CJ Sapong (2007-10) scored a historic goal to lift his Major League Soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, to a 1-0 win over San Jose Friday night at Livestrong Sporting Park.OVERLAND PARK, Kan., June 17, 2011 - Former JMU soccer player
Sapong's score, in front of a sell-out crowd, was the first goal scored at Livestrong, which opened earlier this month. The victory was the first for his team at Livestrong.
An account of the game by Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star follows:
CJ Sapong felt the defender tugging at him, trying to take him off his game.
But as the free kick sailed toward him, Sapong, Sporting Kansas City's rookie forward, had his focus only on the ball - and getting his left foot on it.
It was the first half of Sporting KC's game against San Jose on Friday at home, and Sporting had gone 120 minutes without scoring a goal at Livestrong Sporting Park, including last week's opener against Chicago.
Sapong was determined to end that streak, and that's exactly what he did as he somehow found the right corner, leading to a 1-0 victory for Sporting KC in front of an announced crowd of 18,467. Not only was it Sporting's first goal in its sparkling new stadium, but it also was the team's first win there.
"The soccer gods were looking out for me," Sapong joked afterward.
One can argue the "soccer gods" are certainly smiling on Sapong and his teammates right now.
The win was a relief on several levels for a team that has struggled to score goals and win games all season. It really wasn't all that long ago - late May, actually - that Sporting KC had scored only 11 goals during a miserable a 1-6-1 start.
But with this win Friday, Sporting KC extended its unbeaten streak to six games and improved to 3-6-4 for the season. San Jose, on the other hand, dropped to 5-5-4 and saw its six-game unbeaten streak end.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that it was midfielder Graham Zusi, the hero of Sporting KC's 4-1 win over Dallas on Sunday, who once again took a starring role in a victory.
Zusi struck the free kick from 40 yards out toward Sapong, who was standing at the edge of the 6-yard box when Sapong put it past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch in the 31st minute.
"I was just trying to put it in a dangerous spot," Zusi said, "and C.J...did the rest. He's a man-child, so strong on the ball."
And just like that, Sporting KC had a 1-0 lead it was not about to give up.
Central defender Aurelien Collin made sure of it, as he marked dangerous San Jose forward Steven Lenhart - who was coming off a hat trick in his last game - and held him scoreless.
"Collin was an absolute beast," said Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes.
"Five minutes into the game, I looked over my shoulder and he and Steven Lenhart were fighting each other," said defender Matt Besler, who also helped Sporting KC hold its opponent scoreless for the third time in its last four games.
"It looked like a wrestling match. I knew, once I saw that, that (Collin) was maybe in his head a little bit."
And by the time the game was over, no one was happier than team president Robb Heineman, who made an appearance in Sporting KC's locker room and congratulated his players on what he hopes is the first of many home wins at their $200 million jewel of a stadium.
"It's historic, the first home win, and it's a step in the right direction," Heineman said. "It's all about optimism, and its all about hope. I'm really happy for the guys. They've been working their absolute (behinds) off when we made them go on the road for so long...I'm just happy to have them come home, in front of a home crowd, and get a win."