Sporting Kansas City manager credits team character for fightback after two "absolutely horrendous" goals

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For a big chunk of the second half, Jimmy Nielsen wondered if Sporting Kansas City had let another victory get away.

“I was looking up on the scoreboard when it was 2-2,” Sporting's goalkeeper and captain said, “and thinking 'What the hell is this?'”

What it was, at the time, was not one but two more blown leads for Sporting. They led 1-0 and 2-1 against the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at Sporting Park, but conceded two soft goals just five minutes apart to start the second half as the visitors kept forcing deadlocks.

FULL BOX SCORE AND MATCH STATISTICS

“I felt we were doing so many things right,” Nielsen said. “We were fighting hard, playing hard. We were playing some good soccer. We created a lot of chances. And when you look up there and see it's still 2-2.”

But this time, it didn't stay that way. Sporting, who gave up leads in three matches over a four-match winless streak, prevailed 3-2 when Kei Kamara collected Claudio Bieler's headed pass and fired it home in the 80th minute for his second goal of the night and fourth in his last four games.

“A lot of credit to the players for the character to come back,” manager Peter Vermes said in his postgame news conference. “Obviously, I'm sure it was great for the fans. They definitely got their money's worth. At the end of the day, we gave up two soft goals, but it was great for us to score three goals at home.”

Not to mention picking up all three points, which moved Sporting into a second-place tie with the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference.

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That very nearly wasn't the case, though – especially with the way Sporting conceded both of the Crew's goals. Jairo Arrieta ran 65 yards through the defense before putting the visitors' first one home in the 48th minute, and a bad back pass from SKC defender Seth Sinovic sprung Dominic Oduro for an easy score into an empty net after he got past Nielsen in the 53rd.

“The two goals we gave up were absolutely horrendous,” Vermes said. “I think after we scored two goals, we lost ourselves for five minutes or so. We were trying to figure out what happened. We weren't connecting.”

They did when it counted, though – and in front of a home crowd that hadn't seen a league victory since a 4-0 demolishing of Chivas USA on May 5.

“If the fans can see five goals like that and the home team winning, that's really great,” Kamara said during the news conference. “Everyone's going home happy right now.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.