Andy Defresne getting beer for his co-inhabitants at Shawshank; Jordan beating the Pistons. Or getting that promotion after an earlier job fail, showing that you have what it takes to hang with your peers. Shreds of Redemption.
Sporting Kansas City’s (2-7-3 on season at the start, with the lowest points per game in MLS) Wednesday night home clash with Colorado Rapids at Children’s Mercy Park was a chance for some redemption. Or, as Captain Johnny Russell put it after last Saturday’s 7-2 shellacking at Portland Timbers: “We need to have a serious, serious look at ourselves and stop talking about the next one and the next one. All we’ve done is talk. We’ve not shown anything. We’ve shown snippets at times that we might turn a corner but that right there shows how far off it we actually are right now.” Although one good performance will not fully claim redemption, the mindset exhibited this night will be an indication of Sporting reclaiming their selves as professionals as Russell stated as well, “Actually, I’m embarrassed to call ourselves professionals.”
Enter Daniel Salloi. And a feisty Sporting side. Salloi finished two in emphatic fashion and he and his teammates battled all 90+ in a tight match that saw four red cards by its end and a 2-1 Sporting Kansas City win.
Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes, with his club facing multiple injuries and yellow or red card suspensions, put the following lineup on the card:
Our 11 ⤵️#SKCvCOL | @BlueKC pic.twitter.com/890OVcoGSl— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 18, 2022
The biggest standout was striker Nikola Vujnovic getting his fourth start of the season. The Montenegran had yet to score his first goal with Sporting in MLS league play since coming over on loan before the season. Wednesday night was a chance for Vujnovic to stake a claim to more starts.
For their part, the Rapids, being a side who has been excelling on the counter, presented a real danger for the hosts. A 5th minute rush that included a Rapid streaking free through Kansas City’s box was an early red flag, though nothing came of it thanks to a Kortne Ford intervention in front of goalkeeper Tim Melia.
By the 20th minute, both Russell and left winger Daniel Salloi had been fouled forcibly by the Rapids, with little sympathy from Referee Drew Fischer.
In the 24th minute, it was Vujnovic struck down. But Sporting took the impetus. Taking the restart quickly, midfielder Uri Rosell played Salloi on the left wing. The Hungarian-born winger raced to Colorado’s box, split two just before, then finished inside the near post just as a third went for the tackle. The goal was the homegrown’s third of the season.
A quick restart.— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 19, 2022
A Daniel Salloi goal! pic.twitter.com/5GxmGYMn4Q
The lead was short lived. On a ball sprayed wide left, Colorado played for Sporting’s six-yard box. There, Melia and Fontas tied up while both blocked any attacking contact. However, the ball spilled and Rapids’ attacker Lucas Esteves pounced on it to bring his side level within five minutes.
Shortly thereafter, Marinos Tzionis replaced Vujnovic up front as the latter was further injured in a confrontation at the top left of the Rapids’ box.
As play developed, it became clear that the hosts were wary of Colorado’s counter. Thus, Kansas City’s line of pressure often dropped back farther than the norm.
After halftime, Sporting pushed at the Rapids. A free kick earned by midfielder Felipe Hernandez, then a chance in the recirculating after the kick was blocked led to the go ahead for Sporting. Salloi latched onto a pass meant for Tzionis inside the right side of Colorado’s box and drove towards goal. Seeing daylight between Rapids’ goalkeeper William Yarbrough and the far post, Salloi threaded the ball inside the far post for his second of the night.
yourselves! Daniel Salloi is on pic.twitter.com/v0plBRDqoK— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 19, 2022
Salloi was a foot from a hat trick in the 58th minute as Tzionis crossed well for the winger stationed between the penalty spot and the Rapids’ six-yard box. Quicker anticipation or a larger shoe size may have seen the trick pulled off.
Sporting’s defense remained resolute on the night, yet a 72nd minute free kick from Bryan Acosta 27 yards out from the left edge of the box that dipped too late brought a sigh of relief from the home crowd as it whistled just over bar. Michael Barrios followed that with an incisive run that the diminutive attacker thankfully decided to pass instead of shoot in the end, much to this observer’s relief.
The one goal margin meant a thin rail. And Melia skated on it in the 87th minute with a cat-like sprawl to his right on a well-struck shot. Could Kansas City see this one out maturely?
Colorado’s Aaron Trusty saw red for his second yellow in stoppage time, and Sporting weathered a few attacks - including a Mark Anthony Kaye header pushed over the bar by Melia - to see home the three points. But not without tempers flaring as Salloi was pushed from behind by the Rapids’ Esteves, an action that earned a second red for the visitors. In the aftermath, Fontas and Salloi earned reds as well.
A seed had been sown.
Kansas City will now head back on the road, still limping and short another two, but with a mission to nurture that seed for a matchup with San Jose Earthquakes.