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 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Falls 3-2 to Miami

April 13, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release

Sporting Kansas City (2-2-4, 10 points) fell 3-2 to Inter Miami CF (4-2-3, 15 points) on a record-setting Saturday night at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

An electric crowd of 72,610 fans-the largest in Missouri history and the third largest attendance for a standalone MLS regular season match-saw a gripping interconference clash sway in favor of the visitors on the 28-year anniversary of Kansas City's inaugural MLS match at Arrowhead Stadium in 1996. Despite a brilliant brace from Sporting midfielder Erik Thommy, Miami emerged with three points behind a goal and an assist from 2023 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi and additional strikes from Diego Gomez and Luis Suarez.

With multiple goals in five consecutive regular season matches for the first time since 2000, Sporting will look to bounce back next Saturday, April 20, when archrivals St. Louis City SC (1-1-5, 8 points) visit Children's Mercy Park for another mouthwatering battle in the Soccer Capital of America. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at and live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.

Coaching his 567th match for Sporting in all competitions, Manager Peter Vermes made two changes to his starting lineup from Sunday's 3-3 draw against the Portland Timbers. Andreu Fontas, returning from a hamstring injury for his first appearance since March 9, replaced Robert Voloder in central defense. Further up the field, Designated Player Alan Pulido earned his first start since March 23, stepping in for injured midfielder Memo Rodriguez. On the Sporting bench, forward Johnny Russell was available after missing each of the last three games with a hamstring strain.

A riveting atmosphere in one of America's most iconic sports venues set the stage for an excellent end-to-end spectacle on the pitch. Buoyed by its boisterous home supporters, Sporting drew first blood after just six minutes as a pair of Germans combined to breach the Miami defense. Left back Tim Leibold swiftly won possession with a crunching tackle near midfield and carried the ball forward before spreading it right to Thommy, who took a settling touch on the right edge of the box before sending a superb, dipping drive to the far left corner past Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender. The lethal strike was Sporting's earliest goal of the season and the earliest goal by SKC since Thommy scored in the fourth minute of a 3-2 road win at Real Salt Lake on Oct. 7, 2023.

Not to be outdone, Miami responded on a well-worked attack that yielded an 18th-minute equalizer. Receiving a pass with his back to goal from 40 yards out, Messi swiveled and slipped a through ball into the path of an on-running Gomez, whose first-time belter nestled into the right corner for his second tally of the campaign.

Messi, who in 2022 won the World Cup with Argentina to cement his status as the best player of all time, was on the end of two fleeting chances near the half-hour juncture. Jordi Alba, Messi's longtime teammate at FC Barcelona, set up both looks with service from the left channel, but Messi's header bounced harmlessly wide and his left-footed effort was comfortably saved by Tim Melia. Closer to halftime, the Argentine curled a 30-yard free kick inches wide of Melia's left-hand post.

Sporting twice went close to retaking the lead on the stroke of intermission. Agada took an incisive pass from Thommy, swiveled near the penalty spot and had his shot corralled by Callender. Only 30 seconds later, Remi Walter raced through on goal and had his lunging attempt blocked by defender Tomas Aviles on a last-ditch challenge. Walter suffered an injury on the play and was forced to exit the contest, summoning Felipe Hernandez as his midfield replacement.

The teams traded decent looks inside the first five minutes of the second half-Suarez had an audacious attempt saved by Melia and Agada had a good look blocked by Nicolas Freire-before Messi fired the visitors ahead in the 51st minute. Afforded space 22 yards from goal, Miami's No. 10 sent a left-footed screamer into the right corner to become the only MLS player with five goals and five assists this season.

Parity was restored once more in the 58th minute when Thommy blew the proverbial roof off Arrowhead. Salloi's in-swinging corner kick from the left flag was headed away by a Miami defender, but Thommy was on hand to hammer home a jaw-dropping volley that caromed off the near post before nestling into the back of the net. The scintillating strike gave the 29-year-old his first two-goal game as a Sporting player and his first two-goal game since Nov. 19, 2016, when he played for German third-division side Jahn Regensburg.

A frustrating turn of events gifted Miami its winning goal in the 71st minute. Sporting committed a costly turnover near its own penalty area that allowed Gomez to ping a square pass to the back post for Suarez to tap home at the doorstep, making the score 3-2 and marking the third straight home match in which Sporting conceded three goals.

Desperately seeking to tie the game, the hosts committed numbers forward in the dying embers but were unable to find a third goal in a wild encounter that served as a tantalizing precursor to FIFA World Cup 2026, which will see Arrowhead Stadium host four group stage games, a round of 32 matchup and a quarterfinal for the biggest sporting event on the planet.


Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the match...

The environment was out of this world. It was fantastic. It's a prelude to what probably will be here for the World cup and then some. This was incredible. It was a great environment. I thought the fans were tremendous in all respects. It was a great environment to play in front of.

On the performance...

I would say the effort for the guys, the concentration for the entire game, was excellent. It really was. We played very well in the game. I would say that there's one very specific thing that happened in this game, that it's different than all the other teams you play against in the league. We lost the ball three times and they just have the quality that, when you do, they can punish you. And there's a lot of games in MLS where you play back and forth. You play against other teams and they give up some chances, you give up some chances. But at the end of the day, the quality that they have if you just look at the first goal. The pass that (Lionel) Messi makes and then the second goal with the ball that he hits from where he hits it from. I think you all would agree that you don't see that regularly in MLS and you do when you play against them. They can punish you and that's what they did. But I thought we played very, very well. I really do. I really do. A little luck and maybe it could have been a little different.

