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Sporting reach milestone with second-half rally past TFC

KC celebrate

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Since swapping their old Wizards brand for their new look and new name last year, there was something Sporting Kansas City had never done: come back from trailing at the half to earn three points from a match.

That all changed Saturday night, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Eastern Conference leaders and Supporters’ Shield hopefuls.

Instead of spending their two-week break from match action wondering how they let another dominating performance get away, Sporting can now draw momentum from the way in which they rebounded from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat Toronto FC 2-1 and move into a tie with San Jose atop the Shield standings.

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"It's a huge difference between one point and three points, or even no points. Huge difference," goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. "Now we can have a little peace of mind, get our heads away a little bit from soccer now and use the break to get the guys back who have been struggling with some small injuries."

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It was the first time Kansas City had pulled off a second-half comeback since Sept. 22, 2010, when the Wizards trailed Houston 3-1 at the break before coming back to win 4-3.

The key, manager Peter Vermes said in his postgame news conference, was in settling down and not trying to do too much. Where Sporting spent much of the first half spraying one-time shots all over the place and sending crosses to no one in particular, they settled down after that and began looking for openings in the Reds' packed-in defense.

"The second half was huge," manager Peter Vermes said in the postgame news conference. "What we were able to do was circulate the ball and be patient. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. You're so anxious to get the goal that you're just going-going-going-going-going, and you don't have that calmness. I thought we showed our composure there and a lot of confidence."

Sporting came within a minute of a scoreless first half against the Reds, but Ryan Johnson's 44th-minute goal – Toronto's only score in three tries against Kansas City this year – sent the visitors into the break with a 1-0 lead.

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In the past, that meant taking away one point, at most, for Sporting. But with goals from Paulo Nagamura in the 60th minute and Oriol Rosell in the 87th, they came away with all three.

"We didn't come into the locker room panicked," center back Matt Besler said. "We weren't yelling like crazy. We all just looked around, were very calm and said we just needed to focus a little harder and the goals were going to come. We did a good job of staying patient tonight and just broke them down."

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.