Bieler, Zusi Goals Propel SKC To Win Over Montreal

By: Sporting KC PR
By: Sporting KC PR

Bieler and Zusi goals propel Sporting KC
to 2-0 win over Montreal Impact

Feilhaber records two assists in front of 18th straight sell-out crowd;
Shutout streak extends to 339 minutes, longest in MLS this season

Sporting Park | Kansas City, Kan.
Attendance: 18,609 (sell-out)
Weather: 65 degrees and partly cloudy
Video: Match Highlights

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (2-1-2) 1 1 2
Montreal Impact (4-1-0) 0 0 0

Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen (c); Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers; Oriol Rosell (Lawrence Olum 90), Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber (Peterson Joseph 85); Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 90)

Subs not used: Eric Kronberg, Ike Opara, Mechack Jerome, Bobby Convey

Montreal Impact : Troy Perkins; Jeb Brovsky, Matteo Ferrari, Karl Ouimette, Hassoun Camara; Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins (Andrew Wenger 62), Davy Arnaud (c), Andres Romero (Sanna Nyassi 63); Marco Di Vaio (Blake Smith 79)

Subs not used: Evan Bush, Wandrille Lefevre, Calum Mallace, Collen Warner

Stats KC MTL
Shots 21 6
Shots on Goal 6 1
Saves 1 4
Fouls 16 11
Offside 5 4
Corner Kicks
6 5

Misconduct Summary:
KC -- Aurelien Collin (caution; dissent) 49
KC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; reckless foul) 53
MTL -- Felipe Martins (caution; reckless foul) 55

Scoring Summary:
KC -- Claudio Bieler 3 (Benny Feilhaber 1) 5
KC -- Graham Zusi 2 (Benny Feilhaber 2) 80

(March 30, 2013) -- Sporting Kansas City defeated the Montreal Impact 2-0 in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday at Sporting Park. The victory snapped Montreal's four-game winning streak and extended Sporting Kansas City's shutout streak to 339 minutes, longest in MLS this season.

Claudio Bieler notched his third goal of the season just five minutes into the match and Graham Zusi sealed the victory in the 80th minute with his second goal of the season. Benny Feilhaber provided assists on both goals while goalkeeper

Jimmy Nielsen recorded his League-leading third clean sheet of the season.

Sporting Kansas City set the stage for an exciting match when they went up a goal just five minutes in. Feilhaber slotted the ball to Bieler, who cut to the middle and took an angled, right-footed shot that sailed past Troy Perkins.

Two minutes later, Montreal responded when Andres Romero slipped behind Sporting KC's backline and unleashed a shot that drew goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen off his line to block the attempt despite Romero being ruled offside.

Bieler came close to a second goal in the game's 23rd minute, receiving a ball from Zusi inside the penalty area and striking first time but sending his shot high of frame. The Designated Player continued to threaten in the closing minutes of the first half, taking the ball from Karl Oimette and trying a shot from the top of the box that Perkins was positioned well to block.

Montreal's only shot of the half came in its final minute on a header from Ouimette that was off target.

The second half commenced with the much of the same fervor as Sporting KC looked to hold onto the lead. Chance Myers, in his first game back after a quad strain sidelined him for two weeks, nearly netted his first MLS goal in the 50th minute when he dribbled through Montreal's defense and sent in a low, angled shot that hit side-netting.

Seven minutes later, Seth Sinovic got into the action on the left flank with a darting run at goal and shot low across the goalkeeper, missing the far post by inches.

The Impact had their first shot on goal of the match in the 60th minute when former Sporting Kansas City captain Davy Arnaud headed the ball down to forward Marco Di Vaio, who turned and unleashed a shot right at Nielsen.

The 70th minute saw another noteworthy chance from Bieler. Paulo Nagamura crossed the ball from the right and the Argentinian striker settled it, turned and fired a shot across the goal that skimmed the far post.

