It had been more than five years since Sporting Kansas City scored a goal at BMO Field in Toronto.
But 542 minutes of frustration were erased in the 83rd minute Saturday when forward Kei Kamara skipped a free kick through traffic and past Toronto FC goalkeeper Milos Kocic, delivering a 1-0 win for Sporting KC.
“I don’t look at all those stats like that, you know that,” manager Peter Vermes said by phone. “But I really thought we played a very smart and intelligent game. We played compact and organized, which made it hard for them to play through us and forced a lot of balls over top.”
And just when a fourth scoreless draw in the last five meetings for Sporting KC at Toronto FC began to feel inevitable, midfielder Paulo Nagamura drew a foul by defender Ashtone Morgan.
Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi and Kamara lined up over the ensuing free kick, which Zusi rolled a foot to the right to give Kamara a better angle for the shot.
Kamara’s effort perhaps took a nick off of forward Andrew Wiedeman’s raised knee on the end of Toronto FC’s five-man wall, which obscured Kocic’s view just enough to allow the game-winner to find the back of the net.
“The way he hit it, it had a little whisper,” Vermes said. “It sort of faded away and made it tough for the goalkeeper to get a handle on it. That’s a great goal, and I really thought we deserved to get that goal.”
Prior to Kamara’s team-leading ninth goal of the season, Sporting KC hadn’t scored at BMO Field since April 28, 2007 — the club’s first game at Toronto FC, which the Wizards won 1-0 on Eddie Johnson’s 81st-minute goal.
Sporting KC, which outshot Toronto FC 17-5 and enjoyed an 8-1 edge in shots on goal, strengthened its grip on first place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Sporting KC (14-7-4) trails only the San Jose Earthquakes in the quest for the MLS Supporter’s Shield.
“What it does for us is it continues to put the pressure on the other teams,” Vermes said. “But we’ve just got to continue taking care ourselves and worrying about our own results.”
Entering the game, Kocic, 27, from Serbia, had allowed more goals than any MLS goalkeeper this season (42), but he was fantastic in the first half.
Left back Seth Sinovic had a go from 40 yards out in the 19th minute, forcing Kocic into a diving save.
Kocic stopped Kamara during the 31st minute, and also bested forward Teal Bunbury on a couple of breakaway chances.
The first came in the 34th minute when Zusi plopped a gorgeously struck through ball into Bunbury’s path as he sped past the Toronto FC defense. But Kocic hustled off his line and smothered Bunbury’s gentle shot.
During the first minute of stoppage time, Bunbury again got in behind the Toronto FC defense, but he couldn’t get enough steam behind a left-footed strike of a bounding ball.
Toronto FC (5-14-5) didn’t create many goal-scoring chances until a flurry of late corner kicks, three in a row during a two-minute span.
German midfielder Torsten Frings dinged the upper corner of Sporting KC’s goal with a corner kick on the third try and fellow midfielder Terry Dunfield’s floating header off the rebound nicked the crossbar as well.
Off a volley into the box from Ryan Johnson, Hassli pushed a 54th-minute header wide of the right post, but such chances were rare for Toronto FC.
Johnson had a couple late headers that tested Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after Toronto FC had gone down a goal, but Nielsen still recorded his league-best 11th shutout of the season.