KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It was just the shot of momentum Sporting Kansas City needed to take into their 11-day layoff.
Rather than spend that time regretting their missed opportunities in what would have been their third scoreless draw of the young season, Sporting can now look to Friday night's 1-0 victory over D.C. United as an example of their ability to take three points out of an ugly game.
“It's huge for us,” said defender Matt Besler, who anchored the back line in Kansas City's fourth straight shutout. “It's huge. The feeling would be a lot different coming in here if it was another 0-0 tie. The three points at home, going into this break, are big.
“Hopefully that's the sign of a good team, because we didn't play our best tonight. and we weren't as sharp as we should have been,” Besler added. “But we won, and that's all that matters.”
Claudio Bieler's 89th-minute goal, after Soony Saad's hustle to win the ball in the corner and send a spot-on pass to the Argentine striker just outside the six-yard box, proved the difference-maker as Sporting overcame United's game-long midfield disruption and their defensive tactics in the second half.
“I think we showed tonight that we're going to fight to the end,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “We did, and we were rewarded with the points.”
Saad, who earned his first assist of the year, was an 83rd-minute sub for Benny Feilhaber as Sporting pressed for the win.
“I knew that all game, we'd been trying to score and get the lead, kind of break them down,” he said. “I felt like when I came on, my job was to make a difference, whether that's taking shots or trying to set up people.”
It was a play that Sporting might not have gotten in 2012, manager Peter Vermes said in his postgame news conference.
“At the end of the day, it’s a good three points,” said Vermes, whose team is off until their away date with New York on April 17. “I think a year ago we probably would have tied this game. This year, we win this game. That’s a good step in the right direction.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.