Sporting KC doubled their lead in the 80th minute when Feilhaber played the ball to Graham Zusi on the left flank. The U.S. Men's National Team playmaker withstood a challenge from Ouimette and drove deep into Montreal's box and skipped the ball past an outrushing Perkins.

In the dying minutes of the game, Sporting KC looked for a third goal when second-half substitute Soony Saad charged down the field on a counterattack and nudged the ball to Zusi, whose blazing shot was saved by Perkins.

Sporting Kansas City will host Eastern Conference rival D.C. United at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday, April 5 at Sporting Park. Tickets for the match, presented by H&R Block, are available through Ticketmaster and at Sporting Park Box Offices.

FAST FACTS

- With the win, Sporting Kansas City is 2-1-2 in 2013 and 1-0-1 at home. Sporting KC is now in third place in the Eastern Conference, one point back of Houston for second.

- Sporting Kansas City is unbeaten in their last nine MLS matches at Sporting Park dating back to 2012.

- The victory snapped Montreal's four-game winning streak to start the season.

- Sporting Kansas City is 2-1-1 against Montreal all-time and 1-1-0 at Sporting Park in the series.

- Sporting Kansas City is 214-207-111 all-time, 142-75-48 all-time at home and 20-5-11 at Sporting Park.

- With the win, Sporting Kansas City broke a tie with FC Dallas for the third most home wins in MLS history with 142. Sporting KC also surpassed the Columbus Crew for third place on the all-time MLS chart for points at home with 474.

- Sporting Kansas City made three changes to last week's starting lineup with Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Chance Myers starting for Ike Opara, Soony Saad and Mechack Jerome respectively.

- Besler and Zusi missed the previous match while on international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team. Myers missed the last two matches with a quad strain.

- Sporting KC is 21-2-8 all-time in the MLS regular season with Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers in the starting lineup.

- The Montreal Impact made one switch to their starting lineup from the team's last match, starting Justin Mapp for Andrea Pisanu.

- Claudio Bieler scored Sporting Kansas City's first goal in the 5th minute of the match, the second earliest goal scored at Sporting Park in MLS competition.

- Prior to Saturday, Montreal had conceded only two goals in 2013 and none earlier than the 68th minute.

- Sporting KC scored the first goal and led at halftime for the first time in 2013 on Saturday.

- Bieler is tied for third in MLS for goals this season with three.

- Benny Feilhaber earned the assist on Bieler's goal, his first in a Kansas City uniform.

- Zusi scored the second goal of the match on Saturday in the 80th minute. The goal is the 13th of his career and came in his 100th regular season appearance.

- Zusi also scored against Montreal in 2012 and now leads all KC players with two goals in the all-time series.

- Sporting Kansas City is 9-0-1 all-time when Zusi scores in MLS matches.

- Feilhaber earned his second assist of the match an the 11th of his career.

- Feilhaber recorded two assists in a regular season match for the second time in his MLS career and first time since October 22, 2011 while with the New England Revolution.

- Only two players have had multi-assist games in MLS this season: Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi (March 2 at Philadelphia) and Benny Feilhaber.

- Benny Feilhaber is now tied for the team lead with Graham Zusi with two assists.

- Saturday marked the first time in the Sporting KC-Montreal Impact series that a player recorded two assists in a match.

- Graham Zusi played his 10th game with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

- Jimmy Nielsen has the longest shutout streak in MLS at 339 minutes. His three shutouts in 2013 lead the League.

- Sporting Kansas City has allowed three goals this season, second fewest in MLS this season. New England leads MLS with two goals allowed, but in one fewer game played.

- Sporting Kansas City held the Montreal Impact to a single shot in the first half, with the attempt coming in the third minute of stoppage time.

- Jimmy Nielsen has appeared in 66 straight MLS matches, including postseason, for Sporting Kansas City, dating back to June 12, 2011. The streak covers a span of 5,940 straight minutes of MLS action.

