KANSAS CITY — It had been a long time coming. But Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez finally got himself back to the scoring column for the first time since April. His long layoff from a sports hernia and subsequent surgery was followed up by a return stretch that – until Saturday – had been scoreless.
His goal in the 53rd minute against Orlando City gave Sporting its 1-0 win Saturday night.
Yohan Croizet was the spark plug for Gutierrez’s goal: He found space on the near side and threaded a ball to Gutierrez, waiting at the top of the box. He took a smooth first touch and sent his strike flying past Orlando keeper Joe Bendik.
“I think for him, he was feeling really good at the start of the season,” Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said. “He was very confident and in great form, and I think he’s been trying for a while to get back in that form, and I kept telling him, ‘It’s gonna come. Be patient.’ He strikes the ball really well. He’s got good placement. He sees the field really, really well, and so the finish was great. And it was at a good time, because we needed it for sure.”
Croizet played from a right wing position, instead of his normal central location. In addition to his assist to Gutierrez, Croizet collected three shot attempts of his own, and created three other chances.
That play earned him major praise from Vermes.
“He was exceptional tonight, and they didn’t have an answer for him,” Vermes said of Croizet. “What he is, he’s really powerful, really explosive with the ball, especially one-v-one. We wanted to be a little more one-v-one on that side, and the other side we wanted to have a little more combination play, which we had I think with Gerso (Fernandes) on the left. And [it] gave a chance, when Gerso was playing wide, for Felipe to play in between the lines a little bit more, which definitely helped us going forward.”
Saturday also served as Dom Dwyer’s much-anticipated return to Kansas City. The striker had played for Sporting since 2012, before transferring to Orlando in the middle of last season. Dwyer received a solid ovation from the crowd before the game (although Sporting’s supporters section hit him with a “Sporting reject” chant at one point).
Kansas City held Orlando to eight shots (half of them from Dwyer).
“I think we were very good with being always two against him, or me and (Matt) Besler, one in front and one in the back,” said Andreu Fontás, who got his first start on the back line in place of the suspended Ike Opara. “In spite of one in the first minutes, all the game it was very controlled and very, very good for us.”