• FT

    Kansas City

    2

    Colorado

    0

  • FT

    Seattle

    2

    Salt Lake

    0

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

Sporting Park, Kansas City

Referee: Kevin Stott

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Kansas City

  • Aurélien Collin 28'
  • CJ Sapong 76'

2 - 0

FT

2nd leg: 4 - 0 (Agg)

Sporting KC advances to Eastern Conference finals

By DAVE SKRETTA

AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes

has been reluctant to give his club too much praise this season,

preferring to take a tough-love approach.

He finally relented Wednesday night.

C.J. Sapong and Aurelien Collin scored in a cold, driving

rainstorm, and Sporting KC beat the injury-depleted Colorado

Rapids 2-0 to reach the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-0

aggregate total.

"We know we still have work to do," Vermes said, "but I think

we've achieved something."

Talk about an understatement.

Sporting KC opened the season 1-6-1 before going on a dramatic

worst-to-first run. They haven't lost in their last seven

matches, and have scored in 21 of their last 22, a big reason

why a sellout crowd of 18,565 showed up at Livestrong Sporting

Park despite penetrating rain, winds whipping at 20 mph and

temperatures that plummeted into the 30s during the second half.

Graham Zusi assisted on each of the goals for Sporting KC, which

beat Colorado 2-0 on Sunday to open the two-game, aggregate-goal

playoff. Sporting KC will host the Houston Dynamo or

Philadelphia Union in the conference finals Sunday.

Houston won its first leg against Philadelphia, 2-1. They play

again Thursday night.

"We made a point of talking about getting the first goal. We

didn't want them to get that first goal and get some

confidence," Zusi said. "That allowed us to settle down."

Collin scored in the 28th minute when he deflected Zusi's free

kick, and Sapong returned from a scary collision in front of the

net early in the second half to direct a perfect header past

Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the 76th minute.

Sapong took off running for the corner in glee, sliding through

the wet turf before the rest of his teammate piled on in joy. It

was the start of what amounted to a 15-minute victory lap for

Sporting KC, which is back in the Eastern Conference finals for

the first time since 1997.

"We're here now because we've done it at the end of the season.

That's big time," said Vermes, who played for the franchise back

when it was the Wizards. "These guys have really stepped up. I

couldn't be more proud of them."

It was a disheartening end to Colorado's season.

The Rapids had already lost Jamie Smith to a torn right ACL and

Pablo Mastroeni to a concussion before three more players went

down in Sunday's game. Striker Caleb Folan sprained his left

ankle and knee, Kosuke Kimura fractured his left foot and Drew

Moor separated his shoulder.

Tyrone Marshall also earned a red card Sunday, keeping him out

of Wednesday's match and putting the reigning MLS Cup champions

in quite a hole against the league's hottest team.

"Yes, we've been affected by the injuries, but the scoreline in

six weeks' time, or two weeks' time, will suggest that we lost

4-nil," Colorado coach Gary Smith said. "Nobody will know what

happened, nobody will know the injuries; 4-nil over two legs and

they go through."

Things were chippy on the sloggy pitch from the start, but the

fouls didn't cost either team until Colorado's Joseph Nane

earned a yellow card for taking down Sapong in the 28th minute.

Zusi hammered the free kick from near midfield toward the

Colorado net, and Collin backed up Pickens, almost as if he was

posting up. Collin managed to somehow deflect the ball off the

back of his head and into the net, giving Sporting KC a 1-0

lead.

"When you put a dangerous ball in the box like that, there's no

telling what's going to happen," Rapids defender Wells Thompson

said. "It definitely takes the wind out of your sails."

Early in the second half, Sapong tried to convert a bicycle kick

in front of the Rapids goal and came down hard on his back.

Colorado defender Marvell Wynne's knee inadvertently banged off

the back of his head, and Sapong spent several minutes on the

mushy turf before walking to the sideline.

He returned a few minutes later, and found a spot just inside

the area in the 76th minute when Zusi wound up on a free kick.

Sapong leaped up and headed home the goal, which amounted to an

exclamation mark on a dominating two-game series against the

Rapids.

"We have a competitive group," longtime Sporting KC midfielder

Davy Arnaud said. "When you get to the playoffs, everything is

magnified. We knew they were going to compete and battle, and we

had to match that and more."

Scoring Summary

  • Kansas City
  • Colorado
 

Match Stats

  • Kansas City
  • Colorado
11(7) Shots (on goal) 5(2)
16 Fouls 14
3 Corner kicks 1
3 Offsides 4
0% Time of Possession 0%
3 Yellow Cards 4
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 5

Teams

  • Kansas City
  • Colorado
Substitutes
Substitutions
Yellow Cards