- Nielsen recorded his 35th career shutout on Saturday and lowered his career goals against average to 1.00, best among MLS goalkeepers all-time with a minimum of 4,000 minutes played.

- Nielsen 0.92 goals against average at home is the 4th best goals against average in home games in MLS history among goalkeepers with a minimum of 2,000 home minutes played.

- Nielsen now has three career shutouts against the Montreal Impact.

- Jimmy Nielsen has the best career winning percentage for a KC goalkeeper in club history (.566).

- Benny Feilhaber led all players on Saturday with seven key passes, three more than the next closest player which was Graham Zusi with four.

- Zusi led all players with nine crosses on Saturday.

- Oriol Rosell led all players with seven tackles on Saturday.

- Matt Besler led all players with 10 aerial duels, winning nine of them.

- With the win, Peter Vermes recorded his 47th win as a manager and ties Preki for 22nd on the MLS coaching chart for victories.

- Vermes has the best winning percentage for a KC manager all-time (.553).

- With the two home goals, Sporting KC ties the Columbus Crew for the third most home goals in MLS history with 441.

- Sporting Kansas City has won nine straight games when scoring two goals.

- Sporting Kansas City's 21 shots and six shots on goal were both season highs. Sporting KC leads MLS all-time in shots with 7,268.

- Montreal's six shots and one shot on goal on Saturday were both season lows.

- Sporting Kansas City distributed schedule magnets and magnetic car decals to the first 10,000 fans to arrive at Sporting Park on Saturday courtesy of presenting match sponsor Sprint.

- Attendance at Saturday's match was 18,609 for the 18th straight MLS sell-out.

- Lawrence Olum made his 2013 debut on Saturday as a second-half substitute.

- Montreal Impact midfielder Blake Smith made his MLS debut on Saturday.

- C.J. Sapong played in his 75th career MLS match (including playoffs). He also surpassed 5,000 minutes played in MLS competition (including playoffs).

- Seth Sinovic played in his 75th career MLS regular season match on Saturday.

- Sporting Kansas City has gone 70 consecutive MLS matches (including playoffs) without conceding a goal on a corner kick, dating back to May 21, 2011 at Seattle.

- Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum was ejected in the 81st minute.

- Sporting Kansas City honored seven-year-old Dillon Dragoo at Saturday's match as a special guest in the Victory Suite.

- Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer, currently on loan with USL Pro affiliate Orlando City SC, scored the game-winning goal in the club's 3-2 pre-season victory on Saturday. All four Sporting KC loanees started for Orlando City in tonight's victory.

- Kei Kamara, on loan to Norwich City in the English Premier League through May 6, started and played 79 minutes on Saturday in a 1-0 loss to Wigan Athletic.

QUOTES

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

General thoughts on the match...
I think it's really simple. I think from the opening whistle to the final whistle we were dominant. We had a very specific way that we wanted to play in this game and I thought the guys executed it just about perfect. I think we could have scored a couple more goals but outside of that they were great on both sides of the ball. In transitional moments, in regard to us losing it and winning it back and then the second efforts in different situations were tremendous. I just think that our ultimate pressure lead to two very high quality goals. Great movement, excellent passes, and then great finishes. So in the end I thought it was an excellent performance by us and a great step in the right direction against a very good team.

On Sporting's struggle to finish early on in the season...
This is where I beg to differ with you guys, when you say that we had an issue, because I've heard it a couple times now. When you look at the games that we played, take even our last game against New England, if you're there live there's 40 and 50 mile an hour winds that are going through the game. What I take away from that game-we walk away playing away from home, getting a point in a very, very horrendous environment and now we're three games in a row in not giving up a goal. That's a huge feat and on top of that, right now, we score three goals in our first game, another one in our second, and now we're in the fifth game of the season and I truly believe that the amount of chances that we create we're going to score a lot more goals than we have at this point, but it's not an issue. It's an issue when you don't have players that can take chances and it's an issue when you don't have players that can run into those positions and we have all of that. I think that tonight when you look at the two goals that we scored and then Seth's (Sinovic) chance, and then (Claudio) Bieler two times right across the box, right across the goal. Teams would die to get into those positions. Sometimes the finishing is the hardest part of a soccer game, just to score goals. It's not an issue for this team by any means. If anything this is the most talent I've ever been around as a coach when it comes to being able to attack and break teams down in the attacking third.

