KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Dom Dwyer’s right foot isn’t just for planting any more.
Sporting Kansas City’s left-dominant center forward has now scored his last three goals with his right foot, including his brace on Wednesday night in a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls that lifted Sporting into the Western Conference lead.
Before this season, he’d never scored two league goals in a row with that foot, much less three.
“It’s something that I’ve got to improve, and I’m still trying to improve,” Dwyer told reporters after boosting his production to five goals in Sporting’s last five matches. “This is my sixth year in the league, and there’s always room to improve your game.”
Expanding his tool kit hasn’t always come easily, though.
“It can be frustrating,” he said. “In practice, there’s a lot of balls that you’re missing. That’s what practice is there for, just to keep training and try and do it, and hopefully it translates to the games.”
It definitely did on Wednesday night.
After a scoreless first 45, Dwyer opened the scoring in the 46th minute when he pounced on a ball that deflected off Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo and drove it home from close range. Then, in the 68th minute, Dwyer found space just left of the penalty spot and smashed in Benny Feilhaber’s cross to complete his brace.
“In the huddle at halftime, just before we started the second half, one of the things we talked about was trying to get an early goal that was going to change the game and open the other team up,” center back and captain Matt Besler told reporters. “As soon as we said that, Dom looked at everybody and said that he was going to score in the very first minute.
“We kind of looked around and smiled – but, obviously he scored. So, well done, Dom.”
Manager Peter Vermes hasn’t pushed Dwyer to get more versatile up top, but he’s glad to see it happening.
“We think it’s very important for players to be balanced in the way that they play with both feet,” Vermes said in his postmatch news conference. “But look, we just want him to score goals, and he’s doing that.
“That first goal was a scrappy goal, but that’s the kind of goal that gets you going, and you need those sometimes. The second goal was very good buildup down the right side, picking people out. It was excellent from that point of view.”
But Dwyer’s sudden emergence as a two-footed scorer isn’t just about making him more dangerous in the attacking end. It’s also about spreading out the wear and tear.
Dwyer’s long reliance on his left foot left him in need of offseason surgery to clean out bone spurs in his right ankle – so before he could start scoring with that foot, he had to rehab it first.
“The focus first is that you need to get back to full health,” head trainer Kenny Ishii told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “The dominant foot matters, but at the same time, we needed to get him back to functional capacity, where he was able to walk, able to run, able to cut – those things come first. And then, finally, we get to the impact part, which is a big deal for him because he’s a striker.”
The successful recovery has made Dwyer stronger on his usual left foot as well, because he can put more into planting on his right foot now.
“His main thing was that he couldn’t really dig in with his right foot,” Ishii said. “So it’s a straight-up health thing, but it was also limiting his performance.”