Bravo’s late PK helps Sporting KC tie Galaxy
A record-setting crowd of 20,512 saw Sporting Kansas City earn a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy on Monday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, courtesy of Designated Player Omar Bravo’s penalty kick in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.
Galaxy defender Sean Franklin twice gave the visitors one-goal leads, first in the 25th minute and again in the 74th minute, but Julio Cesar’s volley and Bravo’s late penalty pulled Sporting KC within a game of the Columbus Crew for first place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining in Major League Soccer’s regular season.
Franklin opened the scoring in the first half as he slipped behind the Sporting KC defense as they pushed up-field following a clearing header from Cesar. Galaxy centerback Omar Gonzalez caught the backline in transition with a header of his own back into the penalty area and Franklin’s first-time volley from eight yards out slipped inside the near post to give the Galaxy an early 1-0 lead on the lone shot on goal in the first half between the two teams.
The action picked up considerably in the final 45 minutes, beginning with a pair of early chances for the Galaxy to extend their advantage. Mike Magee sent hisshot wide from the top of the penalty area moments into the half and Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made his only save of the night in the 47th minute, stopping a shot from Chad Barrett after a prolonged battle for the loose ball around the penalty spot.
On the opposite end, Saunders made his single save three minutes later to smother a shot from Bravo.
Sporting Kansas City evened the score in the 72nd minute on an unlikely sequence. Graham Zusi’s corner kick was delivered beyond the far post where C.J. Sapong’s volley bounced off the back of Davy Arnaud and set up Cesar’s volley from a tight angle through traffic and past Saunders into the net.
Momentum swung back to the Galaxy, in first place in the West with the League’s best record, just two minutes later as David Beckham found Franklin in space on the right side of the area. Nielsen came off his line to challenge Franklin, but he slotted his shot beneath Nielsen for the first multi-goal game of his career and Beckham’s team-best 12th assist of the season.
Nielsen again found himself in a one-on-one situation in the 77th minute, but this time he made no mistake in closing down second-half substitute Landon Donovan before he could get a shot off along the endline.
Sporting Kansas City continued to press for the game’s tying goal with Arnaud putting himself in prime position until Galaxy defender Frankie Hejduk’s lunging tackle blocked the shot in the 82nd minute. Two minutes later, Aurelien Collin put a perfectly placed header inside the far post off a free kick from inside midfield but he was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.
The late-game dramatics continued in the 90th minute as Hejduk was whistled for handling Cesar’s cross inside the penalty area. Bravo stepped up to the spot to send Saunders diving the wrong direction as he placed his shot to the goalkeeper’s left in the second minute of stoppage time.
Bravo now has eight goals in his inaugural MLS season, tied for the team-lead and eighth most in Major League Soccer.
Sporting Kansas City weathered the remainder of seven minutes of added time, including Arnaud’s block of a Beckham free kick from 25 yards out on the game’s final play, as the club improved its playoff positioning, now five points clear of the last playoff berth held by the New York Red Bulls.
Sporting KC (9-8-10) will continue its nine-game homestand at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, against the Houston Dynamo.