CARSON, Calif. — As soon as Omar Bravo signed to become Kansas City’s second-ever Designated Player last year, the pressure to score was on. As soon as the Mexican striker joined the Sporting fold for preseason, that pressure amplified.
On Saturday night against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, Bravo took half of that pressure off when he scored his first goal in MLS in his first match in MLS. He took the rest of the pressure off when he scored his second in what ended up a 3-2 win for Kansas City.
HIGHLIGHTS: Chivas USA 2, Sporting 3
“I’m happy with my debut in MLS, happy because the team won, happy because, to a certain point, the crowd respected me and treated me well, and that leaves me pleased and relaxed,” Bravo told a group of reporters after the match.
For the majority of the first half, Bravo didn’t look at all like the player he’s shown he can be in the past with his former club, Chivas de Guadalajara. He looked a bit slow and had some trouble adjusting to the playing style of his new league. A big part of that was the weight the striker felt on his shoulders.
“I think he had high expectations [on him] from the beginning because he is who he is,” Kansas City manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com. “I actually think the first 25 minutes he was struggling a little bit. The reason why is because he wanted to prove so much. He’s a DP, it’s his debut, he’s playing against Chivas – there’s so much that I just think he was too anxious. “
[inline_node:331496]Bravo, who built a reputation as one of Mexico’s deadliest goal-scorers with his ex-club Guadalajara on his extraordinary timing, had trouble with just that early on against Chivas USA. But as the match progressed and he started to settle down, Vermes said Bravo “started to play like what we need from him.”
As Bravo came into his own on the left side of Sporting’s attacking trident, he started finding his openings. Two minutes into first-half added time, he officially announced his arrival to MLS.
Kei Kamara, the right prong of KC’s attack, crossed a ball into Chivas USA’s box that rookie defender Zarek Valentin failed to clear. The ball bounced near the edge of the 18-yard box and an onrushing Bravo chipped goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who had come off his line to thwart the advance.
In the second half, with Sporting up 2-1, Kamara found Bravo inside the box with a headed through-pass that Bravo tapped to the side of Thornton and into the goal for a two-goal lead with just under 16 minutes to play.
“I thought both of his goals were very timely goals," Vermes said. "They came at very important times in the game. And they just showed his class because, if you think about it, both goals – the one over the head, the one little touch inside, that’s not easy and he finished very well.
“He’s a team guy and he wants to help the team in some way, shape or form. And he did so by scoring two goals. [I’m] very happy for him because it takes a lot of pressure off him right away.”
With his first game in MLS out of the way, and his first and second goals following suit, a more relaxed Bravo can turn his complete focus to helping the team reach the MLS Cup Playoffs it so closely missed in 2010.
“I came to add, not to take away," he said. "This start gives me hope, but we’ve got a tough calendar ahead of us. It’s nine more games that we have to play on the road. We have to take it step by step and play just like [Saturday].”