(October 30, 2011) – Two goals from forward Teal Bunbury were the difference in a 2-0 victory for Sporting Kansas City over the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Sunday. The win is the first postseason road victory for Sporting Kansas City since a 3-2 shootout win over Dallas in the team’s inaugural 1996 season.
The victory gives Sporting Kansas City a 2-0 lead in the two-game, aggregate goal series ahead of the return leg at 7:00 p.m. CT on Wednesday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Tickets can be purchased here, by calling 888-4KC-GOAL or by visiting the box offices located at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Bunbury, who posted his third multi-goal game of the season on his postseason debut,becomes the third player in Sporting KC history to score twice in a MLS playoff match and the youngest at age 21.
Both of Bunbury’s goals came in the second half of a hotly-contested affair that saw more heavy challenges than clear cut chances until Bunbury’s first strike in the 49th minute. The opening goal, assisted by Julio Cesar, gave Bunbury the team lead for goals in MLS competition with ten in 2011. The second-year forward would add his 11th from the spot in the 59th minute after earning a penalty kick following a red-card challenge from Rapids defender Tyrone Marshall.
While Sporting Kansas City struck quickly in the second half to earn the victory, it was Colorado who created the more dangerous chances to start the match. Fourteen minutes in, Omar Cummings nearly put Colorado in front with a header to the far post, but his effort was off the mark.
In the 27th minute, Cummings was again involved in a chance for Colorado. Carrying the ball along the edge of the penalty area, Cummings played a quick one-two with substitute forward Macoumba Kandji before sliding the ball to Sanna Nyassi, but the Gambian midfielder sliced his shot wide.
Two minutes later, Colorado nearly went in front through Wells Thompson. Handed a start in place of injured captain Pablo Mastroeni, Thompson controlled a pass from Cummings to the left of goal, before cutting the ball back past ChanceMyers and firing a right-footed effort just wide of the far post.
The best chance of the first half came on the stroke of halftime, as Bunbury saw a redirected shot strike the post from a set piece opportunity. Graham Zusi’s corner kick fell into the penalty area and squirted to Julio Cesar. Cesar paused on the ball before knocking a pass back out wide for Zusi. TheSporting KC playmaker took a touch before striking a low cross towards goalthat was flicked against the post by Bunbury as the sides entered the breakscoreless.
In the 49th minute, with the first chance of the second half, Sporting Kansas City pulled in front. On the ball in midfield, Cesar threaded a passbehind the Colorado backline for Bunbury, who opened his hips and slid his shot low past Matt Pickens from the left side of the penalty area to give Sporting the lead.
Ten minutes later Sporting Kansas City added another, again through Bunbury. After winning the ball alone up front, Bunbury dropped a pass back for Zusi. After returning the pass for Bunbury inside the area, the Akron product was brought down from behind by substitute defender Tyrone Marshall. Marshall was shown a straight red card for the challenge, as referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. Bunbury stepped up and finished the attempt, sending Pickens the wrong way for his second career postseason goal.
Cummings went close in the 68th minute, receiving the ball in space before blazing a shot over the bar from distance. But in the 70th minute, Sporting were back on the attack. Taking a one-touch pass from Davy Arnaud, 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year candidate C.J. Sapong lashed a shot towards goal that Pickens could only punch over the bar.
With 14 minutes remaining, Kandji had a chance to pull a goal back for Colorado. Racing onto a pass in behind the Sporting Kansas City backline, Kandji wrestled off a challenge from Cesar to put himself in alone with Jimmy Nielsen. Kandji opted to try and finish to the near post, but his effort was blocked away for a corner by the onrushing Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper.
With the match winding down, Sporting Kansas City had two more chances to increase the final margin through substitute midfielder Jeferson. In the 78th minute, the Designated Player controlled a bouncing ball from a Roger Espinoza header and fired a right-footed drive to the near post that Pickens parriedaway. Then, in the 94th minute, Jeferson played an inch-perfect pass for Arnaud, who was denied on the doorstep by Pickens.
With the 2-0 win, Sporting Kansas City, whose last home playoff loss came in a 3-1 defeat to the Colorado Rapids in 1997, will return home in position to progress to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2007 with avictory, draw or one-goal loss.
Sporting Kansas City have lost only three times in their past 27 matches and have lost by more than one goal on only one occasion during the 2011 MLS regular season.