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Sporting Falls 4-1 to Seattle

March 25, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Sporting Kansas City News Release


Sporting Kansas City (0-3-2, 2 points) fell 4-1 to Seattle Sounders FC (3-1-1, 10 points) on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park.

Forward Willy Agada lifted Sporting into an early lead with his first goal of the season, but Seattle replied emphatically as U.S. international Jordan Morris scored four unanswered goals-three of which were assisted by winger Leo Chu-as the Sounders snapped their 10-game road winless skid dating back to last July.

Manager Peter Vermes fielded an unchanged lineup from last weekend's road loss to FC Dallas, marking the first time Sporting has deployed the same XI in consecutive matches since last August. At the forefront, seven-time MLS All-Star Graham Zusi logged his 400th appearance for Sporting in all competitions, becoming Kansas City's first player to hit that milestone, while Daniel Salloi played his 150th regular season match and fellow forward Khiry Shelton eclipsed 100 regular season appearances for the club.

On the bench, Sporting's depth was bolstered by the welcome returns of forward Johnny Russell and goalkeeper Tim Melia-both of whom had recovered from preseason injuries-as well as Mexican striker Alan Pulido, the club's prized Designated Player who had been sidelined for the last 15 months recovering from knee surgery.

Buoyed by a buzzing home crowd, Sporting drew first blood inside five minutes. Salloi, who entered the weekend ranking third in MLS in shot attempts, swiftly cut past Cristian Roldan and Josh Atencio on the left edge of the box before smashing low to force a save from Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei at the near post. Agada, however, was on hand to cannon the rebound into the roof of the net for his eighth in as many starts at Children's Mercy Park since joining the club last summer.

Agada has now scored each of his last two goals in home appearances against Seattle, having bagged the winner in a 1-0 decision last October. The scoring play clocked in as Sporting's earliest regular season tally since Remi Walter struck in the fourth minute of a 2-1 road victory at Seattle on Oct. 23, 2021.

Seattle equalized in the 23rd minute off a break down the left flank. Galloping at full stride, Chu fizzed a low delivery across the face of goal for Morris to slot home at close range, breaking Sporting's 235-minute home shutout streak dating back to Sept. 17, 2022.

The final 45 minutes belonged to the visitors. Morris notched his second of the evening in the 54th minute, finishing off an incisive attack involving Chu and Joao Paulo after Sporting keeper John Pulskamp did well initially repel a free kick attempt from Nicolas Lodeiro. Morris then secured his first career MLS hat trick on 69 minutes, slotting low into the right corner off a bending Lodeiro cross.

Morris buried his fourth goal of the game and his MLS-leading seventh of the season on a header, nodding past Pulskamp off Chu's looping cross from the left side of the penalty area.

Russell, Sporting's captain since 2021, entered in the 61st minute for his first appearance of the season, and in the 84th minute midfielder Danny Flores was summoned for his MLS and Sporting debut.

Vermes' men will look to bounce back next Saturday when they travel to face reigning the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Union (2-3-0, 6 points). Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on Apple TV's MLS Season Pass.

QUOTES

Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes

On what went wrong...

I thought our circulation of the ball was very good up until that point and we left it. We had players on the field that were doing too much with the ball. We lost too many balls in too many easy areas of the field and they took advantage of them. On the goal they scored, our entire backline just missed all the opportunities to easily deal with that play which gets them to 1-1. And then the early goal in the second half, I have more about that goal, but I won't even get into the piece that I think that happened with (Graham) Zusi, but again we keep the players onside because we're not up with the game. So, like I said, the backline basically deteriorated as the game went on. Three goals from crosses is just unacceptable. It was very, very poor after that point. We went down the man and then we lost balls. I had to get guys off the field because I can't put guys in bad positions. Obviously, I'd already thrown Johnny (Russell) on and he's now supposed to come into the game and get 30 minutes with not having to kill himself, and now he's got to play a man down. That was definitely not the plan.

On any takeaways after playing down a man...