On having Matt Besler and Graham Zusi back with the team...
If you take the game that both Besler and Zusi had from the national team-that was a huge result for the national team-and then to come back and play at the level that the two of them did and play the 90 minutes that they did, it can be a let down sometimes but I thought their performance was very good for having come off of that game.

On Graham Zusi's confidence...
Well the thing is now that you have guys like (Benny) Feilhaber, (Paulo) Nagamura, and (Oriol) Rosell in the midfield that can actually hold the ball and make the final pass, that now allows a guy like Graham to make runs that before he would have made and no one could give him that final pass. Now it's different. He can take someone on, he can run without the ball and we can find him that way, and there's a lot of different things that can happen. Players' games elevate when they play amongst other really good players and there's a collection of really good players in this group right now. Now you can continue to see that our game and our play will continue to evolve.

On the team coming together tonight...
I think there are two things that were very good tonight. I thought our tactical movement and the way we were putting pressure on them and going at them was big and I also think the transition with this group, because it is a new group, when they lost the ball, that quickness to win it back. Especially in the middle of the midfield it was very, very good.

On the play in the midfield...
You have to give a lot of credit to Patrice Bernier. He's a real important piece to their team. He sits in front of their back four. He's that link between the two. He puts out a lot of fires for their defense before it actually gets to them. If you look at him and his stats, he's been a guy that's linked up quite a bit with Marco Di Vaio in getting him into those spaces and those counter attacks to get goals. So for us it was very important to establish that bite in the midfield and more importantly win balls so that they were always playing backwards or square and not forward and I thought that if it wasn't one guy it was another one and you could just see that coming. One guy would go in and he would turn and then our next guy was coming in hard. I thought that we disrupted a lot of plays in the way that we went after them. It's a credit to our guys because it takes a lot of hard work. We play different than a lot of other teams in the league and it's a high demand physically. Our guys were very good in the middle of the midfield and it was a battle that I think we won today.

On not deviating from the game plan...
I think from the opening whistle it was very evident that we were not only going to go forward at you but we were going to stay in your end and we were going to try and win the ball close to your goal. The guys did that flawlessly many, many a times. I even thought that the few times that Montreal would start to break the line a little bit, we would make great recovery runs and our back line did a really good job of absorbing pressure and then (Montreal) didn't have anywhere to play because they were very narrow on the field. Our recognition within the game was excellent and then our execution on the other side was very good as well.

On scoring the early goal...
Us scoring early is a big change in the game. In that moment they still have to try and play. They can't just absorb pressure and not score. So having scored early, definitely changed the game on them. They had to come. They had to open up. Every time they opened up though we were going right back at them as soon as we won it, with numbers and with speed. If you keep having to run defensively back then you don't have that energy going the other way at least not with numbers. I thought that's where we were actually very good. Our recognition, where they sent numbers forward and we took off and won it was excellent tonight. That put them under a lot of pressure and I think that's why they couldn't get as many players into the attacking third.

On the guys playing their roles tonight...
I told Benny as soon as he came off that this was his best performance for our team and it's exactly what we're looking for from him. I've seen him play for a long time and his defensive work and the bite he has in the midfield and today he was all over the place. Then what happens when he gets the ball and he breaks the lines and he goes at defenses he has all solutions-he can play, he can dribble at a guy, he can shoot from distance. He has all those qualities. When he does that it changes the game for us as a team. When you have (Graham) Zusi running off the ball, you have CJ (Sapong) with the qualities that he has, and then Claudio (Bieler) just needs daylight and he's going to find the goal. So when you have that it gigantic for us this early in the season.

