KANSAS CITY, Kan. — After more than a month rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City finally dug themselves out of the basement.
In 90 minutes of work, backed up by more than a month of inspired play, Sporting jumped from ninth to sixth. And if there was any lingering doubt about the legitimacy of Kansas City’s resurgence, Saturday night’s 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps in comeback fashion put much of that to rest.
Watch Highlights: Sporting KC 2, Vancouver 1
Sporting are now undefeated in seven games in the league and eight in all competitions and have won three of their last four games. It’s a far cry from where they found themselves a month ago, but a welcome change for a squad just starting to find their form.
“The change is obvious now,” said Omar Bravo, who scored Kansas City’s first goal from the penalty spot. “The responsibility, the attitude and the discipline has changed with these games. We’ve been a lot more positive.”
It didn’t always look like Sporting would extend their unbeaten streak, which is now the second longest in the league, though.
After Whitecaps ’keeper Joe Cannon stoned C.J. Sapong in the early going, Camilo found himself unmarked at the penalty spot in the 15th minute and flicked Davide Chiumiento’s curling ball into the bottom corner. It was the first goal scored by a visiting team at Livestrong Sporting Park, and one defender Matt Besler chalked up to carelessness.
“We probably got caught not paying attention,” the center back said. “They played the free kick a lot sooner than we thought. We were still trying to scramble around and figure out our marks. The one guy that wasn’t really marked slid through there. He made a heck of a play, but it’s inexcusable for us to leave him open like that.”
Sporting made up for that mistake, though, with inspired play the remainder of the half to grab the lead that would eventually deliver all three points.
First, Bravo and Sapong combined beautifully in the area to force Jay DeMerit into a wild tackle that resulted in a penalty. Eight minutes later, Kansas City scored the winner from a Graham Zusi corner kick after Bravo headed it back across the area and Júlio César whipped it past Cannon.
Manager Peter Vermes said he felt confident at the time that his team would create enough chances to get back in the game but didn’t necessarily expect to see that kind of immediate response.
“I could say ‘no’ now,” Vermes said, “but when the games going and you are getting chance after chance and the goalkeeper is on fire, you are hoping you can get one before halftime. I thought the guys responded very well.”
And then the Sporting players did their jobs during a second half that included one or two rough moments but no goals to keep them from getting the result that removed last place from in front of their names.
After months of walking into their training facility and seeing their name at the bottom of the heap, Kansas City finally have a reprieve.
“It’s great,” Besler said. “It feels good. It feels good.”