Sporting Kansas City went into Wednesday night’s road match in Montreal without a single successful penalty kick this season and with no second-half goals in their previous nine matches.
They snapped both streaks — emphatically — with two PKs and three total goals after the break in a 3-1 comeback victory over the Montreal Impact.
“I had a lot of confidence in our guys to hit those,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “Sometimes things don’t go your way, but our guys did a good job and it was justifiable that we got those.”
Kei Kamara, who had his only previous PK attempt saved by FC Dallas 'keeper Kevin Hartman all the way back on March 25, equalized from the spot in the 57th minute after Montreal's Patrice Bernier was called for a hand ball. That broke a string of 319 minutes without a goal for Sporting, and erased Bernier’s 49th-minute goal for the Impact.
Then, after Kamara was lifted for Soony Saad, Graham Zusi struck the game-winning penalty in the 75th minute after former Sporting captain Davy Arnaud tackled Saad in the box on a corner kick.
Highlights: Montreal 1, Sporting KC 3
“I think the guys who took our PKs did a very good job of keeping their composure,” Vermes said. “On Kei’s, they were trying to freeze him out a little bit — playing games with the referee, the goalkeeper going out of the goal.
There were some things they did that weren’t good as far as trying to get on with the game. But both guys stayed focused and finished really well.”
Second-half sub Jacob Peterson capped the win with a goal in the 82nd as Sporting (10-5-2) snapped a three-match winless streak.
“To score three goals, away from home, shows a strong mentality by the group,” Vermes said. “That part I’m very pleased with.”
What wasn’t so pleasing to Vermes: He thought referee Sorin Stoica, who was officiating his third career MLS match, should have pointed to the spot far earlier in the match.
“They were marking C.J. [Sapong] and Kei, and they weren’t even paying attention to the ball,” Vermes said. “They were just looking at our guys and grabbing and holding them. It’s not American football out there, all right? It’s soccer. Tackles don’t work.”
Still, Vermes praised Stoica for making the second call on Arnaud’s foul.
“There’s a lot of referees that think, ‘OK, if I just make one penalty kick call, I can let the rest go,’ Vermes said. “He stuck with it and did a good job.”
And while Zusi isn’t the designated No. 2 penalty-taker behind Kamara, Vermes was pleased with the midfielder’s willingness to step to the spot.
“He could have taken the first one if he’d wanted to,” Vermes said. “I like the way he stepped up and took it, and he finished it really well.”