Photo: Eric Hassli received plenty of attention from Kansas City defenders (Giamou/TorontoFC.ca)
TORONTO – Sporting Kansas City dominated the play for much of the game on Saturday against Toronto FC, finally coming away with a 1-0 win after Kei Kamara scored a late goal at BMO Field.
Kamara’s winner came after Graham Zusi tapped a dangerous free kick in his path and the shot deflected off the defensive wall and the fingertips of goalkeeper Milos Kocic in the 83rd minute.
It was a matchup between the first-place team and the last-place team in the Eastern Conference and there was no doubt about who was the better team after 90 minutes.
RELATED: Paul Mariner | Wiedeman: sinking feeling | Henry to have MRI | Olympians at BMO Field
Video: Watch the Game In Six minutes.
Table-topping Sporting KC had the better of the play throughout but nearly failed to break down Reds, who mostly threatened through Eric Hassli’s physicality up top.
Kansas City (14-7-4) has now won three in a row while Toronto (5-14-5) is winless in their past four with three losses and a draw.
Kansas City controlled the ball for long stretches of the first half. It gave Toronto’s new center back, Darren O’Dea, an early test, and he showed the attributes that head coach Paul Mariner had in mind when he signed the Irish international – leadership and decisiveness.
Still, Kansas City forced a couple of saves from Milos Kocic in the first half an hour. Seth Sinovic tested Kocic from outside the box in the 19th minute and Kamara took his turn in the 30th.
SKC had yet another chance in the 33rd, when Teal Bunbury got behind the backline but tamely hit his shot right at the charging Kocic.
Toronto ventured only occasionally into the Kansas City defensive zone, usually via long passes. They had little sustained pressure until a couple of corner kicks in the final five minutes of the first half gave goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen some action. He also got some help from the bar.
Toronto used their first substitute with about 10 minutes to play in the first half when Logan Emory replaced injured Doneil Henry on the backline. With the substitution, left back Ashtone Morgan moved to the right side and Emory filled in at the vacated spot on the left.
Toronto had more possession to start the second half and nearly took the lead when Ryan Johnson set up Eric Hassli, who barely missed at the far post.
But Kansas City began to take over again with about 30 minutes to play and O’Dea nearly put one into his own goal when his defensive flick just landing on top of the net.
Sporting got the breakthrough on a foul by Morgan that set up the decisive free kick, which Kamara buried, and Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made a save late on to preserve the point.
Toronto play next at Columbus on Wednesday. Kansas City’s next game is at home against New York on Aug. 26.
83' Kansas City – Kei Kamara
7' Toronto – Torsten Frings (caution)
12' Kansas City – Aurelien Collin (caution)
49' Toronto – Eric Hassli (caution)
60' Kansas City – Chance Myers(caution)
Toronto – Milos Kocic; Doneil Henry (Logan Emory 36’), Richard Eckersley, Darren O’Dea, Ashtone Morgan; Andrew Wiedeman (Quincy Amarikwa 86’), Terry Dunfield, Torsten Frings, Ryan Johnson, Luis Silva, Eric Hassli ... Substitutes not used: Freddy Hall, Dicoy Williams, Adrian Cann, Aaron Maund, Eric Avila
Sporting KC – Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic; Graham Zusi, Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar (Lawrence Olum 88’), Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 86’); Teal Bunbury ... Substitutes not used: Eric Kronberg, Michael Harrington, Oriol Rosell, Soony Saad, Michael Thomas