Bunbury powers Sporting KC to playoff victory against Colorado
Two goals from forward Teal Bunbury were the difference in a 2-0 victory for Sporting Kansas City against the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Sunday evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The win is the first postseason road victory for Sporting Kansas City since a 3-2 shootout win over Dallas in the team’s inaugural 1996 season.
The victory gives Sporting Kansas City a 2-0 goal lead in the two-game, aggregate goal series ahead of the return leg at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Bunbury, who posted his third multi-goal game of the season on his postseason debut, becomes the third player in Sporting KC history to score twice in a MLS playoff match and the youngest at age 21.
Both of Bunbury’s goals came in the second half of a hotly-contested affair that saw more heavy challenges than clear cut chances until Bunbury’s first strike in the 49th minute.
The opening goal, assisted by Julio Cesar, gave Bunbury the team lead for goals in MLS competition with 10 in 2011. The second-year forward would add his 11th from the spot in the 59th minute after earning a penalty kick following a red-card challenge from Rapids defender Tyrone Marshall.
While Sporting Kansas City struck quickly in the second half to earn the victory, it was Colorado who created the more dangerous chances to start the match. Fourteen minutes in, Omar Cummings nearly put Colorado in front with a header to the far post, but his effort was off the mark.
In the 27th minute, Cummings was again involved in a chance for Colorado. Carrying the ball along the edge of the penalty area, Cummings played a quick one-two with substitute forward Macoumba Kandji before sliding the ball to Sanna Nyassi, but the Gambian midfielder sliced his shot wide.
Two minutes later, Colorado nearly went in front through Wells Thompson. Handed a start in place of injured captain Pablo Mastroeni, Thompson controlled a pass from Cummings to the left of goal, before cutting the ball back past ChanceMyers and firing a right-footed effort just wide of the far post.
The best chance of the first half came on the stroke of halftime, as Bunbury saw a redirected shot strike the post from a set piece opportunity. Graham Zusi’s corner kick fell into the penalty area and squirted to Julio Cesar. Cesar paused on the ball before knocking a pass back out wide for Zusi who took a touch before striking a low cross toward the goal that was flicked against the post by Bunbury as the sides entered the break scoreless.
In the 49th minute, with the first chance of the second half, Sporting Kansas City pulled in front. On the ball in midfield, Cesar threaded a passbehind the Colorado backline for Bunbury, who opened his hips and slid his shot low past Matt Pickens from the left side of the penalty area to give Sporting the lead.
Ten minutes later, Sporting Kansas City added another, again through Bunbury. After winning the ball alone up front, Bunbury dropped a pass back for Zusi. After returning the pass for Bunbury inside the area, the Akron product was brought down from behind by substitute defender Tyrone Marshall. Marshall was shown a straight red card for the challenge, as referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. Bunbury stepped up and finished the attempt, sending Pickens the wrong way for his second career postseason goal.
With the 2-0 win, Sporting Kansas City, whose last home playoff loss came in a 3-1 defeat to the Colorado Rapids in 1997, will return home in position to progress to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2007 with avictory, draw or one-goal loss.
Sporting Kansas City has lost only three times in its past 27 matches and has lost by more than one goal on only one occasion during the 2011 MLS regular season.