By TATE STEINLAGE
Sporting Kansas City secured their seventh-straight preseason victory and a spot in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic championship match Wednesday, topping the Montreal Impact 3-2 in Orlando, Fla.
Much like the weather in Orlando, Sporting KC’s start was less than ideal. The Impact needed just 30 seconds to get on the scoreboard with a curling blast from midfielder Sanna Nyassi.
Sporting KC didn’t play behind for long, however. In the ninth minute, forward Dom Dwyer equalized with a strong penalty kick in the top-left corner after being yanked down inside the 18.
Montreal had two superb chances within minutes of each other after the Sporting KC goal, but goalkeeper Jon Kempin did enough to keep Impact at bay. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match that he was pleased with the play of the 20-year-old.
“He’s played in two key matches now, and I think he’s played really well,” Vermes said. “He’s made some very good saves. He’s been really confident with his feet. The distribution is tremendous for his age and his development with us, so I’m very pleased to see his progression.”
However, Kempin was unable cap off the sequence with a third save, as Montreal midfielder Felipe Martins snuck in a penalty attempt under the arms of Kempin after midfielder Collen Warner was tripped up by defender Matt Besler in the box.
But again the lead would not last long. This time using his head, Dwyer found the back of the net for a brace in 43rd minute. The goal was attributed to the fantastic buildup play by Sporting KC, and the eventual cross from the foot of midfielder Graham Zusi.
“We played one touch across the field, and had a diagonal run into the corner of the 18,” Vermes said about the buildup. “It great service, and then excellent timing by Dom to get up and finish the ball with his head. It was a great play all around.”
The two sides would come out of the halftime break and trade opportunities for the first 20 minutes. But in the 74th minute, first-year forward Sal Zizzo scored the goal that would punch Sporting KC’s ticket into the finals. It was Zizzo’s third of the preseason, assisted by defender Seth Sinovic.
With the victory, Sporting KC improve to 8-0-1 in preseason play. The squad will move on to play the Columbus Crew Saturday in the championship match. That game will be televised live on ESPN3 at 8 p.m. ET.
Here are more Sporting Kansas City notes:
MEDRANDA PLAYING BIG MINUTES IN PRESEASON
Since being re-acquired two weeks ago, midfielder Jimmy Medranda has seen substantial preseason action with Sporting KC, topped off by a goal in last Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Fluminense FC’s U-23 squad.
And so far the young Colombian has impressed manager Peter Vermes, who noted Wednesday that the minutes are helping him develop into the team’s style.
“These situations are good for him. He’s young and he’s getting some real opportunities to train and play within the group. He’s still very young and he’s still learning the way that we play. Now he’s getting a live go because he’s playing in meaningful games.
“All these preseason games are meaningful because they provide us with a high level of play. They provide us with a decent tempo at the moment. And it’s the physical and the pace and speed of the game that he has not really had a chance to participate in a lot. He’s getting that experience now.
“I think each time he plays there’s certain things he’s doing better then all of a sudden you see something about his position and his role, and it changes. But I think he’s done a good job thus far and he’ll continue to grow for sure. He’s got a lot of interesting things in his game that, especially going forward, can help us be dangerous in the attacking third.”
Medranda appeared only once last season, a 3-0 shutout of the Columbus Crew in September. With a new contract and successful preseason under his belt, the 20-year-old may just make a splash for the club in 2014.
PRESEASON SCENARIOS HELPING READY SQUAD FOR OPENER
For many, MLS preseason is merely a period of time for players to better their fitness levels. But for Sporting KC, it’s much more than that. The preseason is a time to face the many challenges and scenarios that a new season brings, and luckily they’ve tackled many thus far.
Whether it’s been going down early to a team, preserving a lead, or dealing with less-than-stellar conditions, this year’s preseason has helped Sporting KC replicate the regular season well before the March 8 opener.
“The game is always going to present you with different situations,” Verms said. “You have to be able to, at times, rev it up when you have to and sometimes you gotta be able to bring it back. You gotta be able to play while you’re up, play while you’re down; play while you’re up a man, down a man. So all those situations are going to present themselves, and you see them early so you know how to deal with them.”
Sporting KC has certainly dealt with these challenges well when you look at their record with only one preseason match remaining. Vermes credits that to the work his guys have put in, and says that ethic has put the team in a place to compete and play their style at a high fitness level early on.
“They put some hard work in this week,” Vermes told SBI Wednesday. “Yesterday was even a hard day, and to come out and put 90 minutes like they did today and work through it is not an easy task at this point. I feel confident that the guys’ gas tank is building. It’s getting stronger and it’s getting bigger.”
The preseason work will be put to the test when Sporting KC kick off March 8 against the Sounders and then turn around four days later and play in the CONCACAF Champions League against Liga MX leaders Cruz Azul.
OTHER NEWS AND TIDBITS:
- Wednesday morning, Sporting KC roared past NASL side Indy Eleven 4-2 in a scrimmage. Argentine forward Claudio Bieler had a hat trick, while midfielder Mikey Lopez tallied his first goal this preseason.
- Sporting Club and technology company Experience have partnered to enhance fan experience in Sporting Park using their mobile devices.
- Last Sunday, Sporting KC players and the Victory project teamed up with USL Pro affiliate Orlando City SC to visit kids at the “Give Kids the World Village” in Kissimmee, Fla. The non-profit “resort” is a week-long getaway for children and their families who are facing life-threatening illnesses. Highlights from the evening can be seen here.
Did Sporting KC impress in Wednesday’s victory? Can Medranda become a first-team regular this season? Is the squad ready for multiple, early fixtures? Let us know in the comments below.