KANSAS CITY, Kan. – That wasn't Sporting Kansas City's finest hour and a half.
The six minutes of stoppage time were another matter entirely.
And in the standings, that's all that matters.
“I don't know what it says about the quality of the team, but it says a lot about the heart,” center back and captain Matt Besler told reporters after Sporting scored twice in injury time to pull out a 3-2 comeback victory over Philadelphia on Sunday night. “I can't say enough about the way we didn't give up. It was one of the most exciting games I've been a part of in a long time.
“It was a night that we weren't our best in certain parts of the game, but we managed a way to win the game and that's all that matters.”
Besler, whose flicked header of Benny Feilhaber's corner kick set up second half sub Krisztian Nemeth for the 94th minute game-winner, wasn't the only one acknowledging Sporting's struggles but lauding their late surge.
“I don't think it was a very good game,” said Feilhaber, who also assisted with a corner on Dom Dwyer's 16th minute header. “I don't think we played that well. I don't think anybody will tell you that we did. But we got it done. That's quite an accomplishment, regardless of who you're playing against and who you are, to get two goals in stoppage time.
“I'm proud of the guys, and we need to continue improving. That's the main thing that we want to keep doing, but if we want to take three points while we're doing it, that's even better.”
The late heroics, which started with Jalil Anibaba's headed equalizer in the first minute of stoppage time before Nemeth's match-winner three minutes later, erased a rough first 20 minutes that saw Sporting concede twice off set pieces – usually one of the club's strengths.
“We made a mistake on the two set piece goals,” manager Peter Vermes said during his post-match news conference. “The good thing with the guys is we got ourselves back in the game. At halftime I said, 'I think if we get one, we will get two.'”
They did, and the comeback also kept Sporting from wondering what might have been if Dwyer's apparent 59th-minute goal had counted, rather than being waved off and a foul assessed to Dwyer on the play.
“One of the hardest things to do in this game is to score goals,” Vermes said. “To not see those situations when a guy does an incredible thing like that, and to think that every one of our guys that runs into our box is getting held in some way – it says in the rulebook that if you hold somebody it is a foul. To think that now he's getting called for an offensive foul just blows me away.”
Dwyer, who set a single-season club record with 22 league goals in 2014 but had not scored through Sporting's first four matches this season, also thought the disallowed should have counted and was glad that the call wasn't reflected in the final outcome.
“It was a goal,” he told reporters afterward. “That's how they do it sometimes, but I'm happy that we got the result so I don't mind. I obviously want to score goals and help the team. If it helps us get points, then I'm very happy.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.