By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s been a good week to be Benny Feilhaber.
The 29-year-old midfielder followed up his midweek dominance over the Columbus Crew with a marvelous free kick in a 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy Saturday to help Sporting Kansas City see its unbeaten streak move to six matches.
The Galaxy did their best to make things interesting late in the match with a goal from forward Robbie Keane, but a tally from Lawrence Olum 11 minutes out of the halftime break would be the decisive goal in an excellent inter-league contest.
“LA is by far the best team that we’ve faced this year,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match. “(They’re a) very good team — excellent in transition — just a very good team. What was great is that it played for a very entertaining game for all the fans and obviously for television as well because both teams went at it back and forth, which I think is great for the league as well.
“My hat goes off to them in regards for the way they came and played tonight. I think they’re a very, very good team and there are a lot of stuff that we can learn and build off of from this game. There are things that happened that we can get better at.”
The victory maintains Sporting KC’s top spot in the Eastern Conference at 10-5-5 (35 points) on the year, while the Galaxy fall to 7-4-6 (27 points) after the loss.
Feilhaber’s star-powered afternoon needed just 10 minutes to get started and it was absolutely worth the wait. Following a foul on forward Soony Saad just outside the 18-yard box, Feilhaber lined up a free kick and sent it curling over the Galaxy wall and into the back of the net. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was left frozen on the sequence, though a quick reaction on the ball still would have been near impossible to get to.
“I feel pretty confident just getting up and over the wall when it is from that range where I can basically guide it up and over (because) it’s going to be tough for the goalie to come over and get the ball,” Feilhaber said.
“I had an opportunity against New York last month and I just hit the underside of the crossbar, so if I can be consistent from that area and put it in that spot it’ll be hard for goalkeepers to get to.”
Sporting KC’s early lead didn’t halt the pressure put on LA, as the Galaxy struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the midfield. The visitors’ first opportunity would come 25 minutes into the contest with midfielder Baggio Husidic rolling a shot right into the arms of goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
“It was good,” defender Seth Sinovic said about the opening half. “I was looking at the scoreboard and I think we had (an advantage in) shots like 7-0 and corners like 4-0. We played well.”
The 1-0 scoreline would hold into the halftime break before being doubled in the 61st minute after a scrum inside the LA penalty area resulted in Olum scoring his second goal in July. Substitute forward Jacob Peterson was gifted the initial scoring chance in front of goal, but Penedo came up big for LA with a diving save to keep the effort out of goal. However, the rebound would fall right to Olum for the massive goal.
Despite being down 2-0 at that point, LA continued to gain momentum in the match. Keane would put two excellent opportunities on goal within a 15 minute window — the first a 64th minute effort that ricocheted off the cross bar. It would be the second, though, that would go in to bring the Galaxy within one goal, but that would be as close as the visitors would come as the stingy Sporting KC defense turned in another admiral performance.
“We started the game with 11 (players) and ended with 11. We were just outplayed in the first half,” LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said after the match. “We played a poor half. Formations and all are nice excuses but we were just outplayed in the first half.”
Sporting KC will now look forward to a short break from MLS action as they play host to Manchester City Wednesday at Sporting Park. The Galaxy too will welcome in a European counterpart — the other club from Manchester — Manchester United in a contest held at the historic Rose Bowl.
Here are the match highlights: