Sporting Kansas City defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in front of a sold out crowd on Wednesday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting park, securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the second seed overall in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs. Sporting Kansas City will now have home field advantage through the Eastern Conference Championship, beginning with the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Tickets for Sporting Kansas City’s first home playoff match are available to purchase online at Tickemaster.com or at the LSP Box Offices.
Kei Kamara led the attack for Sporting Kansas City in the regular season finale on Wednesday, assisting on Jacob Peterson’s opening goal in the 40th minute and again on C.J. Sapong’s match-winner with less than 10 minutes remaining in the match. Jimmy Nielsen made two saves, including a stop on Michael Farfan’s second-half penalty kick, to match the MLS record in the non-shootout era for wins in a season with 18.
Sporting Kansas City closed the record-setting 2012 regular season with 63 points, most in team history, and on a 12-game unbeaten run, second-best in club history. Should the team advance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Championship, the team will be in position to host the 2012 MLS Cup if they play any team other than Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose.
Sporting Kansas City started strong on Wednesday, beginning in the fourth minute when Kamara took full advantage of a free kick with a low shot that was just wide of the left post.
Ten minutes later, Seth Sinovic played a ball down the left flank to Sapong in the box. The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year made a bold attempt to volley a shot past goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but fired wide of the near post.
Philadelphia had a chance of their own in the 36th minute when Gabriel Gomez floated a long ball to Jack McIerney. His chip caught Nielsen coming off his line but bounced narrowly wide of the target.
Sporting Kansas City were back on the attack in the 38th minute as Julio Cesar snapped in a perfect cross to Sapong. His first touch released a low, powerful shot that MacMath did well to block with his leg at the near post.
Two minutes later, Sporting Kansas City claimed their first goal of the evening when Sapong charged down the midfield and played the ball out wide to Kamara. The Sierra Leone international swung in a sharp cross to Peterson, who took one touch and blazed his shot past MacMath for his fourth goal of the season and first since returning from a shoulder injury.
Sporting Kansas City ended the half on a high note, nearly scoring a second goal two minutes into stoppage time. Graham Zusi’s initial shot from 10 yards out was blocked by MacMath only to rebound back to Zusi. His follow-up effort was struck first-time but MacMath recovered to again turn away the attempt.
The second half began with no lack of excitement when Danny Cruz drew a penalty in the 53rd minute. Farfan took the penalty, only to be valiantly denied byNielsen. However, Antoine Hoppenot was the first to arrive for the rebound and buried his shot from close-range to deny Nielsen a record-tying 16th shutout in the regular season.
The Union were back at it again four minutes later when McInerney beat out Sporting Kansas City’s backline and sent a looping header that struck the far right post. Moments later, Keon Daniel shook the woodwork again when he fired in a shot from the top of the box.
Sporting KC appeared to find their footing in the 67th minute when Zusi’s free kick from 40 yards out sailed over the opposition and nearly slipped in past MacMath.
On the opposite end of the field, Hoppenot slid past Collin to go one-on-one with Nielsen, but the Goalkeeper of the Year candidate came off his line to make a dramatic save.
Sporting Kansas City secured the victory in the 83rd minute when Kamara danced through Philadelphia’s defense and played a lovely through ball to Sapong on the right side of the penalty area. The second-year striker made no mistakewith his shot to score his ninth goal of the season.
Sporting Kansas City will play the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on the road on Nov. 3 or 4. The opponent, kick-off time and broadcast information for the series will be determined at a later date as Sporting Kansas City awaits the winner from the Eastern Conference KnockoutRound on Oct. 31.