Sporting Kansas City 2, LA Galaxy 1 | MLS Match Recap
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The streak goes on for Sporting Kansas City – and they didn't need anyone else's help to keep it alive.
Dom Dwyer's strike in the 65th minute lifted Sporting to a 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, pushing the club into the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, their fifth straight postseason appearance.
Sporting (14-11-9) finished sixth in the Western Conference and will travel to Portland for their postseason opener on Thursday night. The Galaxy (14-11-9), the defending MLS Cup champs and winners of three of the last four titles, had already qualified for postseason play and will open on Wednesday at Seattle after finishing fifth.
Kansas City manager Peter Vermes raised eyebrows – and fans' blood pressure, judging from the social media reaction – when he held playmaker Benny Feilhaber out of his starting XI. Feilhaber came on after the break, however, running riot through the Galaxy midfield and delivering his 15th assist of the season on Dwyer's match-winner.
Sporting would have qualified with a draw, given FC Dallas' 2-1 victory over shorthanded San Jose on Sunday, but Dwyer made the issue moot with his 12th goal of the season. His strike broke a 1-1 halftime tie, after Kevin Ellis scored for Sporting in the 38th minute and Robbie Keane equalized for the Galaxy in first half stoppage time.
Sporting nearly paid for goalkeeper Tim Melia's aggressiveness in the fifth minute, when he came out of the area to play the ball and it fell to the Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes with Melia helplessly out of position. Zardes put his shot well high, however, sending it far over the open goal with his first touch.
Sporting had a dangerous chance on a set piece when Soni Mustivar drew a yellow card foul on A.J. DeLaGarza 30 yards from goal, but Chance Myers bounced his header too far in front of the goal and it caromed over the crossbar.
But in the 38th minute, one of Matt Besler's trademark long throw-ins led to Ellis' goal.
Left back Saad Abdul-Salaam headed on the throw, but LA's Omar Gonzalez leaped to head it away. The ball fell to Dwyer for a pass to Myers, whose blast deflected off of Ellis and then off goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Ellis, who appeared to be offside on Myers' shot, put in the rebound and the flag stayed down.
A giveaway from Ellis sprung the Galaxy for a break in the 44th minute, but Melia got down to parry away Steven Gerrard's shot and Besler cleared it away.
Melia couldn't do anything about Keane's 20th goal of the season, however. The Irish international got behind Ellis, took Giovani dos Santos' smooth through ball and calmly chipped over the onrushing 'keeper.
Feilhaber subbed on for US Open Cup hero Jordi Quintilla to start the second half, and very nearly got Gerrard to deflect a short-range free kick into his own net shortly after coming on.
Still, for all their creativity in the midfield, Sporting struggled with giveaways in the back and an inability to put away their own chances – as when Dwyer got free on the right side of the Galaxy area in the 61st minute, but rolled a close-range shot right to Ricketts under pressure from Robbie Rogers.
Those struggles ended in the 65th minute, however, when Feilhaber picked out Dwyer with a pretty through ball that sprung him in the left side of the area. Freed up to use his dominant foot, Dwyer drove his shot past Ricketts and inside the far post. Feilhaber finished tied for second in the assist race, with Philadelphia's Cristian Maidana, after Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco recorded his 16th of the year in the Reds' 2-1 loss to Montreal earlier on Sunday.
Melia saved the win in second-half stoppage time, making a quick move to his left to parry away Zardes' shot from distance.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.