Sporting Kansas City Midfielder Benny Feilhaber

General thoughts on the match...
I think we did a lot of good things. Obviously this game, we were able to use things that we trained this last week. We came up with two scoreless draws in back to back weeks and we really put focus this week on trying to get runs behind their defense and being able to slip those balls in there. Obviously we were able to do that with the couple of goals that we scored and we had quality chances to maybe do that a couple more times so I'm really pleased with the performance of our team and putting two goals in the back of the net and winning against an undefeated side is big for us.

Thoughts on the first goal...
Claudio (Bieler) was wide open. One thing for myself that I wanted to do was drive at the defense. When I picked up that ball I had no other thing in my mind than to go at them and see what opened up. Bieler made a really good run off their center back and opened up space for himself so it was an easy choice to give him the ball. He made it look easy, which it wasn't. He was able to open up his body and bend it back post. It was an easy play for me once he made the run.

On the helpfulness of an early lead...
I think more than ever against a team like that. They play an extremely counter-attack minded game or at least they have the first four games and they keep it locked down in the back and then they go with speed and let Marco Di Vaio get behind the defense. So for us to get the early goal like that was crucial for our game plan and thankfully we were able to get one more.

On the team coming together...
Kansas City plays a very different style than any other team in the league. It takes a little while for the new guys and for myself to kind of pick up on when we want to go and when we want to hold a little bit more. It's obviously not the easiest system to figure out right off the bat, but I'm getting it little by little and I think I'm improving every game. Obviously today it all came together for myself and for the team. We, me and (Paulo) Nagamura with Uri (Rosell) behind us, were able to figure out when we wanted to go and when we wanted to press and we had the opportunity to pick off a couple more of those balls from Bernier in the central midfield but we did enough to cause them not to play out of the back too much.

On this season compared to last season...
The environment out there, the fans, the stadium, the team, everything is more than I ever imagined. It's a great transition. I've put last season in the back of my mind and in the rearview mirror. I try not to think of it too much and just looking forward to this season and it's been great so far. I think now I'm feeling more comfortable with the system and with the players and I think the other players and getting use to me as well. It's great to get the three points at home and we look forward to keeping this up the rest of the season and going into the next game.

Sporting Kansas City Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen

On Sporting Kansas City posting a third straight clean sheet...
That streak doesn't really matter. All that matters is winning. We had an outstanding performance today. It was so attractive; it was so sexy to watch. I was so proud. It's the best soccer we've played since I came here. As a team and individually, the only word for it is "outstanding."

On Sporting Kansas City's defensive performance against Montreal forward Marco Di Vaio...
Unbelievable, unbelievable. We were all well prepared for Di Vaio. We know he's a smart guy, and we had to pay attention to him all the time. Sometimes he looks like he's lazy, but he's always there. The defenders did an unbelievable job to shut him down.

On midfielder Benny Feilhaber's performance...
That's the kind of guy we've needed for a long time - a guy that can find the space behind the defenders and play that ball in. He's doing that time after time after time. And the better our players up front get to know him, they will learn that all they need to do is make the right run and he'll get the ball there. He's an outstanding player. When he was released in Denmark (in 2010), I sprinted into Peter (Vermes') office and told him this was the guy we needed. Unfortunately he went to New England, but we are very happy to have him now.

On forward Claudio Bieler's performance...
I face him everyday in practice. The finish he had tonight was typical of him. He makes it very simple. He's a very hard working guy and very smart in the ways he puts defenders under pressure. Just another outstanding player for us.

Sporting Kansas City Defender Matt Besler

On Sporting KC's 2-0 win over Montreal...
It's our best performance of the season so far, that's for sure. I think the effort, pressure, and passing was really great tonight.

On the importance of scoring an early goal...
That's something we talked about before the game. We wanted to score in the first half. We knew that Montreal was going to put some numbers behind the ball. So if we got that goal in the first half, they would have to open up in the second half and try to get a goal. It worked out perfectly today.

