Sporting Kansas City 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0 | 2016 MLS Match Recap
In the first five seasons since their rebrand and move to Children's Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City never missed the postseason once.
They still haven't. Make it six in a row.
Sporting came into Sunday's regular-season finale barely clinging to the sixth and final Western Conference berth in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Benny Feilhaber came up big on Decision Day, though, scoring from the spot and assisting on Graham Zusi's late insurance goal in a 2-0 victory over the already-eliminated San Jose Earthquakes.
Sporting entered the match tied with seventh-place Portland on points and total victories, leading by one on the goal-differential tiebreaker. That quickly became moot when the Timbers fell behind early in an eventual 4-1 loss, effectively locking Sporting into the playoffs before halftime.
Even so, the three points from Sunday's match helped Sporting improve on their final finish, up one spot to fifth place.
After both teams went back-and-forth for more than 25 minutes, generating chances at both ends but with nothing to show for it, Sporting caught a big break in the 26th when Cordell Cato handled the ball in the Earthquakes' penalty area and referee Drew Fischer pointed to the spot. Feilhaber drove in a low shot to run his penalty record to 5-for-5 this season.
Zusi made it 2-0 in the 88th, taking a pass from Feilhaber and firing a rocket past David Bingham from 15 yards.
The shutout loss was the second straight and 11th of the season for the Earthquakes, who finished with a league-low 32 goals.
- 27' - SKC - Benny Feilhaber (PK)
- 88' - SKC - Graham Zusi (Benny Feilhaber)
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- BIG D BEFORE THE PK: Sporting could have been down 2-0 before Feilhaber's penalty, if not for two huge plays from central defenders Matt Besler and Kevin Ellis. Besler made a long recovery run and sliding block on Chris Wondolowski to stop a breakaway in the 10th minute, and a wild sequence in the 24th -- in which 'keeper Tim Melia denied Wondolowski twice but couldn't stop the ball from pinging around the area -- ended when Ellis headed the ball out of the goalmouth and out for a corner kick.
- EARLY HONORS: Sporting winger Brad Davis will be around until the end of the season, but going into Sunday's match, Sporting weren't guaranteed another home game or even a postseason berth. With that in mind, the club honored Davis -- who announced his impending retirement earlier in the day -- and his family with a pregame ceremony.
- FLAG ON THE PLAY, AND VICE VERSA: They spent Sunday afternoon going at each other, but Sporting striker Dom Dwyer and Earthquakes defender Victor Bernardez teamed up for the afternoon's funniest moment. In the 64th minute, Bernardez's kick into touch knocked the flag out of linesman Phillippe Briere's hand. Dwyer picked it up, signaled a throw-in for Sporting, then handed it back.
- SKC - Thursday, Oct 27 at Seattle Sounders, 10 p.m ET (FS1, UniMas)