Sporting KC Settles for 2-2 Draw in Toronto
Sporting Kansas City (3-5-7, 10th place) continued the club's strong form against Toronto FC (5-6-4, 7th place) on Friday with a 2-2 draw at BMO Field. Felipe Gutierrez twice converted penalties, once in the 25th minute and again in the 73rd minute, as Sporting stretched the team's unbeaten run to 10 games (6-0-4) against Toronto and secured an eighth straight road result (4-0-4) at BMO Field.
Amidst a month-long road trip and missing nine players due to international duty and injuries, the shorthanded Sporting squad was bolstered by the return of Gerso Fernandes after a six-week absence with a broken wrist.
Gerso would win the first of Sporting's two penalties in the 22nd minute, drawing a foul from Drew Moor at the edge of the penalty area. Initially whistled as a free kick outside the box, match official Fotis Bazakos reviewed the incident and awarded a penalty to the visitors.
Gutierrez, who had converted both of his previous penalty attempts this season, confidently stepped to the spot and converted the attempt to give Sporting KC a 1-0 lead away from home for the second straight week.
The Chilean international nearly set up a second Sporting goal just five minutes later with a perfectly weighted ball behind the Toronto FC backline. Yohan Croizet, last week's goal scorer in a 1-1 draw at Houston, raced onto the pass but couldn't beat Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg in the one-on-one situation.
On the opposite end, Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia - on a night he became the team's all-time leader in games played by a goalkeeper - had twice produced superb saves to deny Toronto FC an opening goal on set pieces taken by Alejandro Pozuelo. In the game's 12th minute, Melia reacted quickly to push away Eriq Zavaleta's header from a corner kick and later in the 33rd minute, Melia dove low to his right to keep out Liam Fraser's header off a free kick.
Nevertheless, Toronto would break through on the cusp of halftime with a goal in the 43rd minute. Justin Morrow's left-footed cross from the edge of the penalty area found the well-timed run of Nick DeLeon, who made no mistake with a first-time finish from inside the six-yard box to pull Toronto level at 1-1.
The stalemate would last until the 73rd minute when Gutierrez reclaimed the lead for Sporting with a second penalty decided by video review. Bazakos, who initially did not call a foul for DeLeon's tackle on Gutierrez inside the box in the 69th minute, ultimately overturned the decision and pointed to the spot upon the advice of Video Assistant Referee Jose Carlos Rivero.
Gutierrez again sent Westberg the wrong direction for his sixth goal of the season, becoming the first Sporting KC player to score two penalties in an MLS match since Dom Dwyer did so, also against Toronto FC, in August 2014.
Minutes away from securing the team's first road win of the MLS campaign, Sporting succumbed to a 95th-minute equalizer as second-half substitutes Jordan Hamilton and Ryan Telfer linked up for Toronto FC's only shot on goal of the second half. Telfer, recalled from his loan spell with Canadian Premier League side York9 FC on Thursday, entered the match in the 87th minute for his first appearance of the season and made the most of the opportunity, setting up Hamilton for the game-tying goal on the brink of full time.
Sporting Kansas City will now turn the team's attention to their opening fixture in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a fourth round match-up at Minnesota United FC looming on Wednesday, June 12. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT inside the new Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match...
It's very frustrating. We gave up two goals - (one) toward the end of the first half and (one) the end of the second half. The team worked their tails off for the most part, but a few guys were sleeping in the game. Unfortunately, it has an impact. In the last two games, we should have six points. We don't. That's very frustrating, (especially) for the guys who put so much into the game.
On settling for a draw...
The game plan was good. We got our actions. Both penalties I thought were deserving. We played the way we wanted to play. That's two weeks in a row and unfortunately, we come away with one point (again), which is the sad thing.
On the return of Gerso Fernandes...
He was fantastic. He was dynamic all over the field. For him to be able to play as long as he did in the game, it's a testament to that kid. He has definitely come a long way. It's amazing. I give him all the credit in the world. He put everything out on the field today.
On what Sporting expected after taking the 2-1 lead...
It's the same thing you always expect when you play away from home. At that point, we're up. They're going to throw everything forward. And that's what they did. In throwing everything forward, you have to be able to defend. They still had a lot of players behind the ball. For that second goal, we had more than enough guys back to deal with it. And we didn't, unfortunately. At the end, that's the difference in the game because if that goal doesn't go in, we win. We didn't do a good job of closing out the game. You know what's coming at that moment. We did a great job up until then. We were managing everything. We were winning balls. We were getting fouls. We were playing smart. We were doing everything from a smart perspective.
