KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City were down to their ninth and 10th choices at center back by the time Friday night's match ended. Toronto FC were just down to 10 men. But Sporting had Dom Dwyer, and the Reds had the advantage of playing against a team without a significant defensive presence in the air.
Dwyer scored his ninth and 10th goals of the year, moving into the league lead, and became just the third player in club history to find the net in four straight games. And when he converted his 84th-minute penalty kick, it put Sporting up 2-1 and put them on track for three hard-won points.
But in the first minute of stoppage time, Nick Hagglund lofted a pass into Sporting's penalty area and Bradley Orr headed it home from close range to salvage a 2-2 draw and a road point for the shorthanded Reds.
Kansas City (5-4-3) still broke a two-match losing streak, while TFC (4-4-1) are winless in three of their last four.
The Reds had to play down a man after the 62nd minute, when defender Steven Caldwell was issued a straight red card for a serious foul on Sporting's Toni Dovale. Still, they managed to equalize on substitute Luke Moore's goal in the 67th and again at the death.
With no natural center backs available for selection, due to a combination of injuries, international duty and suspension, Sporting manager Peter Vermes went back to his usual 4-3-3 – and away from the 3-5-2 he used in Sunday's 2-1 away loss to Chicago – with four fullbacks across the back line.
Only left back Seth Sinovic was in his usual spot. Kevin Ellis, recalled from a loan to USL PRO affiliate Oklahoma City Energy FC before the Chicago match, started on the left side of central defense. Chance Myers, normally Sporting's right back, started at the right inside position, with Igor Juliao – who continued on despite throwing up on the pitch before the half-hour mark – at right back.
That setup lasted only until the 35th minute, when Myers had to be helped off the pitch with an injured left Achilles after challenging TFC striker Jermain Defoe for a ball. He was replaced by Sal Zizzo, with Benny Feilhaber – already playing in a defensive midfield role, not his usual attacking slot – playing even deeper.
Jacob Peterson moved from the wing to left back to start the second half, giving Sporting yet another configuration on the back line. Two minutes after that, Dwyer gave them a 1-0 lead. He sent a pass to Zizzo on the left wing, then left-footed the return ball just inside Joe Bendik's right post.
With that, he joined Preki (1996) and Eddie Johnson (2007) as the only Kansas City players to score in four straight matches. Preki has the club record with five straight.
The Reds equalized five minutes after Caldwell's ejection, though, with Moore finishing Defoe's through ball after a giveaway in midfield.
The match turned again when TFC substitute Doneil Henry brought down Juliao in the box. Dwyer calmly buried his spot kick to move ahead of New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips for the league scoring lead, but Sporting couldn't hang on to take all three points.
Sporting have only a short layoff before hosting the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday, while the Reds are off until a May 31 home date with Columbus.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Dom Dwyer||Was ultimately let down by his teammates, as he put KC ahead twice in the 2nd half, only to be pegged back|
|2||Nick Hagglund||The rookie had a tough task, on the road, with his CB partner picking up a red, but held firm and set up the equalizer|
|3||Joe Bendik||Kept the visitors in the match with a couple key stops, including a big save on Nagamura just past the hour mark|