By GARRETT DAVEY
Sporting Kansas City went into their Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against the Colorado Rapids needing to hold onto a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
Sporting KC didn't just hold on, they added to that lead and booked the first ticket into the MLS conference finals in the process.
On a wet and blustery night at Livestrong Sporting Park, goals from Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong gave Sporting KC a 2-0 victory over the Rapids and a 4-0 aggregate series victory. The win booked Sporting's place in the Eastern Conference final on Sunday against the winner of the Houston/Philadelphia series.
Collin opened the scoring with a 28th-minute header off a Graham Zusi free kick which caught Matt Pickens reacting late and out of position.
“Every game Zusi is very good from set-pieces and I have to work hard to score because every game I have two or three opportunities,” Collin said.
Zusi came through with another stellar set piece in the 76th minute when he floated in a dangerous ball that rookie C.J. Sapong headed home to make the score 2-0 and put the series out of reach.
After their win in the first leg, Kansas City could have sat back and defended to protect their two-goal series lead, but they pushed the tempo from the opening whistle.
“I know lot of people thought (we were) going to bunker in and keep the two-goal lead," Vermes said. "We (said) we have to be smart, we can’t just expose ourselves but and when the moments are there we’re going to go and the guys went and they had good balance and shape when they went.”
Sporting really bossed possession throughout the match and played with great confidence, connecting their passes well and beating Colorado to most of the fifty-fifty balls. They just couldn’t seem to find a final bit of quality around the box, and were found wanting on many occasions.
Over the two-match series, Sporting delivered a comprehensive beating of Colorado who it must be said were decimated by injuries. Sporting had an injury of their own for this match that saw forward Omar Bravo out with a muscle tweak, but that didn't stop KC from dominating the Rapids over the course of two matches.
“As games go on we get better and better” Vermes said, “because they’re playing with a level of confidence that they believe when one guy steps here the other guy is going to step there.”
The series victory moves Sporting KC into their first conference final since reaching and losing the 2007 Western Conference final to Houston.
This was the fourth consecutive shutout for Kansas City, who will face the winner of the Houston and Philadelphia series, which will conclude on Thursday night. The Dynamo lead the series after posting a 2-1 victory in the first leg at PPL Park.
The Eastern conference final kick-off at Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday, with the winner moving on to the MLS Cup Final on November 20.