Sporting Kansas City scored twice in the final ten minutes and once more in stoppage time to defeat the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3 in a thrilling Western Conference matchup on Saturday night. Sporting KC remains undefeated on home soil this season, and now climbs into fourth place in the Supporters’ Shield standings, just two behind Vancouver.
As late as the 81st minute, it looked as if their remarkable 7-0-4 home record would receive its first black mark, as the visitors held a 3-1 lead on a brace from speedster Kekuta Manneh and a wonderful free kick from 30 yards out by captain Pedro Morales.
Manneh’s goals were textbook counters. The first saw him turnover the ball just inside his own half, then run straight at the KC defence for fifty yards before left-footing it past ‘keeper Tim Melia. The second involved a similar turnover by Steven Beitashour, who scooted up the right flank and delivered a delicious cross to Manneh in the six-yard box. As for Morales, he came on in the 65th minute and doled out a handful of wonderful passes before hitting that free kick with medical precision.
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For a five-minute stretch after the Argentine’s highlight strike, Kansas City looked absolutely defeated. They had held the edge in play most of the night, but they were down by two, and that had been the game plan for the Whitecaps. The visitors were content to bide their time, let Sporting KC run at them, and look for counterstrike opportunities. It’s a strategy that has garnered them the best road record in MLS this season, and on this day it worked for most of the match.
But then Sporting Kansas City decided to set a record by coming back from two goals down in the 80th minute to win for the first time in club history. They become just the second ever MLS side to do so after DC United did back in 2003.
Krisztian Nemeth launched a perfect cross that found Dom Dwyer all alone in the box. He headed the ball past David Ousted, no mistake. Six minutes later, Chance Myers found Paulo Nagamura with room at the lip of the 18-yard box — he pounded a low one-timer into the far corner, and it was a tie game to the delight of the home crowd.
Queue the dramatic come-from-behind music; the Brazilian wasn’t finished. Deep into stoppage time, Soni Mustivar put a long cross toward the Vancouver goal, and Nagamura scored his second in a matter of minutes to lift the roof off Sporting Park.
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After the match, Vancouver coach Carl Robinson was livid with referee Juan Guzman. In particular, he cited a collision that happened with about 20 minutes left in the match, when it was still 3-1 for the visitors. Pa Madou Kah and Dom Dwyer ran into each other away from the ball, and each was attended by team medical staff. Both teams had already used their three substitutions, however, so they both stayed on the pitch. Dwyer would score one of his team’s late goals. Robinson ranted post-game that his defender had suffered a broken jaw on that play, contributing to a significant drop in performance and, in turn, the Kansas City comeback.
On a positive note for the losers, Vancouver has set aside worries that they can’t score. They’ve netted 14 goals in the past four league matches, and suddenly boast the second-best offence in the Western Conference. Worrying, however, is the fact that, including the Canadian Championship game against the Montreal Impact last week, the Whitecaps have squandered three two-goal leads in two games.
As for Sporting Kansas City, they’re now unbeaten in three and boast the best points-per-game record in Major League Soccer.
Sporting KC’s next match is on Wednesday, August 19, when they host the woeful San Jose Earthquakes. Vancouver hopes to get back in the win column when FC Dallas visits on Saturday, August 22.