Sporting Kansas City wrapped a three game road trip on Sunday evening with a trip to Sandy, Utah. Daniel Salloi started up top for the second game in a row flanked by Johnny Russell and Marinos Tzionis. The midfield was Roger Espinoza, Remi Walter, and Uri Rosell. The back line featured homegrown right back, Kayden Pierre, homegrown goalkeeper John Pulskamp, and U-22 Initiative players, Logan Ndenbe and Robert Voloder, playing next to Nicholas Isimat-Mirin.
Real Salt Lake ran out some guys. Notably, our second favorite Besler, Nick, was on the bench. RSL made seven changes from the team that lost midweek to Atlanta.
The first few minutes of the match were slow as both teams felt each other out and refused to make any incisive passes to challenge the defense. This early spell gave me time to reflect on how much better I liked Pablo Mastroeni when he had his mustache.
In the 7th minute, Kayden Pierre made an exceptional run up the entire length of the right side before laying the ball off to Johnny. It immediately led to a turnover but showed the talent and promise of the young homegrown.
RSL immediately drove down the field and combined nicely along the right side. They had a great cross into the box that was just out of reach for Brody and the ball rolled out for a goal kick. During the ensuing run of possession, the front three looked just as lively as they did during the midweek game against Minnesota United. Tzionis was found in the middle of the pitch with space to run. He progressed the ball forward, rounding a defender before laying the ball off to Daniel Salloi. Salloi’s cross found Johnny Russell who lobbed a ball back into the box for Salloi that was collected by RSL keeper Zach MacMath.
Justen (sic...) Glad fouled Daniel Salloi and got a very stern talking to from the referee. The man in green looked like a disappointed father while scolding RSL’s homegrown centerback.
In the 14th minute, Sporting played through some hard pressure in the midfield, playing through multiple fouls before finding Kayden Pierre out wide on the right. Pierre picked out Tzionis who couldn’t square his shot properly and it fell harmlessly into MacMath’s arms.
Pulskamp continued his midweek heroics in the 15th minute with a huge save against Justin Meram who made an excellent move to get away from Pierre. Pulskamp’s tree-like instincts (@ThatCodyTho) kept the game level at 0-0 despite RSL having two high quality chances in the box.
Roger Espinoza earned his 73rd career yellow card in the 24th minute by tackling someone whose name is too complicated for me to spell right now. It starts with a “L”. That’s the best you’re going to get right now.
Pablo Ruiz took a terrific free kick that beat the four man wall from Sporting KC but John Pulskamp rose up and knocked it out for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner kick, Pulskamp made a great diving save, though he knocked the ball to the center of the box. Less than 30 minutes into the game and Pulskamp matched a career high with five saves.
In the 34th minute Roger Espinoza caught a slight tap in the face from Justen (sic) Glad and sold it like a used car. That earned a yellow for RSL’s centerback and allowed Sporting Kansas City to maintain a bit of possession in the later stages of the first half (Editor: It was signaled as a persistent infringement yellow from the ref, but your used car line is a delight).
In the 37th minute Savarino was found in space, turned and rocketed a cross across the face of goal. Fortunately, he wasn’t able to find anyone on the end of it, but it was another dangerous attack from RSL.
Sporting earned their first corner in the 38th minute after Johnny Russell made a deep run to the byline and booted it off of a RSL defender. Tzionis took the corner and hoofed it to the far side but was not able to find a teammate and the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
In the 41st minute, a poor pass from Uri was picked off and led to a dynamic attack in transition to Savarino who fired a shot right into John Pulskamp’s arms.
Late in the first half, Sporting had possibly their best spell of possession and buildup play. Voloder sprung Logan Ndenbe along the left side who carried the ball forward before finding Daniel Salloi. Daniel took a turn and found Remi Walter at the top of the box who played it wide to Johnny Russell on the right. The Scottish captain took it one time and the ball was blocked out of bounds but this was potentially the best Sporting looked all half.
With no stoppage time, the teams entered the half level at 0-0. Pulskamp left the field with the spirit of a hustler and the swagger of a college kid.
Six first half saves from the 21-year-old pic.twitter.com/Mda0SzYnzS— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) July 18, 2022
At the half, Sporting was up in possession 52%-48% and passing accuracy 88.3% to 86.9%
RSL led in shots 10(6) to 3(1), corners 4-1, and fouls 7-4.
