KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It took two tries, but Sporting Kansas City tasted a home victory in their second game at Livestrong Sporting Park on Friday night, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 in front of a full house of 18,467.
C.J. Sapong scored the game's only goal off a free kick from Graham Zusi as Sporting extended their unbeaten streak to five games and halted the Quakes' six-game unbeaten streak in the process.
The match started at a plodding pace with both teams content to feel each other out with long balls into their burly center forwards. Sapong and San Jose’s Steven Lenhart won their fair share of headers, but neither side could string much together once the ball was on the ground.
Quakes midfielder Khari Stephenson tested Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen early with a skipping free kick, and Zusi pushed a golden chance wide of the post alone on goal, but neither side looked particularly likely to score.
The breakthrough finally came in the 31st minute from a dead-ball situation following a foul on Davy Arnaud on the right flank. Zusi wrapped his right foot around the ball and curled a cross to the front post, where Sapong fought off a challenge and managed to extend his left foot to apply the finish past San Jose ‘keeper Jon Busch.
After scoring their first goal in their new home, Kansas City grabbed control for the rest of the half, neutralizing Lenhart with physical play at the back and whipping in balls from the right for Sapong, Arnaud and Omar Bravo to attack.
Needing a spark, Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop brought on Simon Dawkins and Ellis McLoughlin at halftime for Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Sam Cronin. But Sporting didn’t miss a beat as Bravo nearly got on the end of Luke Sassano’s ball across the top of the six-yard box, then forced Busch into a sprawling save after his shot was deflected.
That seemed to light a fire under San Jose, and the momentum shifted for the next 10 minutes. Stephenson struck a free kick just high and wide, Dawkins sent a low, driven shot just outside the near post and the Earthquakes threatened from a variety of dead-ball situations.
But for all their efforts, the visitors didn’t break through and Peter Vermes went to his bench to shore things up with a half-hour remaining, bringing Júlio César and Kei Kamara on for Zusi and Sassano. Like the Quakes' substitutions before them, the changes seemed to breathe new like into Sporting and they pushed forward in search of a second to ice the game.
But another goal wasn’t in the cards, leaving SKC to collect their first home victory of the season on a balmy night at their new stadium.
With the win, Sporting improve to 3-6-4 on the season. They next head to Philadelphia on June 22. San Jose, meanwhile, drop to 5-5-4. They’ll host the rival LA Galaxy on June 25.
KC -- C.J. Sapong 2 (Graham Zusi 2) 31
SJ -- Ramiro Corrales (caution; Reckless Tackle) 42
SJ -- Steven Lenhart (caution; Dissent) 50
KC -- Aurelien Collin (caution; Reckless Foul) 52
KC -- Luke Sassano (caution; Reckless Tackle) 54
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Busch, Bobby Burling, Bobby Convey, Jason Hernandez, Steven Beitashour, Brad Ring, Sam Cronin (Simon Dawkins 46), Ramiro Corrales, Anthony Ampaipitakwong (Ellis McLoughlin 46) (Scott Sealy 89), Khari Stephenson, Steven Lenhart.
Substitutes Not Used: Joey Gjertsen, Chris Leitch, Brandon McDonald, Andrew Weber.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Davy Arnaud, Birahim Diop, Luke Sassano (Julio Cesar 61), Graham Zusi (Kei Kamara 63), Omar Bravo (Teal Bunbury 86), C.J. Sapong.
Substitutes Not Used: Korede Aiyegbusi, Kevin Ellis, Michael Harrington, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Paul Ward
Referee's Assistants: Darren Clark; Philippe Briere
4th Official: Tyler Ploeger
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 84 degrees