KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Teal Bunbury scored two goals and C.J. Sapong added a third as Sporting Kansas City moved into a tie atop the Eastern Conference with Columbus by virtue of a dominating 3-0 victory against 10-man Houston on Saturday at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Bunbury got on the end of two balls behind the Dynamo defense in either half and applied sure finishes, while Sapong was the beneficiary of a well-worked team goal as Sporting (10-8-10) earned a crucial three points in the battle for playoff position.
Houston (8-9-11) lost their second consecutive game and are now five points behind Sporting with six games remaining for both sides, while Sporting are even with Columbus on 40 points heading into the Crew's match against Toronto FC on Saturday night.
With the postseason stakes of the match fresh in both team’s minds, Sporting put the screws to the Dynamo from the opening whistle.
Omar Bravo ghosted in behind the Houston back line in the seventh minute, but his effort was slapped away by goalkeeper Tally Hall. A few minutes later, Hall was tested again but Jeferson’s left-footed shot from the top of the box was weak and directly at the goalkeeper.
But the Dynamo netminder could do nothing about Kansas City’s next opportunity, as the home side took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute through Bunbury. Graham Zusi picked the ball up near Sporting’s penalty area and drove wide into space before curling a ball deep into the center channel for the streaking forward.
Bunbury easily beat Andre Hainault to the ball, took a touch, opened his hips and poked it past a charging Hall for his sixth goal of the season, one more than what he managed during his rookie campaign a year ago.
Kansas City didn’t stop there, either, as Jéferson’s left-footed drive whistled past the post, and Sapong had an acrobatic effort fly just wide of the woodwork. But that sustained pressure was broken in the 30th minute when Carlo Costly nearly evened the score.
Matched up with Júlio César at the top of the penalty area, Costly shimmied into space and turned the corner nicely, but his low, driven shot smacked off the back post as Jimmy Nielsen watch helplessly. Sporting answered with a near miss of their own as Bravo found Seth Sinovic at the back post, but the left back couldn’t put his effort on frame.
Dominic Kinnear sent Je-Vaughn Watson on for a largely ineffective Brian Ching to start the second half while Kansas City didn’t make any halftime changes. Just three minutes into the period, Houston had another golden opportunity to level the score when Brad Davis slipped Costly into the box, but the Honduran’s left-footed drive slipped outside the post.
Once the game had settled down, Peter Vermes made a change of his own, bringing on Davy Arnaud for his second appearance since returning from injury in place of Jéferson. Moments later, however, the Dynamo went down to 10 men when Costly was ejected for a clattering tackle on Chance Myers in the 64th minute.
But down a man and pressing for an equalizer, the Dynamo still couldn’t keep up with Bunbury. Júlio César found the center forward with a brilliant, driven ball that split the Houston defense in the 73rd minute, and Bunbury applied a calm, left-footed finished that Hall got a hand on but couldn’t keep out.
Just second later, Bunbury found himself on the bench, but his replacement, Kei Kamara, offered no dropoff. Sporting added a third goal in the 79th minute when Zusi played Kamara into space, leaving the Sierra Leone international to slide a ball across the top of the six-yard box for Sapong to put in the back of the net.
KC -- Teal Bunbury 6 (Graham Zusi 5) 9
KC -- Teal Bunbury 7 (Julio Cesar 1) 73
KC -- C.J. Sapong 4 (Kei Kamara 3, Graham Zusi 6) 79
KC -- Jeferson (caution; Reckless Tackle) 36
HOU -- Geoff Cameron (caution; Reckless Foul) 61
HOU -- Carlo Costly (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 64
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Hunter Freeman, Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, Colin Clark (Cam Weaver 67), Adam Moffat, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis (Luiz Camargo 81), Brian Ching (Je-Vaughn Watson 46), Carlo Costly.
Substitutes Not Used: Will Bruin, Jason Garey, Kofi Sarkodie, Tyler Deric.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers (Michael Harrington 78), Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, Seth Sinovic, C.J. Sapong, Jeferson (Davy Arnaud 57), Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury (Kei Kamara 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Birahim Diop, Peterson Joseph, Soony Saad, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: Chris Strickland; Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Ismail Elfath
Time of Game: 1:48
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 75 degrees