Sporting Kansas City completed a successful week by downing the Crew 2-0 on Saturday to take sole possession of first in the Eastern Conference before a crowd of 17,588 at Crew Stadium.
Jacob Peterson scored early and Teal Bunbury added an insurance goal in the 82nd minute as SKC (11-5-3, 36 points) moved three points ahead of D.C. United, who play Sunday at Houston.
The Crew (6-7-4, 22), losers of three of four, pressed for the equalizer late and were susceptible to the counterattack that started with Kei Kamara down the right side. He found Bunbury in the middle for the easy score.
And that was more than enough because of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Nielsen, selected to the MLS All-Star First XI last Sunday, came off the line to deny Emilio Renteria in the 75th minute to preserve his eight shutout of the season as Sporting showed no emotional or physical letdown after beating Philadelphia 2-0 in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Wednesday.
They took advantage of a shuffled lineup, especially in the back, and had immediate pressure that resulted in a goal in the 6th minute thanks to the combination of Peterson and Peterson.
Peterson Joseph threaded a perfect through-ball with the outside of his right foot between three defenders near the top of the box as Jacob Peterson kept his composure and narrowly remained onside. He split Eric Gehrig and Bernardo Anor in stride and had a clean slotted shot that beat goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
It turned out to be a short night for Peterson, however, because he left the game in the 38th minute with an ankle sprain.
The Crew had a smidgen on an opportunity in the 24th minute when Josh Williams kept the ball in play next to the Sporting goal and put the ball back to Renteria for a shot that hit the right outside netting.
Nielsen didn’t have to make the save but he did five minutes later by cutting off a Justin Meram attempt from the right of the penalty after taking a pass from Tony Tchani.
The Crew continued to find cracks in the SKC defense and only bad luck and the frame prevented the equalizer in the 48th minute, as Eddie Gaven’s cross from the deep right corner came to Meram for a 6-yard header that kissed the crossbar and stayed out.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha made changes to the core of the Crew defense by benching right back Sebastian Miranda, who had started all 50 games the past two seasons. Normal centerback Williams moved into Miranda’s spot and Gehrig made his first start in the central defense in 11 games.
The changes didn’t end there as converted midfielder Anor made his first start at left back over veteran Nemanja Vukovic and Meram replaced injured midfielder Milovan Mirosevic.
Also, Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta made his MLS debut and had two offside calls in 62 minutes.
Sporting had only two alterations from the Open Cup first XI: Joseph came on for midfielder Graham Zusi and Bunbury was replaced by Soony Saad in the starting lineup before Bunbury subbed for him in the 51st minute.
Sporting Kansas City play at Houston on Wednesday while the Crew host D.C. United next Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jimmy Nielsen||It wasn't his buriest night, but he did what he had to for his ninth shutout and second clean sheet this week.|
|2||Kei Kamara||He was busy all night on the wing, and was a one-man gang on Bunbury's insurance goal.|
|3||Jacob Peterson||He came off before the first half was through, but his early goal set the tone for SKC"s win.|