KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City scored two goals in the first half and weathered Real Salt Lake’s pressure in the second to extend their unbeaten streak to 14 games, taking a 2-0 victory Wednesday night at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Roger Espinoza opened the scoring for Kansas City (7-6-9) before receiving a straight red card 10 minutes into the second half, while Teal Bunbury added a second a few minutes after the opener to send Salt Lake (9-5-6) to its second 2-0 defeat in four days.
Sporting moved into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference on 30 points with New York and kept their flawless home record intact while RSL stayed firm in fifth in the West with 33 points from 20 games.
In a sign of things to come, the game started brightly with both sides registering chances in the first two minutes. First Omar Bravo sent his header wide followed shortly by Real Salt Lake stepping just offside during a promising move.
From there until halftime, though, it was all Sporting Kansas City as the home side pushed forward using the speed of Bunbury and a midfield trio bent on winning back the ball in dangerous places.
RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando’s first action came in the eighth minute when Sporting kept hold of the ball following a corner kick. Bravo’s inswinging cross found Espinoza unmarked, but the midfielder’s glancing header couldn’t beat the diving goalkeeper.
Kansas City continued pushing, however, and their efforts nearly paid off twice through future goalscorers Bunbury and Espinoza. First, Bunbury almost punished a mistake by Chris Schuler when the center back misplaced a pass, but Schuler recovered in time to take the sting out of his shot. Espinoza followed that up a rasping drive that narrowly missed the top corner.
A few minutes later Espinoza found his range, nicking the ball at the top of the box and bursting into the area to drive a left-footed rocket just under the sprawling Rimando in the 29th minute and put the home team up 1-0.
Just five minutes later, Bunbury got his goal. Kei Kamara fought to get on the end of Matt Besler’s long throw and headed the ball toward the back stick. Rimando made an impressive diving save but couldn’t push the ball out of bounds. In predatory fashion, Bunbury jumped on the loose ball and uncorked a drive from point-blank range that Rimando got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
It was Bunbury’s second goal in as many games and fifth of the season after breaking his four-month scoring drought only a few days prior against New England.
Neither team made a change at the half, but Jason Kreis went to his bench after a little less than a quarter of an hour when Kansas City went down a man after Espinoza was sent off for a tackle from behind on Kyle Beckerman in the 56th minute. Andy Williams came on for Arturo Alvarez and a few minutes later Colleen Warner was replaced with teenage midfielder Luis Gil.
Still, it was Sporting that produced the first real scoring opportunity as Jeferson found himself alone at the back post to volley in Bravo’s cross, but pushed it wide in the 67th minute. RSL answered right back a few minutes later, but Seth Sinovic headed Alvaro Saborio’s shot off the line.
Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen did his part to keep the shutout in the 76th minute after a foul by substitute CJ Sapong just outside the box set up a free kick in a dangerous area. Beckerman got good contact as he attempted to sneak the ball low and inside the far post, but Nielsen was there to push it away.
Salt Lake had a smattering of chances the rest of the way, but couldn’t put their efforts on frame, allowing Kansas City to close out their fourth victory in eight games at LSP.
SKC – Roger Espinoza 1 (unassisted) 29
SKC – Teal Bunbury 5 (unassisted) 34
RSL– Nat Borchers (caution; Reckless Tackle) 47
SKC– Roger Espinoza (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 56
RSL– Fabian Espindola (caution; Dissent) 89
Real Salt Lake– Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Arturo Alvarez (Andy Williams 59), Kyle Beckerman, Colleen Warner (Luis Gil 65), Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola
Substitutes Not Used: Tim Melia, Chris Agorsor, Jean Alexandre, Rauwshan McKenzie, Robbie Russell
Sporting Kansas City – Jimmy Nielsen, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, Michael Harrington, Jeferson (Birahim Diop 80), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 75), Omar Bravo (Luke Sassano 92), Teal Bunbury
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Daneil Cyrus, Milos Stojcev, Soony Saad
Referee's Assistants:Chris Strickland, Peter Manikowski
4th Official:Tyler Ploeger
Weather:Sunny and 93 degrees