Coaches preach do not give up goals in the first five and last five of a half. Those goals kill teams, kill momentum and deflate confidence at the worst times. Coaches may preach that but that is exactly what Sporting Kansas City did in the first half. Not only once, but on both ends of the opening half.
Less than 90 seconds is all the first goal took. MLS defender of the year Ike Opara had a bad touch in the middle of his own half and Tomás Martínez touched ball towards goal where Mauro Manotas ran on to it. Tim Melia had little chance as Manotas slid it inside the post.
In a very un-SKC first half, Sporting KC had little build-up play and seemed to be searching for long counters. Instead it was the Houston Dynamo with the better counter-attacks creating better opportunities, outshooting SKC 13 to 7.
What seemed like a fatal dagger in the heart of Sporting KC came in the 45th minute when another turnover led to former U.S. International DaMarcus Beasley running at goal with the SKC defense in disarray. A simple ball across goal and it was an easy tap in for Manotas to notch his second of the night.
There must have been a chat at halftime because Sporting KC came out a different team. Several chances early forced Houston keeper Joe Willis into some solid saves with SKC almost halving the score.
In the 59th minute they did when Daniel Salloi playing as the center forward again found the back of the net after a mad scramble with Johnny Russell earning the assist. It started when Yohan Croizet knocked the ball on to Jaylin Lindsey. The homegrown back crossed the ball to Russell. The ball bounced to Gerso and back to Russell who touched it to Salloi for the goal.
Sporting KC continued to dominate the half but a pair of subs stole the three points back for Sporting KC.
It took just 43 seconds for Diego Rubio to Russell to Salloi and back to Rubio for the goal to tie it up in the 85th minute. Rubio is earning that super-sub moniker with another late goal.
In the 87th minute Houston mid Eric Alexander received his second yellow and gave the home side the man advantage.
A minute later Salloi combined with Rubio to setup Khiry Shelton for the game winner.
This was the 8th goal by a player off the bench in MLS play and the 9th across all competitions for Sporting KC.
With a second half that looked as good as the first half looked bad, Sporting KC takes all three points and solidifies their lead in the Western Conference.