Amidst leftover smoke from the fireworks, Sporting Kansas City kicked off their 100th MLS sellout match against FC Dallas. The teams have met three times so far this year, twice in MLS play and once in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup, and the series was tied - one win, one loss, and one draw.
But Sporting Kansas City took the lead for this season tonight, with goals from Diego Rubio and Gerso Fernandes.
The lineup did have some surprises tonight — Cristian Lobato starting on the right wing over Latif Blessing or Gerso, and Jimmy Medranda starting at left back instead of Seth Sinovic. It was only Lobato’s second start, and he had a solid 68 minutes for Sporting KC. However, he lacked some of the speed and physicality needed to complete some of his more creative ideas against a tough FC Dallas defense. The guy definitely has potential, though, and did much better in the winger spot than the midfield spot he’d previously started in.
The game was pretty evenly matched throughout the first half. Both teams are recognized for their strong defensive lines — both of which kept the game tight. Things opened up after the water break, when both coaches must have told the teams to take more chances.
Daniel Salloi was not afraid to take shots from distance tonight, as he proved from his four attempts throughout the match. One of this best tries was in the 35th minute, when he curled a ball from the top of the box and sent it just right of FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.
But Sporting Kansas City wouldn’t notch their first shot on goal until the 37th minute, this time off a distance shot from Roger Espinoza, who sent Gonzalez diving to keep the score level.
Five minutes later, Sporting KC scored off a corner kick — a rare occasion within recent memory. Zusi lobbed one in right to the penalty spot, and Diego Rubio zig-zagged around his defender to slam the volley into the top right corner.
Sporting KC’s defense was remarkable in the first half — they held FC Dallas to one shot on goal, and remained solid throughout the rest of the match.
Salloi was again highlighted in the second half, with two excellent chances in the first ten minutes. First, another shot from distance that sent Gonzalez diving. And second, the result of a very nice passing effort from Rubio and Benny Feilhaber. Salloi had an open shot at the goal with Gonzalez on the ground, but the goalie made a kick save to keep the score at 1-0.
It wasn’t until extra time that Sporting Kansas City sealed the deal for three points. Off the bench, Gerso found himself up against two defenders in the box. He was able to zag around one and send a rocket into the left corner to put Kansas City up 2-0.
Sporting KC’s defense held strong against the Dallas offense tonight, but there was a lot of evenly matched run of play through the midfield. By the end of the match, Kansas City did lead in shots and shots on goal — and then most importantly, on goals itself.
Three points puts Sporting Kansas City back into first in the Western Conference (at least for now). Up until tonight, they were tied with three other teams — Portland, Seattle, and Houston, and next week they’ll take on the Dynamo. Kickoff is at 8:00 PM CT.