KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If there's such a thing as an upset draw, this was it. Sporting KC were spared further blushes, however, when Jacob Peterson netted his first goal of 2013 to hand Sporting a 1-1 draw against Nicaragua's Real Estelí on Tuesday night at Sporting Park in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Four minutes after coming on as a second-half sub, Peterson kept Sporting from being the first team ever to lose to Estelí in CCL play. More importantly, his 78th-minute tally kept them unbeaten in Group 2 without doing any serious harm to their chances of advancing out of the group.
Sporting, who beat Real Estelí 2-0 away last month, have seven points going into next month's group-stage finale against Honduras' CD Olimpia, who are on three points with a match in hand, meaning a draw in that match would suffice to see KC through.
The home team did everything but score before the break, dominating possession with the help of a succession of unforced giveaways by the visitors but seeing one shot blocked and two more saved by keeper Justo Lorente.
Soony Saad had Kansas City's most dangerous chance of the half, putting a hard attempt toward the lower left corner, but Lorente sprawled to his right to knock it away.
And then, less than ten minutes into the second half, came the stunner from Real Estelí's Rudel Calero.
After Eric Kronberg punched Samuel Wilson's shot over the bar, Wilson sent the resulting corner kick into the area, and Calero snapped a header inside Kronberg's right post for Estelí's first goal of the group stage and the first conceded by Sporting in three group matches.
As the second half wore on, and Real Estelí's players began hitting the pitch and being stretchered off in an attempt to kill off the clock, Sporting manager Peter Vermes used his last substitution to bring on Peterson for Saad in the 74th.
The move paid off when Zusi sent a low corner kick to the near post, and Peterson nutmegged Lorente for the equalizer.
That was all the hosts would get, even though they flirted with several potential game-winners near the death – including Peterson's miss, just outside the right post, after a bad tip from Lorente deep in stoppage time.
That and Peterson's goal were the only miscues on the night for Lorente, who finished with five saves.
Dom Dwyer drove a free kick just left in the 89th minute, Benny Feilhaber had a blast saved by the keeper in injury time, and Ike Opara – who scored in the away victory – put a header barely right later in stoppage time.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.