KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For anyone wondering if Sporting Kansas City would suffer a letdown from their hard-fought US Open Cup title win, they delivered the answer on Saturday night – an emphatic “no.”
Graham Zusi scored the game-winning goal and moved back into a share of the MLS assists lead, and Sporting vaulted past the New York Red Bulls into sole possession of first place the Eastern Conference with Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
Teal Bunbury scored in his second straight league match for Sporting (13-7-4), who had gone 0-2-2 in MLS action at Livestrong Sporting Park since beating Toronto FC 2-0 on June 16. D.C. dropped to 11-8-3 and stayed fourth in the East.
Zusi, who went all 120 minutes in Wednesday night’s shootout victory over Seattle, recorded his 10th assist of the year just 13 minutes into Saturday’s match. His corner kick found Bunbury just outside the 6-yard box, and Bunbury snapped the header home for his fifth goal of the year, but his first at Livestrong Sporting Park in 2012.
D.C. answered just 10 minutes later, though, after a determined run and deft pass from Andy Najar, in his first match back from Olympic duty with Honduras.
Najar drove down the right side, then into the middle, and lofted the ball to Nick DeLeon in the penalty area. DeLeon boxed out Michael Harrington, controlled the ball and poked it past Jimmy Nielsen.
Zusi was twice denied by the woodwork before striking his game-winner. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid tipped Zusi’s shot off the goalpost and then controlled it in the 20th minute, and Zusi’s looping chip in the 53rd hit the underside of the crossbar.
But in the 63rd minute, after Kei Kamara’s cross from the left side sailed past Bunbury in front of goal, Zusi was there to clean up and give his team the win. He ran onto the far-post cross, lined up the shot and drove the ball between Hamid's legs for the decisive score.
Sporting resume league play at Toronto FC next Saturday, while United are at home to Philadelphia the next day.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Graham Zusi||A superb performance from the midfield, who set up Bunbury's opener, scored the winner and was a threat all game long.|
|2||Aurelien Collin||Stayed strong in the air for 90 mintues, was a menace on many of Sporting's set pieces.|
|3||Andy Najar||Looked fresh, confident in his return from Olympic duty, set up DeLeon's goal and harried the SKC defense.|