KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The unlikeliest of hometown heroes came through for Sporting Kansas City, in a way that nobody saw coming.
Especially not Stoke City FC goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Kyle Miller, a product of Sporting’s youth academy who played his high school and college ball in the Kansas City area, blocked Begovic’s clearance attempt with his head in the second minute of stoppage time in Wednesday night’s friendly at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The ball looped back over Begovic and into an empty net, salvaging a 1-1 draw for Sporting in their match against the English Premier League side.
Miller’s surprise score came in his first start and second appearance for Sporting – and it capped a late scoring exchange after the two sides went scoreless through 83 minutes.
Stoke’s Michael Tonge connected from the penalty spot in the 84th minute, firing low and left into the net as ’keeper Eric Kronberg dived the other way, to stake the visitors to a 1-0 lead. Tonge drew the penalty foul in the 83rd, when he cut into the area and was pulled down from behind by center back Konrad Warzycha.
Sporting are winless in their last four international friendlies, all since the club rebranded itself from the Wizards name in 2011. Against EPL opposition under either name, Kansas City have conceded two goals – both from the spot.
Sporting’s Soony Saad, starting at left midfield instead of his usual forward spot, provided the only good chance for either side in a scoreless first half, when his shot from just outside the penalty arc hit the left goalpost. Sporting managed just one shot on goal throughout the match, that on Kevin Ellis’ harmless header in the 33rd minute.
Stoke, meanwhile, didn’t put a shot on target until the 53rd, when Kronberg went to ground to stuff Jonathan Walters – who had both of the EPL side’s goals in their previous two appearances – on a breakaway.
Kronberg also made a highlight-reel save in the 65th minute, diving to his right to parry away Cameron Jerome’s blast.
All of Sporting’s starting XI – most of them backups and spot starters – went the full 90.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.