Sporting Kansas City threw its own Cinco de Mayo party at Sporting Park on Sunday afternoon. Led by a brace from forward Claudio Bieler, Sporting KC defeated Chivas USA 4-0 in front of a capacity crowd of 18,811. It was the club's 21st consecutive sellout.
It was evident early on that Chivas had come to play a physical match. In the first minute, Sporting KC defender Mechack Jerome played a long ball forward for Bieler. Chivas defender Joaquin Velazquez brought Bieler down from behind just outside the 18-yard box and was shown a yellow card.
Chivas got a little lucky in the 12th minute. Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy made a bad clearance that fell to Bieler. However, Bieler's first touch failed him and he was unable to take advantage of an empty net.
That, however, was one of the few times Chivas got a break to go their way.
Sporting KC's first really good chance of the match came in the 18th minute. Graham Zusi made a nice run up the left wing and put the ball across the face of goal, but just out of reach of an onrushing Jacob Peterson, who would have only needed to make contact with the ball to score.
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Pressure from Peterson forced a turnover from Chivas defender Bobby Burling. Zusi pounced on the loose ball and made a short pass to Bieler near the top of the 18-yard box. Bieler cut it back to his left, putting Kennedy on the turf, and placed his shot between two defenders and in the back of the net.
Bieler almost added another before the break. In the 44th minute, Jerome played in a cross from the right wing, but Kennedy was able to punch the ball away just before Bieler was able to put his head on it.
Nine minutes after the restart, things went from bad to worse for Chivas USA. Zusi played a ball from midfield and was able to find Paulo Nagamura. Nagamura continued his run and made contact with Kennedy. Referee Baldomero Toledo immediately pointed to the penalty spot and also produced a red card for Kennedy as the last man back and denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Bieler buried the penalty in the bottom left corner as backup keeper Patrick McClain went to his left.
Sporting KC was not done yet. In the 65th minute, Nagamura sent the ball out wide on the left for second-half substitute Josh Gardner. Gardner drove toward the penalty area and put a cross in for Zusi, who only had to put his foot out for it to hit the roof of the net.
When you're up by three goals and your opponent is down a man, the tendency is to back off the gas pedal a bit. In the postgame press conference, manager Peter Vermes told us:"I actually was trying to tell some of the guys, 'Listen, just let them come to you.' ... But obviously, they had a little difference of opinion, and I'm not going to fight against it. They wanted to keep going, and I'm glad that they had the mentality to do that."
In the 87th minute, Sporting KC struck again. Spanish midfielder Oriol Rosell played the ball out wide right to Jerome, who had no one within six yards of him. Jerome then played the ball into C.J. Sapong, who played it one time off of the inside of his right foot and into the net. It was Sapong's first of the season, and Rosell and Jerome each picked up his first assist of the campaign.
With the clean sheet, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen took over the franchise record for shutouts with 38. Nielsen is the 13th goalkeeper to notch that many shutouts, but required the fewest games to do it. When asked in the locker room afterward if the record meant anything to him, Nielsen told us: "Not now. Maybe later when I retire or something but that's not in my mind at all. I came here to win today and we won. I'm a happy man."
Bieler's two goals put him into a tie atop the MLS chart with Mike Magee of the Galaxy and Jack McInerney of Philadelphia. Zusi's assist puts him into a tie with RSL's Joao Plata for the league lead.
Next up for Sporting KC are the Seattle Sounders, nine months to the day since the two teams last met in the U.S. Open Cup final at Sporting Park, a victory on penalty kicks for the home side. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, May 8.
All quotes were obtained firsthand.