When Sporting Kansas City started to schedule international friendlies with teams from the English Premier League, they probably expected they might lose one.
Three years in, they have yet to lose to one of their EPL opponents. In the latest installment, Sporting KC got a fluke equalizer from academy product Kyle Miller in the 92nd minute to pull out a 1-1 draw with Stoke City.
It was the second-latest goal scored in a match at Livestrong Sporting Park, behind Omar Bravo's 93rd-minute goal against Chivas USA on July 9, 2011.
Sporting KC's Teal Bunbury had the first scoring chance of the match when his shot from just outside the penalty area was deflected out for a corner in the fourth minute.
Five minutes later, Soony Saad's attempt from about the same distance was just wide of the left post.
Stoke City's first dangerous chance came in the 15th minute. Kenwyne Jones struck one from approximately 35 yards out that went just over the crossbar.
The Potters also came close in the 25th minute when Jonathan Walters put in a nice cross from the left wing, but Peter Crouch's header from close range went over the crossbar.
Saad answered for Sporting KC in the 27th minute when he rattled the woodwork from 20 yards out. Kevin Ellis recorded the match's first shot on goal six minutes later. Ellis put his head on a corner kick, but it landed safely in the arms of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg was called into action in the 41st minute. Ryan Shotton whipped in a cross, but Kronberg came out and punched the ball clear. Both teams were fairly even in possession as the first half ended scoreless.
Seven minutes after the break, Kronberg came up with a big save. Walters got in behind the Sporting KC defense and into the 18-yard box, but Kronberg came off his line to cut off the angle and make the stop.
Stoke City opened the scoring in controversial fashion. Defender Konrad Warzycha was called for an incredibly soft foul in the penalty area on Michael Tonge. The 29-year-old Englishman calmly stepped to the spot and put the ball in the back of the net, placing the ball in the lower left corner after Kronberg went the opposite way.
Miller was then set up to play the hero in front of his hometown fans. In the second minute of stoppage time, Defender Mark Wilson had a soft backpass to Begovic, who then tried a rather lazy clearance from the top of the penalty area. The ball came directly to Miller approximately 40 yards from goal.
Miller made no move to the ball, but just let it hit him in the head. The ball then looped over Begovic and into the net.
It was Miller's first goal as a professional in his first start and second appearance. The St. Thomas Aquinas High School graduate signed with the club on May 30th, after being selected in the 2012 Supplemental Draft.
At the postgame press conference I attended, Miller said of the goal:
We were down and we had to press the game and Teal (Bunbury) did a great job pressing the goalkeeper. Fortunately, the clearance came right to me and I saw it at the last second and I got a head on it and it just went into the goal.
Miller also said he had 25-30 family members in the stands.
Both managers seemed to be pleased with what their teams got out of the friendly.
At the postgame press conference, Stoke City manager Tony Pulis said he hoped his team would be able to benefit from playing in the extreme heat. The official game-time temperature was 99 degrees.
Pulis also said, "The players have worked very hard. They’ve been away for three weeks from home and they had a day to prepare for this game. They’ve done well and they’re all keen to get back to their families."
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said:
I actually thought we were very good the first half. Our build-up and pressure between the midfield and the forwards was great. We were a little impatient in the attacking half, but we deserved to get a result, no doubt. The guys played well enough to get the result. It was good experience for those guys. They all got 90 minutes. It was a good day—no injuries.
Sporting KC's next match is Saturday when they travel to Foxboro, MA, to take on the New England Revolution. Next Wednesday is the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final when Sporting KC hosts the three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders.
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