Sporting KC secures spot in Eastern Conference Finals
Bone-chilling rain and strong wind weren't able to spoil Sporting Kansas City's bid for a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sporting KC overcame the weather and the Colorado Rapids to claim a 2-0 victory Wednesday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and a 4-0 victory in the two-game, aggregate goal semifinal series, much to the delight of a sold-out crowd of 18,565 fans.
"I believe this is a huge step for our team," Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. "I say that is because it's one thing to go on the road and win 2-0, but a lot of times you can get a little self-assured about coming into the second leg. I've seen it happen with teams, it has happened when I played in the playoffs here, myself as a player. I think the maturity of the group to have the discipline in the two-game series was huge. There is no doubt that we've grown up as a team. The players performed above and beyond expectations to really not give anything away. Two goals on two set pieces was big-time for us. I'm extremely proud of this group."
Defender Aurelien Collin struck first for Sporting KC in the 28th minute when he won the ball in the air off of Graham Zusi's free kick and sent it into the net with a header for a 1-0 lead.
The score held up through intermission thanks in part to the net play of Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen who smothered a shot by Colorado's Sanna Nyassi moments before halftime.
Sporting KC continued to pick up the pace in the second half and eventually tacked on a second goal in the 76th minute when C.J. Sapong scored on a header off of another Zusi free kick.
From there, it was just a matter of time before Sporting Kansas City and its fans were celebrating the victory on a rain-soaked night.
"We came into this game and we knew we still had a lot of work to do," Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic said. "It was tough conditions, but the guys came out so well. I thought we controlled the game. It wasn't where possession was a big part of it for us, but we picked our spots really well. It's an unbelievable feeling to move on, and now we have a big game on Sunday."
That "big game" is a winner-take-all Eastern Conference Championship match against the Philadelphia-Houston winner on Sunday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.