On squandering the late lead...
(We) had a chance to win the game. And we didn't close the game out. That's what I'm focused on at the moment. If you want to play at this level, then you have to also know how to get results. We had the game and we should have closed the game out and we didn't.
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber
Thoughts on the match...
It's frustrating, I think we had some good moments. (We) defended well for the majority of the second half. When things aren't clicking, I think (we have) got to be better and we are just missing on one or two moments. We're giving up points left and right. It is unacceptable to give up a goal that late and that wide open where it is a 2v1 inside our box. That can't happen. It's a real let down for us.
Sporting KC forward Gerso Fernandes
On the disappointment of conceding late...
Yeah, we have been fighting on the road to get three points and today we couldn't close the game again.
On the team's performance...
I think that has been our problem - the last 15 minutes we cannot close the game. We cannot hold the other team to not score. It happened tonight again, and we have to find a way.
On his return to the field...
Yeah, it feels really good to be back and help the team again.
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney
On his blood pressure...
Yeah, I'm exhausted tonight, and it wasn't because of my team either.
Thoughts on the match...
Yeah, I'm proud of the guys fighting until the end. They had a lot of reasons to be frustrated throughout the course of the game, but they kept pushing for goals, kept pushing for answers. Goals change games. The first call was disgraceful, that changes the game because we had control of the momentum. We were attacking their goal, had them on the ropes and yeah nothing more to say. Thank the fans.
On the first penalty...
No, it's not a foul. There's a lot of hands of people's chests, he's momentum is already going and he's falling off balance. It's normal, he's not going to get back to the ball, and he tumbles over, it happens all over the game, all over the place. I do think that if he thinks it's in the box, has any idea it's in the box, he doesn't even come close to calling it. He lets it go, it was that soft. How many times this season have you seen our guys get into positions in the penalty box, hands on people's backs, Jozy's back, and if that's the standard then we should have at least 3 PK's this year and I'm sure there would be many more across the league. My frustration with it is once you set the standard like that then you have to hold that standard for the rest of the game, and that was not at all the case. Amongst many other things. I'm going to leave it at that if I can.
Toronto FC forward Jordan Hamilton
On his game-tying goal...
We were pretty much at their necks out there and I was feeling like their defenders at that point couldn't keep up with me, or Telfer so actually right before that play I think me and Telfer were a little bit far apart, and Greg was screaming at us on the sidelines to come closer together, as soon as we did that Pozuelo plays a great ball to Telfer and he squares it with a lovely pass and I'm just there to do my job and put it in the back of the net.
On the frustration of chasing the game...
Yeah, it's extremely frustrating because guys are going to waste time and try to stick to their game plan and come away with 3 points, but I mean you got to add that time, I don't feel like six minutes should have been added for three guys going down for X amount of time. It was extremely frustrating out there. I mean I'm glad we got the point, but I would've liked to get all three.
Toronto FC midfielder Ryan Telfer
On making the most of his opportunity...
It's been a rollercoaster ride to be honest. Just getting the notice yesterday that someone was hurt, and they needed assistance. You know this is my club so I would take that opportunity any day. Just for the circumstances for going in for the last 10 minutes and get the equalizing goal, I'm just happy to help the club out.
On his game-tying assist...
Yeah, well watching TFC games all the time I haven't trained with Pozuelo, but I have seen what he can do on and off the ball. Tonight, he had this time where he looked at me, and I had to run into the space and got in front of him and I knew Hamilton was there.
Toronto FC defender Drew Moor
On handling the two penalty decisions...
Yeah, we can't worry about that on the field you know. Obviously, I voiced my frustration several times, but you know we kind of have to get on with things as best we can and not let it become a distraction. We did a little bit tonight at times, but I think the character and the courage we showed was to come back twice with two equalizers is the most important thing to take from tonight.
On salvaging a point...
Yeah but I think we're still frustrated not to get the three points here at home, but we created some chance, got in some good spots. I don't think they had a lot through the run of play. They didn't cause us a whole lot of bumps, they're a good team, we know what they're about. Again, I think we matched their intensity, and physicality. We are just disappointed not to get the full 3 points.
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