Hot off the heels of a dominant victory over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night, Sporting Kansas City was back in action at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday afternoon, playing host to Western Conference rival LAFC.
While Bob Bradley’s men may not have gotten off to the start they or anyone else in the league expected (LAFC entered the game in 8th place in the West), their high powered attack still represented a real test for 2nd place SKC.
LAFC captain and El Tri star Carlos Vela began the game on the bench, giving Sporting KC’s defense a bit of a reprieve to start the game without having to worry about the former league MVP.
Sporting KC spent the first ten minutes of the match clearly on the attacking foot, with their best chance coming after a give-and-go between striker Alan Pulido and the red hot winger Daniel Salloi. DS20 couldn’t quite find the shot angle he liked and attempted to send a pass back toward Johnny Russell, but the pass was just behind the Scotsman and Jaylin Lindsey sent an effort over the bar for a goal kick.
SKC continued to dominate in possession and the attack looking the far superior side through the first 24 minutes; however, LAFC quickly changed the shape of the game on a quick counter. Earning the ball deep in their own territory, it took LAFC only a few passes to find Kim Moon-Hwan wide open on the right side of SKC’s box. A simple touch past the overcommitting Martins and Salloi gave the LAFC midfielder an open shooting lane, which he capitalized on to give LAFC a 1-0 lead.
Sporting KC couldn’t re-capture their energy of the first 20 minutes throughout the remainder of the first half. Both teams traded possession back and forth without any truly clear chances.
LAFC came out hot to start the second half, with forward Corey Baird forcing a Tim Melia save from near point blank range less than a minute into the half.
Sporting KC’s fortunes began to turn a bit int he 58th minute as Tristan Blackmon was shown a red card for a takedown of Daniel Salloi just outside the box. With a renewed sense of energy, SKC suddenly found themselves up a man with more than 30 minutes of play to go.
Three minutes after the red card, Salloi sent a cross into the box that wasn’t properly cleared by LAFC. The ball fell right to striker Alan Pulido’s feet at the top of the box, and the Mexican international calmly put the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to equalize the game in the 61st minute.
Felipe Hernandez nearly found his second goal in as many games in the 78th minute off a header from a Zusi cross, but a quick reaction save from Romero kept the game level at 1-1.
Ten minutes later the homegrown midfielder gathered the ball at the top of LAFC’s box and appeared set to take a shot, but after sending the LAFC defenders leaning one way, Hernandez passed the ball back to a wide open Daniel Salloi on the left. The Hungarian struck the ball well with his right foot on the first touch and curled it into the side netting to give SKC the late go-ahead goal.
Salloi’s late-game heroics marked his seventh goal on the year, putting him just one behind league leader Chicharito.
Carlos Vela had one opportunity to tie the game in the last stages of stoppage time, but the former MVP pushed his shot wide, ultimately ending any hope LAFC had of earning a draw.
For the fifth time in the 2021 season, Sporting KC came from behind to grab a victory. They’ve earned a league leading 16 points in games where they’ve been trailing, and currently sit in 2nd place in the West with 23 points through 12 games played.
Unfortunately for SKC, despite the victory, there was some bad news that came in the familiar form of injury. Alan Pulido took a hard kick to the right leg in the 72nd minute that forced him out of the game without putting any weight on his right foot as he was helped off the field. It remains to be seen just how bad the injury is or how much time he may miss (either with SKC or the Mexican National Team).
Sporting KC next go on the road to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in a Fourth of July clash at Dignity Health Sports Park.