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Set Piece Goals Clinch Sporting Victory Over Rapids

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With little else to do with his time, Jimmy Nielsen tries to catch a raindrop on his tongue.
With little else to do with his time, Jimmy Nielsen tries to catch a raindrop on his tongue.

Sporting Kansas City hosted the Colorado Rapids on a rain-soaked pitch the second leg in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The home team did exactly what they needed to do in order to preserve their 2-0 lead from the first leg and added two insurance goals on set pieces. Colorado had a few promising moments but were unable to put any kind of sustained pressure on their opponents.

First Half

The ball was skipping around unpredictably all over the pitch, impeding both teams' passing abilities but working mostly in Sporting's favor, as they calmly controlled their possession. Colorado, meanwhile, frantically tried to make something happen when the ball fell to them, but the playing surface allowed little fluidity in their movement. Sporting didn't bother putting in much effort on the attack, but when a set piece opportunity presented itself in the 28th minute they took advantage.

 

Graham Zusi put in an excellent ball that caught Colorado keeper Matt Pickens in between punching out the service and staying back to attempt a save on the header. Aurelien Collin got his head on the ball just in front of Pickens' mitts.

Colorado looked a little dazed in the minutes immediately following Collin's goal, but they got a chance of their own in the 33rd minute, Nyassi's deflected strike from just outside the 18 saved easily by Jimmy Nielsen. Colorado had one more chance in the first half, on a free kick from near midfield, but Nielsen and his robin's egg blue neck warmer were up to the challenge.

Second Half

The second half featured more of the same, really, from both teams. Colorado tried to stretch the game out in the middle of the half, but it never produced a quality chance and left them exposed to Sporting counter-attacks. Meanwhile, the messy play degraded into dirty play, with both teams committing hard fouls and referee Kevin Stott doling out a plethora of cautions.

One such yellow card, given in the 75th minute to Colorado's Brian Mullan, gave Sporting a free kick in a dangerous area. This time it was CJ Sapong who picked up Zusi's service from just inside the penalty area and crushed his header into the back of the net.

Colorado continued to fight but simply could not keep possession in the attacking third. With the 4-0 aggregate loss the Rapids fail to defend their title, ending their season quite differently from how it began, with the 3-1 victory against the Portland Timbers on that historic night in March.

Sporting Kansas City will now face either the Houston Dynamo or the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Finals. Houston currently leads that contest 2-1.