Kansas City, Kan. The volley was as crisp and technically brilliant as could have been asked, the missing equation to what until then had been a torrent of chances without many finishes for Sporting Kansas City on Saturday against Toronto FC.
In the 34th minute, defender Julio Cesar received midfielder Graham Zusi’s corner kick and sent it through for what would be the second of two scores for Sporting KC (9-3-1) in a 2-0 victory to move to second place in the Eastern Conference, two points shy of Real Salt Lake.
“World class,” coach Peter Vermes said of the goal after the game.
The score padded a lead initiated by forward C.J. Sapong in the 18th minute off a cross by midfielder Jacob Peterson, who started his first game for Sporting KC with Kei Kamara still overseas competing for the Sierra Leone national team. Following his team’s results on Twitter, Kamara would soon read that he would be joined by Sapong atop the league’s scoring list with five goals apiece.
In front of a season-high 20,488 fans at Livestrong Sporting Park, Sporting KC hosted a Toronto FC club very much in transition in its first game with new head coach, Paul Mariner.
For much of the first half, Toronto (1-10) conceded possession to Sporting KC, who for its part saw a number of chances by forward Teal Bunbury, Zusi and Cesar.
Cesar’s goal followed a pair of easier chances that missed the mark by inches.
“For me the most clear was the second one,” Cesar said. “The opportunities come when you try to find them. Today was the most opportunities I had, and I put it in the net.”
Zusi’s assist on Cesar’s goal gave him eight on the season, good for first in MLS.
For much of the second half, Sporting KC had to hold of a Toronto FC side that began to string together more chances than it had in the first 45 minutes. After owning a 10-2 advantage in shots, Toronto FC stormed back with nine of its own in the second half. Still, highlighted by a beautiful kick save by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen in the 73rd minute, Sporting KC would keep its guests out of the net.
Also missing from Sporting KC’s starting lineup Saturday was defender Matt Besler, still on the mend from appendicitis. Lawrence Olum appeared in his place for his first career start.
Sporting KC now embarks for a coast-to-coast two-game road trip beginning at 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Seattle, followed three days later by a 6 p.m. start at Philadelphia. Sporting KC will return to Livestrong Sporting Park when it hosts the Dayton Dutch Lions in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26.
KC to host French club
Sporting KC added another international friendly to its schedule, announcing this week that it will host French Ligue 1 champions Montpellier HSC at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24.
Montpellier will be the 14th international club to visit Livestrong Sporting Park since it opened last year. It will do so one week before Sporting KC hosts English Premier League club Stoke City at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1.