KANSAS CITY, Kan. – So this is what an angry, focused, motivated Sporting Kansas City side looks like.
After earning manager Peter Vermes' ire for a subpar performance in their last outing, the Eastern Conference leaders shredded Toronto FC 4-1 on Saturday night behind Dom Dwyer's first-half brace from the penalty spot and second-half goals from Soony Saad and C.J. Sapong.
Kansas City (12-6-6) have won five of their last seven, while the Reds (9-8-5) had a two-game winning streak broken and are still looking to put three straight wins together this year. Dwyer now has 16 goals on the season, two behind New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips and two off of Preki's club single-season mark from 1996.
Sporting, who came out listless and disorganized in Sunday's 2-0 away loss to Vancouver, were anything but on Saturday. They pressed high from the opening whistle and looked for gaps in Toronto's defense, which was missing Steven Caldwell and Mark Bloom due to injury.
The game wasn't even 20 minutes old when the pressure paid off.
Benny Feilhaber was driving toward the end line, but not looking like a threat to score, when Jackson – forced to play right back in Bloom's absence – brought him down with a bad tackle. Referee Drew Fischer pointed to the spot, and Dwyer broke a five-match scoring drought with a drive into the roof of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
He doubled it in the 32nd, this time after winning the spot kick himself. Doneil Henry chopped down Dwyer just outside the 6-yard box, and this time Dwyer put his attempt low and inside the right post.
The Reds pulled one back early in first-half stoppage time, though, on a pretty finish from Gilberto for his fifth goal of the year.
Dominic Oduro found himself with room to operate at the top right corner of Sporting's penalty area and sent a ball to the near post, and Gilberto backheeled it past keeper Jon Kempin – a 21-year-old Homegrown player making his first league start after injuries to Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum.
The young 'keeper got the best of the veteran DP in their next matchup, though denying TFC a chance to equalize in the 51st minute. Gilberto got free on a breakaway, pulling away from Igor Juliao's attempt to grab him and concede a card, but Kempin held his ground and deflected Gilberto's close-range shot out for a corner.
Given the reprieve, Sporting iced it in the 64th on Saad's right-footed strike from distance. Graham Zusi's corner kick popped out of a crowd and fell to Saad outside the area. He collected the ball and teed it up in one motion, then drove it through traffic and past Joe Bendik to make it 3-1.
Toronto nearly cut the margin to 3-2 in the 71st minute, when Jackson put on a burst of speed to get past Kempin and in front of an open net, but center back Aurelien Collin charged in from behind to knock the ball off Jackson's foot and out for a corner.
And in the 77th minute, Saad added an assist to his night on another set piece. He deflected Zusi's corner kick on to a sliding Sapong at the back post, and Sapong knocked it in from close range for a 4-1 lead.
Sporting open CONCACAF Champions League group play on Tuesday at Nicaragua's Real Esteli. Both they and Toronto FC return to MLS action on Aug. 23, Sporting at home to D.C. United and Toronto hosting Chicago.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Dom Dwyer||Two goals from the spot, plenty of hard running and menacing movement up top, and a backflip celebration to boot.|
|2||Soony Saad||A flashy night from the Lebanese international. His heat-seeking volley will surely earn a Goal of the Week nod, right?|
|3||Gilberto||Anyone still wondering why TFC shelled out big bucks for the Brazilian were provided with several reminders tonight.|