KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With the clock stuck on 90 minutes and Sporting Kansas City down a goal and moments away from seeing their nine-game unbeaten streak go up in smoke, Matt Besler took a glance up field and unleashed what amounted to a Hail Mary.
What happened next was the soccer equivalent of the tip drill.
Besler’s chip was sent on by C.J. Sapong, Kamara pressured Zarek Valentin into a scuffed clearance and Omar Bravo met the ball at the back post, sending a header past Dan Kennedy to give Sporting a last-second, 1-1 draw against Chivas USA.
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“I looked up and I saw [Birahim] Diop, Kei [Kamara] and C.J. [Sapong],” Besler said. “Those aren’t too bad of targets. I felt like a quarterback out there a little bit.”
After spending most of the second half watching Kennedy stand on his head to keep Chivas in line for all three points, Bravo’s goal was exactly what Kansas City needed to keep the positive vibes flowing.
They didn’t earn three points and the first half was quite possibly the worst 45 minutes Sporting have played in two months, but the draw amounted to a psychological victory. For 92 minutes, it looked like they would suffer their first-ever defeat at Livestrong Sporting Park, but Sporting’s belief never wavered.
“The thing I think is most positive about this team is that we insist on scoring the goal and getting back in the game,” Bravo said. “We have a never-die attitude.”
That attitude was personified by Bravo’s dogged, and eventually successful, pursuit of the equalizer.
He had a penalty appeal waved off and couldn’t quite put together the final touch or run for most of the night, but he never stopped working. And when it mattered most, Bravo finally found himself in the right place at the right time and made no mistake with the finish.
“The one thing Omar does so much more special than any other player is he finishes runs off,” manager Peter Vermes said. “He may not get the first ball, he may not get the second one but he keeps going and somehow gets the third one because of his commitment to making those runs. His goal was extremely opportunistic.”
Bravo celebrated by making a beeline for the corner flag to deliver a flying karate kick before being mobbed by his teammates. And while the sellout crowd celebrated along with him, Vermes, who wears his emotions on his sleeve on the touchline, let out a little frustration of his own.
“It’s exciting when you see your team fight through adversity over 90 minutes and somehow get themselves back into the game,” he said. “It’s not just the point, but you win a lot of other things within that. It’s a psychological game that you win. And that’s an important thing.”
Most importantly, Sporting fought back from another early deficit, earned an important point and pushed their unbeaten streak in league play to 10 games, putting an exclamation point on a night that was minutes from ending in disappointment.
“It appears we like to suffer,” Bravo said. "But, in the end, the goal went in.”