Sporting Kansas City looked to stay alive in their incredibly slim chances to make the MLS Cup Playoffs entering the game against Minnesota United. Going into the game, Sporting needed to win to stay alive, along with losses later in the evening from Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy.
On Saturday night, they would do what they needed to but at the time of this story publishing RSL were level 1-1 with FC Cincinnati. If that result holds, Sporting are eliminated.
Sporting rolled out their “regular” lineup they featured over the course of their five game unbeaten streak with the exception of Graham Zusi who was still injured and being replaced by Kayden Pierre. Other changes from Tuesday’s win over D.C. United were the return of John Pulskamp, Roger Espinoza, Erik Thommy, Willy Agada, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Johnny Russell to the starting lineup.
Minnesota United rolled out a mostly first choice lineup, minus some injuries and the yellow card accumulation suspension of Emmanuel Reynoso, their best player.
In the 6th minute Sporting KC created their first golden opportunity. Russell earned a free kick and Thommy took it and sent in a good ball. An Andreu Fontas shot was deflected but a recycled ball fell to the chest of Russell who played it in and Espinoza lofted a ball to the head of Agada who blasted a header off Dayne St. Clair and the rebound bobbled around before going out for a corner despite Salloi being close to poking it home.
Sporting would continue to keep the pressure on in the coming minutes, controlling the vast majority of the possession, earning some corners and even having a few half chances. Agada and Daniel Salloi played a nice give and go that St. Clair barely smothered before Salloi could get off the shot. Then Thommy played a sneaky pass through the midfield to a charging Espinoza who unfortunately skied his shot over the bar.
Another half chance came when Ben Sweat nutmegged his defender, played the ball to Thommy who crossed it into Salloi who’s header wasn’t quite right and drifted out for a goal kick.
Minnesota’s first real opportunity in the game would come on a long ball over the top into space vacated by Isimat-Mirin. Luis Amarilla would get on the end of the ball and beat a recovering Isi to get a shot but it was calmly held by Pulskamp.
In the 32nd minute Sporting’s constant pressure paid off. After a well worked ball to maintain possession, Espinoza played a through ball wide to Russell who took on left back Kamar Lawrence, beat him to the end line and blasted a shot off St. Clair which rebounded off CB Michael Boxall for an own goal to open the scoring. 1-0 Kansas City.
Minnesota United has conceded four own goals this season, double the total of any other MLS team.— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) September 18, 2022
Michael Boxall is one of three players with two own goals this MLS season (Thiago Martins, Lukas MacNaughton).
Immediately after that Erik Thommy found himself wide open up the left wing and forced a charging St. Clair to come way out of his box and defend a shot from a tough angle.
In the 41st minute Sporting Kansas City would double their lead. First, Thommy played a really good ball to a Espinoza who was on a nice diagonal run who then got the ball to Russell who blasted it first time off the far post. He recovered his own rebound and laid a ball off to Thommy who faked a shot, cut it back to his left and blasted it home! 2-0.
Johnny rattles the post and chases it down...— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) September 18, 2022
...and Erik Thommy LASERS it home! pic.twitter.com/OJEOMCDrWZ
In the 45th Sporting would add another one. Sweat played a ball into the box and a hard charging St. Clair couldn’t get to it before Agada got his head on it and sent it home. St. Clair was down for a bit but would continue on. 3-0 KC and a birthday goal for Big Willy.
6️⃣ goals in appearances.— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) September 18, 2022
This, on his birthday. This, just before the break.
BIG WILLY! pic.twitter.com/cCSlomNgrs
Sporting Kansas City scored three times in the first half for the fourth time this season, tying the league leaders in that stat in CF Montreal. The game would go into halftime with KC up 3-0 and only registering one shot on goal and 36 percent possession.
To start the half Sporting made one change, bringing on U-22 Initiative CB Robert Voloder for Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.
Kansas City’s first big chance of the half came on an attack up the left that broke down but Agada forced a turnover and Salloi drove towards the end line before playing a square ball just behind a hard charging Johnny Russell and the ball was cleared. Minnesota completely took over in the subsequent minutes keeping KC under near constant pressure until they finally broke through.
MNUFC brought the ball up the left side and fullback Lawrence played a long cross into the box and Mender Garcia got on the end of it, first touch, to beat Pulskamp near post. Just before that goal KC probably could have had another goal when Agada had a rebounded shot fall to his feet but he sent it way over the bar. Either way, 3-1 KC in the 57th.
In the 61st minute SKC made their second change bringing off Roger Espinoza for Felipe Hernandez. It could prove to be an important substitution because one more yellow card would see Espinoza suspended in what could be his final home game when the Seattle Sounders come to town on October 2nd for the penultimate game of the season and the last home match of 2023.
Minnesota were pressing again in the 67th minute when a curling ball over the top again found the pacey Garcia who got in behind Voloder but his touch let him down and Pulskamp gathered it to keep United needing two goals to level the match.
In the 77th Ben Sweat made a HUGE save off the line to rescue a ball that was about to trickle into the net after Garcia again found himself in a dangerous spot.
In the 81st minute Sporting Kansas City would add a fourth. This time the counter started with a give and go from KP to Russell who played it into space for Pierre to run onto. He ends up playing a bit slower than I’d like and they work the ball through the middle and out wide left. Salloi tries to blast a cross to Russell but it hits Agada and falls back to him. Salloi then turns and attacks again immediately before playing a cross on the ground to Agada who adds a second. Another brace for Willy Agada! 4-1 KC.
Willy Agada now has seven goals on the year in just 10 appearances.— Jimmy Mack (@jcmack03) September 18, 2022
Johnny Russell is the current team leader with eight goals through 30 appearances.
Agada might legitimately win the #SportingKC Golden Boot, and he didn’t play his first game until July 17.
Sporting KC would make two more subs shortly after bringing on Marinos Tzionis and Khiry Shelton for Salloi and Russell respectively. Tzionis would go to the left and Shelton out wide right.
In the 86th minute Shelton immediately picked up a yellow card when a player flew over his back and tumbled down hard. Maybe it’s a foul as Khiry is backup up, but he has a right to that space. Tough call considering how physical the game had been up to that point and Minnesota had only one yellow.
Sporting’s final sub came in the 89th minute when Kortne Ford made his first appearance (he was on the bench Tuesday) since his suspension as he replaced Erik Thommy.
The game would end 4-1 in Sporting Kansas City’s favor and they were still alive pending results around the league.
Kansas City head into the international break and return to action against Seattle in KC on October 2nd.