KANSAS CITY, KS - JUNE 17: Players of Sporting Kansas City celebrate after a goal scored by C.J. Sapong #17 against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 17, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
Forward CJ Sapong provides the lone goal on the night.
Beautiful and eloquent are not two words you are likely to hear from fans in attendance at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Friday night, as Sporting Kansas City got their first home win by beating San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0. Soccer is a game of passes, runs and fanciful footwork. On this night, it was nothing more than 11 warriors dressed alike, banging limbs and extremities for 90-plus minutes.
Though there were a myriad of chances throughout the entire game, only forward CJ Sapong was able to put one into the back of the net. The game's lone goal came on a perfectly placed free kick by midfielder Graham Zusi in the 31st minute that the rookie forward scored with his left foot on a tremendously athletic play. Sapong's goal was his first in the league since March 19 when he scored just 2 minutes into the season opener. He has, though, continued to show as a dangerous threat, scoring 3 goals in a pair of US Open Cup games.
Following his man of the match performance on Sunday against FC Dallas, Zusi found himself starting for a fifth straight game, and perhaps the fatigue showed a bit on the backside of halftime. He gave way to forward Kei Kamara in the 63rd minute, and Kamara immediately asserted himself as a dangerman, making runs up and down the right flank and nearly heading one home himself just minutes after entering the game.
The night, though, was without a doubt a game for the big brutes on either team. Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart is what's known in soccer as a true target forward, meaning he uses his greatest assets - size and strength - to win balls and retain possession. All night Lenhart found himself in aerial battles with Sporting KC centerbacks Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler.
Lenhart would land a solid right hook, Collin would come back with one of his own. Those two in particular did most of the battling on long balls played over the top by San Jose defenders and goalkeeper Jon Busch. No less than a handful of times did each player find themselves lying on their back or face after banging big frames together.
Head coach Peter Vermes could not have been anymore proud of his central defense in the postgame press conference. "I think Collin was an absolute beast.," Vermes said immediately following the win. "He matched up with him (Lenhart) most of the time, and I thought he did an excellent job ... Besler had his moments, as well, but I was more focused with Collin. I thought he was great."
Perhaps the biggest play of the night came not on Sapong's goal, or tremendous save by Sporting keeper Jimmy Nielsen, but on a play in the 90th minute where Collin - having been on field and battling with every bit his manhood for the entire night - found himself a good three or four yards behind Quakes midfielder Scott Sealy - who had only come on seconds before, and had 100 percent fresh legs - yet Collin found the intestinal fortitude necessary to chase down Sealy and cut him off, allowing the ball to roll over the endline to change possession into KC's favor.