Sporting Kansas City came from behind to win for the first time in 2014, as they beat Toronto FC in a helter-skelter affair at BC Place.
Jackson’s goal was cancelled out by Graham Zusi, and though Matt Besler was dismissed, former Reds forward Jacob Peterson clinched a winner ten minutes from time.
The Wizards momentarily drew level with Seattle Sounders FC at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings with this result, but survived several scares on a night when their back-line was tortured by the speed of Dominic Oduro.
Despite a negative result, this level of performance showed that Toronto can match up to the teams above them in the Eastern Conference, though a lack of cutting edge in front of goal proved costly.
The first chance of the match belonged to the Ontarians, as Oduro’s penetrative run concluded with a low fizz that was deflected out for a corner. From the set-piece though, the impressive rookie Nick Hagglund couldn’t nod on target.
Next, it was Sporting’s turn, and after flapping at Igor Juliao’s first delivery, Joe Bendik recovered brilliantly to spread himself in front of the Brazilian and block.
In keeping with the game’s end-to-end opening period, the Reds then went one better and took the lead. Oduro’s sublime defence-splitting pass allowed Jackson to easily sidestep Andy Gruenebaum, compose himself and lash beyond a recovering blue shirt into the vacant net.
With DC United – the Canadians’ next opponents – being comfortably beaten by English Championship outfit Fulham, and Kansas City on the back-foot, Ryan Nelsen sniffed an opportunity to close the gap at the top of the Conference. The Wizards’ shoddy defending was belying an outstanding away record, as their defence was sliced open at will by a Toronto side missing suspended top-scorer Jermain Defoe.
Aurelien Collin was fortunate to avoid ejection when he hauled down a well-placed Gilberto, before former Columbus Crew man Oduro’s industry was again sampled, along with Hagglund’s aerial prowess. The former crossed for the latter, who headed against the upright.
By this point, the Ghanaian international resembled a red streak on the right touchline, and he soon thumped an effort against the base of the same post.
Jackson and Luke Moore both went close, with the hosts showing no signs of easing off as half-time approached. When the whistle finally came, the champions retreated to the away dressing room with a sense of relief that the score-line didn’t match the pattern of play.
Within three minutes of the restart though, parity was restored. In a frantic scramble, four Sporting players threw themselves into tackles, and when Bradley Orr smuggled the ball out of the box, Zusi’s return was clinical – finishing with aplomb into the top corner.
The two goalkeepers saved consecutive low efforts from Jackson, Mikey Lopez and Benny Feilhaber, although the Reds’ goal-scorer was positioned to do much better.
In the 59th minute, Bendik had to palm away Feilhaber’s bobbling attempt, before Jackson somehow failed to beat his nemesis Gruenebaum when in acres of space, and then spectacularly bundled over when Oduro had gift-wrapped another clear sight of goal.
Having been consistently stripped for pace by star performer Oduro, Besler received his marching orders for two clumsy hacks at the 28-year-old’s ankles.
Doneil Henry couldn’t divert the resulting free-kick at goal, and Toronto were caught out at the other end. Dom Dwyer had been nullified by some stern defending, but it was his neat back-heel that created an opening for Peterson to calmly slot past Bendik.
Rather than shut up shop, Kansas City continued to attack through Feilhaber and Dwyer, but Oduro’s forward forays were relentless, and from his pass Dwayne de Rosario curled into Gruenebaum’s arms.
With one minute remaining, Michael Bradley scuffed wide, however, a succession of foolish stoppage-time fouls hampered any momentum and allowed the visitors to see out time.