Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made seven saves as stingy Sporting Kansas City continued its hot start with a 3-1 Major League Soccer victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night.
Aurelien Collin, a defender known for his off-field flamboyance, scored in the 24th minute for Kansas City. Vancouver defender Martin Bonjour was charged with an won goal in the 51st minute and Kei Kamara scored in the 65th minute as Kansas City remained unbeaten with seven wins, all in regulation.
This marks the first time since 1996 that a team has started the season with seven wins without going into extra time. The Los Angeles Galaxy started with eight straight regulation wins that year.
Sebastien Le Toux spoiled Nielsen's shutout bid in the 80th minute. It was only the second goal that Kansas City has allowed this season.
Many fans appeared to stay home to watch the Vancouver Canucks on television in a potentially season-ending Stanley Cup playoff game in Los Angeles. The crowd of 15,382 was smaller than average.
But there was no lack of excitement as Nielsen made several stellar saves to hand the Whitecaps their second straight loss.
Vancouver striker Eric Hassli received a yellow card in the sixth minute for a hard tackle on Kamara near midfield. Kamara curled into a ball on the turf, holding his shin and writhing in pain for a couple of minutes. Shortly after Hassli got the yellow Kamara went off, started jumping up and down and quickly returned, drawing jeers from the crowd.
Collin was cautioned in the 18th minute as he pushed Le Toux into a sideline advertising sign. The Kansas City defender made up for his miscue six minutes later as he put the visitors ahead 1-0.
Kansas City received a second chance on a corner kick after the first one went off a Whitecaps defender and out of bounds. Roger Espinoza managed a shot off the second corner and the ball hit Vancouver's Gershon Koffie and came to an unmarked Collin by the side of the net. With goalkeeper Joe Cannon caught out of position attempting to play Espinoza's shot, Collin easily tapped it in.
In the 28th minute, Nielsen robbed Le Toux on a diving header off a Davide Chiumiento cross from the right flank. Koffie also had an excellent chance the next minute, but he booted an Atiba Harris pass way over the net and into the crowd.
The Whitecaps had another excellent opportunity in the 41st minute, but Nielsen blocked a John Thorrington pass from near the end line intended for Le Toux in the 18-yard box. Moments later, Le Toux fired wide from near the top of the box after a Hassli shot was blocked. Just before half-time, Vancouver's Jordan Harvey failed to connect on a Hassli cross from the right flank.
Collin was instrumental in Vancouver's winning goal six minutes into the second half. Collin pressured Bonjour as the defender tried to defend Matt Besler long throw-in from the right sideline. Bonjour tried to kick the ball back to Cannon but fired into his own net instead.
Shortly after the goal, Nielsen made another stellar save as he poked the ball over the crossbar after a Le Toux cross deflected off a Kansas City defender.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie tried to inject some offence by subbing Brazilian striker Camilo in for midfielder Thorrington in the 60th minute. Vancouver was hoping to reproduce the magic that Camilo showed last season by scoring two goals in added time as the Caps rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie Sporting last spring.
The extra Whitecaps player up front did not pay the necessary quick dividends. Kamara gave Kansas City a 3-0 lead five minutes later as he kicked in a Chance Myers pass after initially passing it to him. It was Kamara's fourth goal of the season.
Le Toux put Vancouver on the scoreboard with 10 official minutes left. After a Camilo header from second-half sub Omar Salgado's cross rebounded the bar, Le Toux, standing in front of two defenders, headed the ball past Nielsen from the goal-line. A furious Nielsen, upset that offside was not called, raced to a linesman and argued nose-to-nose with him, earning a yellow card.
Following the goal, Camilo had two more chances, but he could not duplicate his heroics. He booted a free kick over the bar and then watched in dismay as Nielsen put his hard shot over the net.
Notes: With a light rain failing before the game, the stadium's roof was closed. ... Salgado came in for Harris in 79th minute. ... Kansas City's Paulo Nagamura was cautioned for time-wasting in the first half.
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