On attacking through the middle with through balls, rather than out wide with crosses...
There was an emphasis on that, and it's something we worked on in training all week. The first home game against Chicago, our possession was excellent. But it was a lot of side-to-side passes. But in order to break the opponent down, sometimes you have to be a little more direct with your passing. Tonight was a perfect example of that. It really worked out well.

On jumping back into the starting XI after a U.S. World Cup qualifier in Mexico City Tuesday night...
My legs felt a little heavier than usual. By the 70th minute I was feeling a little tired. The travel was probably the hardest part. I felt fine physically after the Mexico game on Tuesday - no knocks or anything. But the travel took a little toll. I basically just tried to take the confidence I gained on Tuesday night and tried to bring it here.

On receiving applause from the crowd before the match for his defensive performance against Mexico Tuesday night...
The fan reception was great. I tried to focus on the game, so I only really got a chance to soak it in before the game. I looked around and there were a lot of cool signs and they showed a lot of appreciation.

Montreal Impact Coach Marco Shallibaum

On the 2-0 loss...
Of course when you lose it's disappointing. I think starting like we did and giving up a goal after five minutes from a mistake on our part is very difficult especially here in Kansas City. It wasn't bad because our possession was much better. If you see all of the game, Kansas City was the better team and that's why they won.

On not scoring....
When you concede a goal after five minutes, it's difficult especially away and here in Kansas City. I think Kansas City was very good today and we weren't able to make it 1-1.

On Montreal's upcoming bye week...
Now we go back home to Montreal and have two weeks without a game. Our base is ok, we are in first and we have five games and 12 points. That's not bad for Montreal.

Montreal Impact Captain Davy Arnaud

On the atmosphere at Sporting Park...
It's a great atmosphere. The difference here is they're right on top of you. It's a phenomenal stadium and when its full and they're loud like that, it's very tough. Conceding not even five minutes in, in an already tough place to play makes it even tougher on you. It gives them some confidence, which they already have. They're a very good team, especially at home. It gets the crowd into it even more and from that point it's difficult on us. At the end of the day, you have to give it to them, they played well tonight. They were the better team tonight. But, like I said, we didn't make it easy on ourselves conceding so early."

On Sporting Kansas City overwhelming Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier...
They swamp everybody. Wherever they lose the ball they press right away. Whether it's Patrice or the center backs or the left back or if the ball goes back to Troy (Perkins), they press. They press all over the field. That's their system and the way that they play. It works very well for them, its tough to play against.

On Kansas City's style of play while he was with the club...
They've been working on that pressing style for several years now. All the players understand that's how they're going to play and they work very well at it. They've been doing it for a long time and you can tell.

On whether Marco Schallibaum asked him about how Kansas City played...
If you've watched any of their games here, you don't have to have played here. You see how they play, it's very clear. They're tough and when a team presses like that and they're that organized and they're pressing for 90 minutes, that can be tough to break down. You have to be very good on the ball and make them defend a little deeper than they want too. But they did a good job sticking to their game plan tonight.

On returning to Kansas City...
It's great, I love this city and this club. I love playing here at the stadium. I think it's a privilege for anybody that comes and plays here to play in this stadium. I only get to come once or twice a year now, but I enjoy it.

Montreal Impact Defender Kari Ouimette:

General thoughts on the match...
We weren't able to create a lot of chances. They put a lot of pressure on us. We have to pass this game and focus on the next game. We need to control the ball better and take our chances on the counter attacks."

On conceding two goals for the first time this season...
Kansas City controlled the game and they had a lot of chances. Two goals is a lot. We can't allow two goals but they were attacking always, always, always so it's chances that pass by.

On looking forward to the club's next match...
It's a different atmosphere when we're winning and having good games. We will work hard to prepare for our next game and in our next game we'll go out hard.


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