Rookie CJ Sapong came up big once again for Sporting KC with his header in the 76th minute of Kansas City's 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
November 2, 2011
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park- Kansas City, KS
Announced Attendance- 18,565
MLSsoccer.com- Sporting handle Rapids 2-0, thru to East Finals
SI.com- Sporting KC advances to Eastern Conference Finals
It a night where the rain came down in waves for most of the match, Sporting Kansas City were still able to dominate the Colorado Rapids 2-0, and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, to be held at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park this Sunday (November 6).
Both Aurelien Collin, and CJ Sapong scored their goals via headers from Graham Zusi free kicks to give Sporting KC a 4-0 aggregate win over the course of the two match series.
It was a dominating defensive performance for Sporting KC, as the Rapids were virtually shut down the entire match, from a Kansas City back line that was playing like their backs were to the wall.
As expected, the second game of the two leg series was another chippy affair, with head referee Kevin Stott blowing his whistle 38 times throughout the course of the match. Stott handed out 7 total yellow cards.Towards the end of the game, Colorado appeared to lose their composure a bit, with Sanna Nyassi making a very hard challenge on Sporting KC right back Chance Myers.
Sporting KC took control of the game pretty much from the first whistle, and although play was sloppy due to the pouring rain, Kansas City still found a way to put continual pressure on the a Rapids team depleted from injuries.
In the 28th minute Graham Zusi took a Sporting KC free kick from near midfield, and was able to connect with the head of Aurelien Collin, who got just enough on his header to poke it past Colorado goal keeper Matt Pickens, who was coming up to punch the ball out of the Rapids' penalty box.
It almost looked to me that the goal was unintentional from Collin, that he just happened to be at the right place at the right time, as he actually headed the ball with the back of his head. Either way, regardless of the intent, the goal put Sporting KC ahead 1-0 in the match; 3-0 aggregate.
Sporting KC would dominate the second half, creating a number of threatening chances, but they weren't able to actually cash in until the 76th minute when CJ Sapong was able to find enough space during another Zusi free kick to head the ball past Pickens and give Sporting KC a 2-0 lead that would eventually finish off the defending MLS Cup champions.
It was sloppy for much of the match, but it played out probably exactly how Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes wanted; with Sporting KC taking an early lead, forcing Colorado to push forward, which opened the opportunities for Sporting KC to attack even more.
The 4-0 aggregate win means that Sporting KC will face either the Houston Dynamo or the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Man of the Match- Graham Zusi
Both of Sporting KC's goals came from Zusi free kicks, and he made a number of dangerous free kicks throughout. Obviously, Collin is a candidate here, as he scored a goal with a nice header (intentional or not), and almost scored two more from Zusi free kicks over the course of the match.
- Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen once again wore the captain's armband for Sporting KC, until Davy Arnaud came in to the match for Roger Espinoza at the start of the second half.
- Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens was sporting (no pun intended) some sort of variation of the General George Custer moustache. Definitely bizarre.
- Even with the bad weather conditions, announced attendance for the match was still 18,565. Props to Sporting KC fans for making it out to support the team, despite the rain.
- Julio Cesar limped off the field when he was substituted out of the match in the 78th minute. Hopefully it's nothing too serious. Cesar has been a revelation for Sporting KC since taking over the holding midfielder role.
- Teal Bunbury looked threatening for much of the match. His work rate was very good. Even though he was unable to find the back of the net, as a Sporting KC fan you have to be happy with his effort tonight.
- Birahim Diop sighting! In the 78th minute, when he came into the match for a limping Cesar. You can spot Diop's smile from a mile away as he ran onto the pitch.
- Please tell me USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was watching this game. Zusi, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, CJ Sapong. You can make a case for all of them to at least be given a shot to make the national team.
Lineups via MLSsoccer.com
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Wells Thompson, Marvell Wynne, Scott Palguta, Miguel Comminges, Brian Mullan, Joseph Nane (Macoumba Kandji 56), Jeff Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex (Eddie Ababio 80), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 46), Sanna Nyassi.
Substitutes Not Used: Andre Akpan, Danny Earls, Mike Holody, Steward Ceus.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Seth Sinovic, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, C.J. Sapong, Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 46), Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar (Birahim Diop 79), Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (Soony Saad 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Jeferson, Eric Kronberg.
COL -- Joseph Nane (caution; Reckless Foul) 27
KC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; Reckless Tackle) 35
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Delaying a Restart) 48+
COL -- Miguel Comminges (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
KC -- Davy Arnaud (caution; Reckless Tackle) 65
COL -- Brian Mullan (caution; Tactical Foul) 75
COL -- Sanna Nyassi (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 93+