Both teams had a yellow card.
During halftime I thought about how great Aly Trost Martin is as a sideline broadcaster and wondered who from the Shades of Blue pod is next in line to make the jump to legitimacy. Would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. Maybe we can get someone to put odds on it? Personally, I’m voting Cody Bradley.
Sporting started the second half with a good bit of pressure but ultimately had nothing to show for it. Salloi had a great flick on in the 50th minute but Tzionis clipped Glad in the chase for the ball.
In the 50th minute RSL finally struck with a header from Cordova. RSL had an open cross from Brody to Cordova who beat Robert Voloder and he snuck it underneath Pulskamp. Cordova picked up a yellow for taking his shirt off, which was a super weird celebration since he didn’t have on an undershirt with any sort of message. He just wanted to show off his abs and then flash his name on a jersey to the fans? IDK. Good flex, I guess?
In the 56th minute, Cordova again rose up and headed a ball towards goal after Aaron Herrera was wide open for a cross. Cordova missed by inches wide and Sporting was able to keep it 1-0.
Uri made way for Felipe Hernandez in the 57th minute, dropping Remi into the holding midfield spot.
After a collision in the midfield in the 60th minute, worst official in the league, Joe Dickerson, showed Roger Espinoza a straight red card for spiking the ankle of Loffelsend. Roger got the ball first but his straight leg made contact with Loffelsend and Sporting was down to 10 men. This wasn’t the first time today that Sporting won the ball but was called for a foul.
Immediately after RSL took the man advantage, Pablo Ruiz found space at the top of the box and tucked the ball into the corner past the outstretched arms of John Pulskamp.
In the 66th minute, Khiry Shelton was subbed on for Marinos Tzionis.
In the 71st minute, Justin Meram cut inside on Kayden Pierre for another cross into the box. Jefferson Savarino was unmarked between Isi and Voloder and found the net with his head. Nothing Pulskamp could do as RSL stretched the lead to 3-0.
In the 73rd minute, Nick Besler and Anderson Julio were subbed for Loffelsend and Cordova respectively. At some time later in the match (do you really care about the details at this point?) Justin Meram made another great cross but was ultimately called offside.
In the 76th minute, RSL banged another goal into the net following a great save by John Pulskamp. However, they were flagged for offside and the mostly decaffeinated crowd in Utah rained down boos on the friendly guys in green shirts and black shorts.
In the 78th minute, captain Johnny Russell was subbed for Cam Duke. RSL subbed some dudes in the 81st. Justen (sic) Glad and Jefferson Savarino left for a couple guys who I’m not interested in looking up.
In the 84th minute, I truly started to believe that the comeback was on. Sporting had successfully prevented a goal for 13 minutes and you could just feel the tension rising for the Utah fans as they knew Sporting was primed to score four in the dying embers of the game. Meanwhile Isi gets a yellow for kicking the ball away after he misplayed it out of bounds. In the 85th minute. Down 3-0. While wearing the captain’s armband. I’m going to call that a befuddling decision.
Cam Duke had a nice piece of dribbling skill to get out of pressure. He played the ball to Khiry who then turned it over. Only five minutes plus stoppage to go and my endurance is running low.
Anderson was stupidly offside but the AR kept his flag down for about 45 minutes. It looked like Pulskamp fouled Julio in the box for a PK but for the offside. Eventually, the guys in green decided to do their jobs and raise the flag. Nate mentioned on the broadcast that the ARs are instructed to keep the flag down unless it’s an obvious offside. I don’t know how that one could have been more obvious. But whatever. It’s just late night chaos at this point.
Pulskamp gathers a cross and boots it long for Khiry Shelton who doesn’t even bother to jump for the ball. Three minutes of stoppage time are going to feel like an eternity at this point.
Anderson Julio put hands to Logan Ndenbe’s face in the 93rd minute, earning a yellow card. Joe Dickerson moved at a pace yet unseen to get in-between the feisty Belgian and Julio to prevent some sort of conflict.
Mercifully, the whistle blew shortly thereafter and the game ended 3-0. RSL remained undefeated at home on the season. Sporting remained in last place on the season.
Pulskamp played a great game despite the scoreline.
Sporting will try to recover next weekend with a home game against LAFC and our friends Ilie Sanchez and Latif Blessing. Maybe they’ll show some mercy and let us score a goal for the home fans.