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Sporting KC Defeat FC Cincinnati 4-0 in Arizona

Goals from Salloi, Espinoza, Harris and Russell highlight the 90 minute affair.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City are now 2-0 in the 2020 MLS preseason. They continued their strong form with a second consecutive 4-0 win. This time they did it without the aid of Alan Pulido, Felipe Gutierrez, Graham Zusi or Tim Melia who didn’t play (there was no media availability to ask why). It didn’t matter as they easily handled FC Cincinnati in Casa Grande, Arizona.

The team played a 90-minute game with a standard two 45-minute halves (as opposed to three 30 minute segments last game). They played two different lineups. One for reach half.

[Lineups for SKC in the following format: GK, RB, RCB, LCB, LB, D-Mid, CM, CM, RW, CF, LW]

First Half: Richard Sanchez, Jaylin Lindsey, Roberto Puncec, Matt Besler, Luis Martins, Ilie Sanchez, Gadi Kinda, Roger Espinoza, Khiry Shelton, Erik Hurtado and Daniel Salloi

Second Half: John Pulskamp*, Cameron Duke, Graham Smith, Botond Barath, Amadou Dia, Camden Riley*, Gianluca Busio, Tyler Freeman, Gerso Fernandes, Wilson Harris*, Johnny Russell

*Sporting KC II contracted player.

The team got off to a strong start as they put in the opening goal in just the 11th minute. Jaylin Lindsey brought the ball up the right wing and delivered a diagonal ball into the box which was settled down by Daniel Salloi and calmly driven into the back of the net.

They nearly scored earlier in the game as Gadi Kinda sent a ball into the box that Khiry Shelton squared across the face of the net only to have Erik Hurtado, who was under duress, drive it over the bar.

The half progressed with Sporting getting the majority of the possession. Ilie was especially potent in the midfield as he stepped up on multiple occasions to intercept passes and start a counter attack.

But it was Roger Espinoza, who made an interception just outside of Cincinnati’s box, who would score the games second goal. After the steal, he was quickly in space one-on-one with the keeper and he calmly curved the ball around and into the net in the 44th minute.

As one of the last actions of the half new acquisition Brandon Vazquez (formerly of Atlanta United) was delivered a through ball behind Matt Besler. Roberto Puncec though kept pace and forced Vazquez wide. His eventual shot was stopped by a diving Richard Sanchez for a corner.

On corner kicks throughout the first half Shelton showed great improvement in the air winning the ball much more consistently. Despite that, FC Cincy had a few decent changes from corners with one flick on header going just wide of goal.

Sporting KC led 2-0 at the half and made wholesale changes in the second (as did Cincinnati for the most part). Former SKC draft pick Saad Abdul-Salaam came on in the first half at right back and he would play RCB in the second half.

The second half would be more of the same for Sporting KC over Cincy, though it was definitely closer (despite the scoreline). In the 65th minute Sporting added their third goal. This time it was Graham Smith stepping up and forcing an interception. He immediately sent a quick through ball to Wilson Harris (Sporting KC II) who would run right and send a ball back across the goal for his second preseason tally.

The fourth and final goal also started with a turnover. Camden Riley (SKC II) stepped up and intercepted a ball in the midfield. He sent a hard and somewhat high pass to Wilson Harris who climbed through the air for a beautiful flick header to Johnny Russell. Russell gathered the ball, made the keeper miss and then chipped the ball into the net.

Cincinnati did have a few good moments. The most notable was on a play they were ultimately offside on. They got the ball into lots of space on the right hand side when Amadou Dia slipped to the ground leaving his man free. A good step from Barath and Smith left Cincy offside but the striker carried forward anyways and John Pulskamp (SKC II) made a lovely diving save on a play that didn’t actually count.

The game did have some physical play as well. At one point Camden Riley was fouled very hard by Gyau. Riley appeared to be in lots of pain but he was back on the pitch shortly and seemed fine (later making that interception and secondary assist). Gyau was booked as was FC Cincy midfielder Caleb Stanko on a different tackle.

Salloi and Busio picked up yellow cards for Sporting as well. The ref made it a point not to give yellows for anything but sloppy/reckless challenges. There were several jersey tugs (by both teams) that were ignored. The ref and Gerso had a funny conversation after he was pulled down where he agreed it was “100% a yellow” but for whatever reason they weren’t giving those today.

Sporting KC will return back to KC today and then return to Arizona for the second leg of the preseason in a week. Their next game is against the Columbus Crew on February 12th back at Grande Sports Park. Then they follow that up with games against Real Salt Lake, Phoenix Rising FC and the New York Red Bulls in the Sun Cup.

Here are a few photos from a fan I met at the game.