On the atmosphere...

Obviously there's a lot of people that want to come and see Messi, which I understand. If I was in a different situation, I'd want to come see him as well. So I understand that aspect. I was very, very happy with the intentions of the crowd. The majority of it was for us. Obviously, there's a lot of people that wanted to see him no matter what. But just the involvement was really, really good.

On if it's a glimpse of a World Cup atmosphere...

I think the difference is that you'll have whatever two teams are playing. You're going to have sort of a competitiveness from the fans perspective as well. This stadium provides a great environment also from an acoustic perspective, just the way you can hear everyone. It's really good. And I just think that environment in the stadium is excellent. I never had the ability to play in front of a crowd like that when I played here, but it was good to coach in front of it. It was good.

On the players rising to the occasion...

As I said, I thought that they played very well. I thought they kept their emotions in check. It would have been very easy to get just caught up in the moment. I would say that there's a lot of guys in there that have not played in front of 70,000 people before. So that in itself can have a change in your emotions and the way you play the game. You could lose a lot of nervous energy early on, but I thought their concentration was excellent. Sometimes what happens is that you might make a poor decision. Am I going to say that the decisions were really, really bad? No, I don't think so. I just think that the difference is that they got the quality to really finish you off.

On the play of Erik Thommy...

Erik was a machine today. His first goal was fantastic. The action was. Tim (Leibold) wins the ball and does what we work on a lot. He goes right up the gut and lays it off to him. It's an unbelievable first touch and then what a great finish. And Thommy has that quality. But his second one, that's just a world-class goal. He was a machine today on the field.

On the turnover prior to the last goal...

I think that ball has got to get hit long. I think it's a tough situation for Jake (Davis). I think he's running backwards facing our goal and already the player is pressing him. It's better just to hit the ball long and we'll fight another day there. It's not time to build out at that moment. So that was tough on him. He tried to clip it by him, but obviously he stole it. And like I said, their guys are smart. (Luis) Suarez, he knows where to be. He's a goal scorer. He's done it all over the world and for big clubs and everyone else. It's unfortunate.

Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi

Thoughts on the atmosphere...

It's amazing and the fans did a great job creating a great atmosphere. I think this is a taste for everybody for what the World Cup is going to bring. This is great. I wish we could have held a tie or gotten a win, but overall, to the fans, just thank you so much because this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us too.

On the crowd...

I was hoping for it. I think people in this area are very proud of their teams. In other cities, maybe this wouldn't have happened. We knew that there was going to be Messi fans but I was hoping there would be a majority of Sporting fans. Even people who I ran into in the city, they were saying they're coming to the game and they want to see Messi play but they are supporting Sporting. We really appreciate that and it was not on them. They did their best.

On why it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Playing in Arrowhead, a lot of champions have played here before and this is home of the Chiefs who have done an amazing job. Sporting started here as the Wizards and this is just history, a full circle moment. And coming back here and filling up this stadium is unreal. Playing against these guys, this is just something that doesn't happen every time. So I think we all have to soak it in and take away that as a positive. Obviously we have to analyze the game and the mistakes we've made but that's the positive for me.

On playing against Messi...

Obviously an unbelievable player and he can create something out of thin air. That's just his whole career. So congrats to them and good luck in the season. This was a great experience for all of us to play against these guys and we just have to learn from our mistakes.

On the play of Erik Thommy...

Erik is great and his goals were unreal. I'm so happy for him. We just have to be able to score this many goals and close the game out.

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia

Thoughts on the match...

Disappointing. We started the game really well. We kind of pulled them out of shape and then we just kind of got beat with quality on two goals and beat ourselves on the third one.

On Messi's goal...

It's a very good shot. I'm not taking anything away, but it's also swirling wind in there which is just making it more difficult. It's unfortunate, but, the through ball on the first one and then the shot on the second one is the reason why he is who he is and he proves it in most games. It is what it is.

On playing against Messi...

He's able to beat me, so just be set and be ready to move either direction. I don't think a lot of guys get around the ball like he did and that's a position where a goalie can usually start to lean one direction. They can only go one way, but he was trying to put it back to the far post and he got a lot of power on it. When I was kind of watching it approach, and that's something we talked about throughout the week, they like to cut those balls back like they scored on the first goal. I know it was a little different because it was coming from the middle, but they kind of pull the ball back to in between the penalty spot and the 18 in the center and get those opportunities. So as a goalie, you have just got to kind of be set.

On Messi's assist...

It was just a slow ball. So it makes a lot of people do things they shouldn't do. We give the ball away and then we're out of shape and then we're trying to catch up 3-4 yards and he sees that. So he just kind of plays a slow ball right in behind our back line and the guy does well to finish it. It hits the top of my foot. I'm pissed I don't save it, but it is what it is.

On the third goal...

That was my fault. That's not Jake's fault. I need to just open that up and hit it long. I can't put Jake in that situation. That's on me.

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