KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The mood in the Sporting Kansas City locker room was matter-of-fact, if perhaps tinged with disappoinment.
On the one hand, Sporting had to settle for a single point at home despite an overwhelming statistical advantage. Then again, at this stage of the season, a point was nothing to sneer at for a team trying to stay at the front of a crowded Eastern Conference race.
“We were lucky to score at the time we scored,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said after Friday night's 1-1 draw against Houston. “But saying that this feels like a victory for us, I absolutely disagree. I think it's the same story every time we play at home. You have to respect the opponent's style, but we have to be better to find ways to create certain chances.”
Sporting had a team-record 28 shots on Friday, 22 more than their opponents, and dominated possession 59 percent to 41 percent. Still, Houston was poised to leave Livestrong Sporting Park with three points until C.J. Sapong equalized for Kansas City with a header in the third minute of stoppage time.
“I think our commitment tonight, from the opening whistle, was tremendous,” manager Peter Vermes said in the postmatch news conference. “It shows how deep the team is when we go into injury time. We're pressing, we're doing everything we can, and guys are still keeping the calmness to get an opportunity.”
Sapong's equalizer was his first score since he netted against Toronto FC on June 16. He had played in 12 matches since then, missing two others with a groin injury.
“Obviously, it feels good,” he said. “I'm a forward. I like scoring goals. But I definitely try to make sure that I make an impact first, whatever that means. If I'm holding the ball, getting players in, scoring – whatever it is, if I'm having an impact, I'm happy.”
Sporting – and the Dynamo – both felt the impact of his goal in the standings. Houston came within seconds of leaving on 48 points, two back of the East leaders. Instead, the Dynamo are on 46 points and Sporting on 51, guaranteeing that second-placed Chicago cannot catch them with a win Saturday over Montreal.
“The result was big,” said midfielder Graham Zusi, who recorded his 13th assist – tying him with Seattle's Mauro Rosales for the MLS lead – on Sapong's goal. “To get a point out of a game where it looked like we might not take any, I think that's favorable for us. I don't think we're too worried about dropping a couple of points here tonight, but we can't let that happen every time.”