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And the children shall lead them: Sporting Kansas City drowns Colorado Rapids 3-1 on a near perfect night

Within their own cathedral, Sporting, boisterous weeknight crowd spread joy

MLS: Austin FC at Sporting Kansas City Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

On the evening famed goalkeeper hero Jimmy Nielsen was crowned the newest Sporting Legend in a pre-game ceremony, soccer was nearly as perfect as it gets at Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park. Three goals and two assists from sterling homegrowns Daniel Salloi and Felipe Hernandez led the charge for the hosts who gained three valuable points in front of a brilliant Wednesday night crowd.

By the end of the match, six Kansas City homegrowns had contributed to the win.

Fronting Tim Melia in goal, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes called on the following ten to put Sporting on the path to three points: (right to left) backs Jaylin Lindsey, Ilie, Andreu Fontas, and Luis Martins; midfielders Gianluca Busio, Roger Espinoza, and Felipe Hernandez; forwards Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, and Daniel Salloi. Regular #9 Alan Pulido was on the bench to start the match as a possible offensive spark, among others.

Getting three points for Kansas City was important as guests Colorado Rapids had been inching up the standings with five wins in their last six and began the night only one point behind Sporting with two matches in hand. A win would not only provide a bit of separation from the Rapids, but help KC remain in Western Conference-leading-Seattle Sounders’ rearview mirror.

Shelton was the first to break through Colorado’s back five. Turning nicely with his body shading the ball in the 7th minute, the six-year MLS forward steamed towards goal as the crowd rose in anticipation. However, a too big touch enabled Colorado ‘keeper Will Yarbrough to snatch the ball to safety.

Rapids’ danger man Michael Barrios replied in the 8th minute. The Colombian right winger burst into space off a splitting through ball to skip a low cross across Sporting’s box and fortunately for the hosts, past two coming runners.

The first danger survived, Kansas City went to work on the right wing. After a Russell shot in the 13th that whistled wide of the far post, Lindsey played a divine ball to free the Scot deep in the guest’s box. A low cross went past Shelton for a defender-beating Salloi. Into the net low to the left off Yarbrough went the shot and Sporting had grabbed the lead on Salloi’s 5th marker of the season.

Not that the lead necessarily meant much as the team that has scored first has won only twice in 10 Sporting matches this season.

The home side was not going to let up, however. Lindsey, consistently dangerous the last few matches, beat his defender and crossed for Russell in the 32nd, followed by Salloi firing a shot that was saved after being put in by Fontas on the left.

In the 36th minute, Barrios trying to ghost the Kansas City defense all match, latched onto the rebound of Sam Vines shot but was unable to shoot with Martins present.

Fontas played protagonist again six minutes later. The Spaniard skillfully found Hernandez in a seam on the left; Hernandez played wide for a streaking Salloi, who smoked a blistering strike near post past a beleaguered Yarbrough from 10 yards.

The large weeknight crowd was enthralled and nearly got more in the forty-first. Fontas stroked yet another classy feed to beat the defense for Salloi. The youthful Hungarian, however, was caught offsides to the dismay of the hopeful loyalists.

As the teams came out for the second stanza, Vermes rotated his squad to give Russell a rest, inserting Pulido and pushing Shelton to the right wing.

A second substitution saw Amadou Dia make his first appearance on the season in the 56th minute for an ailing Luis Martins.

Sporting netminder Melia was forced into only his second save of the match in the 61st minute off a central shot from Jonathan Lewis. But he would be a spectator of history soon. Twenty-three-year-old Hernandez played a give-and-go with man-of-the-night Salloi at the top left of Colorado’s box. Cutting right and in, the homegrown opened his MLS account 11 yards from goal with a shot inside the far post in the 64th minute. It was more sheer joy on the night for the hosts.

The homegrown theme sprouted from Salloi to Busio to Lindsey to Hernandez to Cameron Duke in the 67th minute (and later to Kaveh Rad in the 81st for Ilie) as the midfielder stepped on for Espinoza.

But Pulido would be the next story as the dangerous #9 struck side netting from close range in the 71st, then a few minutes on struck the woodwork of the same post.

Lalas Akubakar spoiled the shutout off a corner in the 84th minute to gain the Rapids a measure of respect.

But the night clearly belonged to Kansas City who not only gained the three points, but broke a franchise record by having scored in 21 straight matches, ran their season home record to 4-0-2, and got six homegrowns all significant minutes, gaining three goals and two assists from just that stable on the night.

Next up is a visit from Los Angeles Football Club on Saturday afternoon.