Sporting Kansas City entered Saturday’s match sitting in second in the Western Conference. SKC came into the match against the Seattle Sounders with high hopes of grabbing three points and gaining some ground on Seattle, the Western Conference leaders. Unfortunately, Sporting was forced to face that challenge without two of its best scorers with forwards, Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi both missing the match due to injury. Seattle was also without some of their most noteworthy names with Raul Ruidiaz, Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris all unavailable for the match due to injuries.
On a more positive note, the match saw the return of Nicolas Isimat-Mirin to the defense to partner with Fontas on the back line for the first time since early August. Roger Espinoza also returned to the starting lineup to make his 250th start for Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting got a great start to the match when Johnny Russell took a shot in the 4th minute that was deflected by Seattle keeper Stefan Frei. The rebound was put back by Kinda, but it was blocked by a Seattle defender. That blocked shot was picked up by a quick step and a pass by Luis Martins to Remi Walter, who shot and scored the first goal off of a deflection by the Seattle defense to put Kansas City up 1-0.
The remainder of the first half was a back and forth affair. Seattle was able to get a few decent opportunities off of several bad Sporting Kansas City giveaways from poor passes by several different Sporting defenders. Fortunately, the Sporting Kansas City defense and Tim Melia were able to keep all of those opportunities out of the back of the net. The 35th minute of the first half saw Seattle’s midfielder Joao Paulo pick up a yellow for persistent infringement with a foul on Gadi Kinda at midfield. This yellow will lead to Joao Paulo being suspended for Seattle’s next match due to yellow card accumulation. The first 45 minutes wrapped up with Kansas City leading Seattle 1-0.
The second half of the match had all the feelings of a playoff match. Tempers were high and every ball was fought and challenged for.
However, before all of the emotions and fight, the beginning of the second half saw Sporting Kansas City come out of the locker room sluggish. That led to several quick Seattle opportunities. The best being a mishit shot by Christian Roldan in the 50th that was picked up by Ilie who was immediately fouled by Kelyn Rowe, who picked up Seattle’s second yellow card of the match.
Another big opportunity came in the 52nd minute for Seattle. Christian Roldan blocked Tim Melia and continued to obstruct Melia’s opportunity to protect the goal. Melia was frustrated by Roldan’s play and took him down inside the goal. This angered Roldan’s brother Alex who came and shoved Melia. This scuffle led to a yellow card for both Alex Roldan and Tim Melia.
Seattle’s control of the possession continued through the beginning of the second half and the Sounders were able to level the match in the 58th minute off of a Joao Paulo corner. The corner kick was headed by Christian Roldan to Nicolas Benezet who headed it in the goal.
The onslaught of yellow cards continued as the physicality of the match ramped up. Gadi Kinda and Roger Espinoza both found themselves in the book as did Yeimar and Montero for Seattle.
The 80th minutes saw Sporting Kansas City calm the game down to keep possession of the ball. Thirty-eight consecutive passes led to Roger Espinoza playing a wonderful ball through to Johnny Russell who had a lovely finish past Stefan Frei to put SKC back in front with a 2-1 lead.
Sporting Kansas City continued to fight and claw their way through the 90 minutes of play. In the second of four minutes of stoppage time Seattle saw a great opportunity to even the score when Christian Roldan banged a shot off the crossbar. Seattle continued to play hard and was able to get a corner kick in the 94th minute that was cleared by Sporting Kansas City and that was all she wrote.
Sporting Kansas City picks up three points on the road and is now only three points out of first place in the West Conference and has officially clinched their playoff spot. It is going to be a fun wild right for the last two weeks of the regular season. Buckle up Sporting fans!