By ALAN HAINKEL
KANSAS CITY, Kansas– In Hollywood, Kevin Alston’s return to the starting lineup for the New England Revolution would have called for the visiting side to win at Sporting Park. Unfortunately for New England, Hollywood is only the name of the casino near Sporting Park.
Kei Kamara scored a brace and Benny Feilhaber added a late insurance goal as Sporting Kansas City defeated nine-man New England, 3-0, at Sporting Park on Saurday night.
It was Sporting KC’s fifth consecutive clean sheet against New England, and the victory helped Sporting reclaim first place in the Eastern Conference, while the loss dropped New England to seventh place in the East.
Red cards to Dimitry Imbongo (65th minute) and Andy Dorman (86th mniute) took New England down to nine men, but those came after Sporting KC had established a 2-0 lead.
With the victory, Sporting KC now has a 502-minute shutout streak against New England.
After a fairly uneventful first 15 minutes, Sporting KC started to pick up the pace. The first dangerous chance for either team came in the 19th minute. Kamara put the ball out wide right for defender Chance Myers. Myers drove toward the end line and then crossed the ball into the middle. Claudio Bieler volleyed the ball over the crossbar.
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 27th minute. Saad put a high looping cross into the penalty area. Kamara out-jumped Alston just to the right of the penalty spot and lofted a header over goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. It was Kamara’s sixth of the season and Saad’s third assist.
In the 40th minute, Dimitry Imbongo looked like he was played in offside on a long ball from midfield and was in alone on goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Nielsen, however, made a sliding save to keep the lead going into halftime. It was the first shot on goal Sporting KC had allowed against New England in 134 minutes.
Just five minutes after the break, Saad and Kamara combined again to double the Sporting KC lead. Saad put a cross into the box and Kamara beat Alston, again, at the top of the six and put a diving header by Shuttleworth to make the score 2-0. This marked Kamara’s sixth career multi-goal game, and second this season.
The goal also marked Sporting KC’s 10th headed goal of the season in all competitions. Asked why the team was so dangerous in the air, manager Peter Vermes said:
“I think it is two things; it’s service and movement in the box,” Vermes said. “We get a lot of service in the box. When you get good runs, then all of a sudden, you start to get the real chances on goal. We have some pretty dangerous players like Kei (Kamara), and when CJ (Sapong)’s out there, (Aurelien) Collin when he can get in there and, finally, Ike (Opara), when he is in.”
Feilhaber was given a free kick in the 90th minute from about 20 yards out, and just to the left of the arc. He placed his free kick into the top corner, inside the near post, giving Shuttleworth no chance to make a save.
“When you have a free kick on top of the box, unless you have a really good set piece, you’re going to take it,” Feilhaber said. “That was really the only thing I had on my mind. Once I saw the ball pass the wall, I knew it was in.”
Sporting KC next play San Jose at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday while New England returns home to host Chicago on Saturday.
Here are the match highlights: