They finally scored, earned a win and broke through on their normally daunting home pitch.
Saturday was a good night for Sporting Kansas City, even if, for a brief moment or three, things looked a little precarious before celebration could be had.
A Benny Fielhaber goal only reserved for the best of scoring moments in the first half and a late own goal by the San Jose Earthquakes’ goaltender was all that SKC needed to hold on and beat their guests 2-1 at a sold-out Children’s Mercy Park and move to 1-0-2 (five points) on the season after two scoreless draws.
San Jose salvaged a consolation goal through Florian Jungwirth in second-half stoppage time, but the performance extended Sporting Kansas City’s unbeaten start and handed the Earthquakes (2-1-0, 6 points) their first defeat of the campaign.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia’s regular season shutout streak ended at 456 minutes dating back to last year, the third longest run in club history, as Sporting Kansas City claimed its 12th win in 13 home matches against San Jose across all competitions.
SKC outshot San Jose 15-5 and controlled possession for a large part of the contest.
“Nothing has changed aside for the fact that we won this game with three points,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “We had two very good performances before this game. I think in the last game if you look at the chances we had and how we missed them, we were so excited and overzealous that the guys were pushing hard to get it and our timing was off. I think tonight, our timing was pretty good.
“We know what we are doing. We are completely resolute to how we want to play and how we are going to build over the course of the season. That’s the most important thing. If we believe, then it’s everything.”
Vermes kept his lineup unchanged and that included forward Dom Dwyer’s 100th start for the club.
Feilhaber gave his side the lead – and its first goal of 2017 – at the 37th minute when Graham Zusi was afforded space on the right wing and played centrally to Feilhaber 30 yards from goal. The midfielder took a single touch and fluttered a deft, right-footed strike that swerved over a frozen San Jose keeper David Bingham and nestled into the far left corner of the net.
“I think we all felt pretty comfortable that the goals were going to come,” Feilhaber said. “We believe in how we are playing and the system we are playing and that we are going to create opportunities. We had created opportunities, we just hadn't been clinical in front of goal. Even with the two goals, we could have scored a few more as well.
“I think we played well. We obviously dominated the majority of the game and created some really good chances. The goals are eventually always going to come. Today we got two and we probably could have had five.”
Bingham was forced into action twice within the first 10 minutes of the second half, saving Gerso's low shot before almost losing the ball at his feet with Dwyer applying heavy pressure. San Jose finally mustered its first shot on goal in the 56th minute, a long-range attempt from Fatai Alashe that Melia saved comfortably. Shortly thereafter, Roger Espinoza sliced the backline with a precise through to Dwyer, who missed wide.
Sporting Kansas City went ahead 2-0 in the 89th minute thanks to a costly error from Bingham. Substitute Soony Saad's deflected shot was skidding narrowly wide of the target, but as Bingham attempted to pick it up, the ball trickled through his mitts and crawled over the goal line to double the visitors’ deficit.
The Earthquakes staged a furious rally late, scoring in the 91st minute and Melia produced a phenomenal save less than 60 seconds later, diving to his left at full extension to push a potentially tying effort wide of net.
“The game of soccer is very interesting,” Vermes said. “Two teams are playing against each other, the game is 0-0 and all of a sudden someone scores. A lot of times, a game plan goes out the window for one of those teams, usually the team that gets scored on and a lot changes for them. When you are in that situation and it's late in the game, you just know they are going to pump it in on you. The thing is, if you are ready for it and everybody is in tune to what is happening, it doesn't faze you because it is part of the game.
“But I think we just lost our focus as a team in that moment and we just started to come unraveled in the moment. I would say we woke up at the end and Tim (Melia) came up with a great save.”
Sporting Kansas City is off next weekend as the FIFA international window takes center stage with World Cup qualifiers across the globe. Zusi will join the U.S. Men's National Team, while Espinoza will link up with Honduras ahead of two pivotal fixtures in CONCACAF's Hexagonal.
Following the international break, Sporting Kansas City will visit defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC (1-0-2, 5 points) on March 31 in a 6:30 p.m.