pass in the defensive third and capitalized on the chance with a well-taken shot from the right side of the penalty area for his first MLS goal. Check out our friends over at Gambling.com for the best sports betting and online casino bonuses, site reviews and much more.
Sporting KC responded four minutes later when Chance Myers made an overlapping run and cut the ball to Benny Feilhaber, who chipped it just wide of the goal.
Earnshaw doubled Toronto’s lead in the 20th minute from the penalty mark after Paulo Nagamura was judged to have fouled newly-acquired midfielder John Bostock inside the box. With Nielsen guessing to his left, Earnshaw slotted his shot to the opposite side for the eventual match-winner.
Toronto FC nearly claimed a third goal in the 31st minute when Reggie Lambe sent in a swinging shot from the top of the box that was just wide of the far post. Sporting KC got in one last look at goal before the end of the half when Collin was on the receiving end of a free kick, but his glancing header was just wide of the near post.
Myers gave Sporting KC their first scoring opportunity of the second half in the 52nd minute when his glancing header was just wide of the left post. Nine minutes later, halftime substitute C.J. Sapong nearly netted a goal for Sporting Kansas City when he won a header from a Graham Zusi free kick only to see it rattle off the crossbar.
Claudio Bieler provided a much-needed lifeline to Sporting Kansas City with under 15 minutes remaining. Sapong flicked on a long service from Jimmy Nielsen and the Argentinian striker took a shot from distance that blazed past Joseph Bendik.
The 89th minute nearly saw an equalizer for Sporting Kansas City when a long throw-in from Besler bounced around the box and fell to Bieler at top the top of the area, but his right-footed volley was punched out by Bendik.
Six minutes into stoppage time, Sporting KC came close again when Zusi sent in a free kick that Collin headed just wide of the goal on a last gasp attempt at salvaging a road result.
Sporting Kansas City will return to KC for their first home match of the year at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 16 at Sporting Park against the Chicago Fire. The match will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on today’s game…
I thought Toronto came out flying. It was their home opener, the crowd was good for them. They pushed the game and they made the most of their opportunities. We made a big mistake early on to get them into the game that gave them some confidence. Getting the second goal early on put us behind the eight ball pretty early. Two goals is a big deficit to come back from. I thought they closed the half out well, they slowed the game down and didn’t give us much to get into the rhythm or anything. The second half I thought our guys did a very good job of changing the pace of the game and pushing the tempo a little bit. We created quite a few opportunities, maybe a little unlucky here or there, but at the end of the day they did well in the first half we did well in the second half, they got two and we got one. It was a good one.
Did you say anything to your team at half?
Quite a few things. The biggest thing was that our movement off the ball wasn’t good enough. We were letting them dictate the tempo. They guys did a good job in the second half so that was a good thing.
Was the substitution made at the half intended to give your team more size and speed up front?
We definitely needed to change something, I don’t know if whether it was a change for a different mentality or it was the difference in the way everyone was playing, but it wasn’t just one guy. C.J. (Sapong) was a good spark for us at half, kind of changed a lot of the game for us so it was good to see.
Is it difficult to scout a team with players that you haven’t seen before?
Yeah, you don’t really know what their tendencies were as a group so you don’t know coming into the game who is going to play where. I would say that regardless of that you still have to be able to play your game and you should still have good fight and intensity in you and I think in the first half they had it a little more than we did.
Sporting KC captain Jimmy Nielsen
Thoughts on today’s game…
I thought we didn’t play very well in the first 45 minutes. We lost it in the first 45. I think we played a very good second half. I hope that will be a lesson for us, everybody would have that in their minds, what to do and what not to do. It’s definitely not what to do what we did in the first half. Absolutely a great performance by our side in the second half but unfortunately not enough, we gave it away in the first half with a very, very unacceptable and sloppy 45 minutes. It’s very disappointing.
Did coach say anything during the half to get the team going in the second half?
It was not a question about tactical, about the quality of what we did, it was our attitude on the field that was wrong. We were not ready to battle; we were not ready to fight. That surprised me a lot because that is what we talked about just before we went on the field. We should be ready right from the first whistle but it took us 45 minutes to get ready.
What is the difference in the Toronto team from last year to this year?
We got to give them some credit too. It’s not just bad stuff from us in the first half. It was their home opener, coming out full of energy and we gave them a lot more energy. They were all over us at one point and we didn’t have any response to that.
Was it something that Toronto’s defense or the lack of finish from your players that kept the team to one goal?
It was a mix. I think the second half we created a lot of good chances, we created enough opportunities to get a point, unfortunately we didn’t get that equalizer. But again, this should be a lesson for us.
Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen
Thoughts on the game?
We’re still a long way away from where we want to be. More importantly it was a step forward. I think there was improvement in Vancouver, there is improvement today and we got to take baby step to become a very good team. This will help in a lot of ways but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We need to improve the team. We need to improve everything and we will still be working very hard to do it.
Did the team press as much as you wanted after the first twenty minutes?
It’s something that naturally happens when you are up two nil sometimes you kind of sit back on it. They weren’t really breaking us down in open play. Corners and set pieces were obviously a major factor, but they weren’t really breaking us down. It’s a very good Kansas City team, Peter (Vermes) has done a fantastic job with them and they’ll be there about the top this season. You can’t get too greedy.
What vibe did you get from the fans?
It was an amazing turn out. Considering what has happened in the past for them to come out in those number the whole team can’t thank them enough. I think it really helped to see them over the finish line. I know a lot of the guys were saying at half time and afterwards how much they wanted to do it for the fans because they have been with them through thick and thin. I’m pleased in that they can have a good night on the town with a win behind them.
Toronto FC defender Danny Califf
On the second-half pressure from Sporting KC…
I would have rather had a clean sheet and not had the stress at the end. I think that says a lot about the character of the group of the guys. We talked about culture change and the first step in that process is not to lose and I think we’ve shown through preseason and especially tonight that we took a step in the right direction. The quality of the group and the personalities of the group are such that we just need a few of these and build up the confidence and feel that we can go anywhere and win.
On the physical nature of the game…
Yes a little bit, they were whining a little bit which is standard when things aren’t going your way. I think we did a good job standing up for ourselves and not feeling intimidated.
Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshaw
On the victory…
We needed to step it up. We said before the game to forget about last weekend, we worked hard did well and lost so we just needed to step it up today.
On the penalty kick…
I was very happy about it because I changed my mind right at the last minute because I just saw the goalie take a step and it was nice because I was thinking of going to that side and I just changes my mind the last minutes. Overall I think it’s just a day I think we can all celebrate because there was a lot of hard work there, a full team effort.