There are some situations where, again, we could have played the ball forward. We went backwards. We actually let them press us. We actually set them up for the press. So, there's things like that. It's just very naive on our part on the two yellows, just very naive. It's not hard to understand. It's definitely a second yellow. The first card, I don't know maybe could have been a red. I didn't see it other than from where I was standing, but it seemed like a tough tackle. We can't get two yellows like that. When you have experience, you have to use it. Experience means nothing if you don't use it. Unfortunately, that put us into a hole because we are still in the game at that point. There's a lot of game left. There were other things that we had planned, but at that point we couldn't do it because we're down a man.

On trying to get Alan Pulido minutes...

He would have definitely gotten into the game, but unfortunately, I wasn't going to now put him in. If I would have known it was going that way, I wouldn't have put Johnny into the game. They're both two guys coming back from injury and we're trying to do it in a very calculated way and unfortunately that got sabotaged.

On his concern level...

I'm more pissed off than anything else. I'm pissed. I think there were very naive mistakes. I think our backline was poor tonight and that's the part that really pisses me off. So I'll have to deal with that. I'm very interested in getting all the other guys back because some people need to see the game from a different place.

On the team's morale...

I'm not concerned about the morale. I'm more interested in seeing what the reaction is. It's not a time where the coach has to wind you up. You should have that already inside of you.

On what he wants the reaction to be...

It's got to be different than the mentality of making a mistake, making a mistake, making a mistake and the same people making them. What's happened is that now we're in a place where we're in a situation where we'll change some things because we have to and maybe that's for the best.

Sporting KC forward Johnny Russell

On his return from injury...

Physically, I feel fine. Obviously, it's not the way that I wanted to come back but it feels good to get back out there and get some minutes and get myself back to where I was before I got the injury. It's just a poor night all around for everyone.

On what went wrong...

We're in control of the game. We got the early goal which we spoke about that we had to go and do. Then we just give the ball away in needless and easy situations through the whole game and allowed them to hit us on the counter time after time. And we knew that's what they were looking for. We played straight into their hands. So that's the most frustrating part, especially after scoring the goal. You have got to control the game at that point. They're just looking for anything and we give them the confidence to go on and do what they've done. Then obviously we go down to 10 men and it just makes it a whole lot harder. They're a quality team and quality players, so they're more than capable of finding those spaces to sort of pick you apart after that. And it's frustrating that we didn't tighten up, especially when we go down to 10 men. So it just made it a little bit easier for them to just cut through us and that's probably the most disappointing part.

On turning around recent results...

We need to defend better then we did as a team tonight. I don't think we looked ourselves in an attacking sense tonight either all night. It's just a really, really poor night from us that we didn't really look like ourselves. If you do that in the sort of position we're in - we haven't got a win yet - I don't know if confidence is low, but if you do that against a team like Seattle who have got off to flying start and you give them any confidence away from home, like I said earlier, they're more than capable to go and punish you. They're missing a lot of players but they're still a very good side. To begin with we played into their hands and then after that we just made it way too hard for ourselves to even think about taking anything from that game.

On the team's reaction...

There has to be a reaction. Look at the situation we're in right now. If that doesn't hurt you with where we are - I know it's the start of the year but let's not make excuses about that -- we said that last year as well. 'It's just the start. We've got plenty of time.' We can't fall back into the same ways as we did last year. So there has to be a massive, massive bounce back. And we're not making it easy for ourselves because it's a really, really tough place where we go next weekend. So we have to be at the very top of our game. Going into tonight, we should have had confidence to do that and we just didn't show enough.

On the feeling after the defeat...

The majority of the things that are happening are self inflicted. Like I said, the first couple of goals we play into their hands. We know what they're looking for and we play right into their hands and allow them to do it. Then after that, obviously we go down to 10 men and it's a little bit of game management to think about the game at that spell. Obviously, you want to get back in the game but you're going to have to soak up a little bit of pressure down a man and we just made it way too easy to be cut through. I'm more sort of pissed at the situation than worried but we can't allow it to continue because then it does become very worrisome. I'm not going to panic right now but, like I said, we can't fall back on 'oh, we've got plenty of time' because we know in this league how hard it is to claw back points and position when you leave yourself too much to do. We know it more than anyone so we have to figure it out and we have to figure it out quick.

On his message to the fans...

They've been great with us. They stuck with us last year as well. They've always been on our side. But it's up to us. We have to show something. We have to show that we want to be here. We're willing to fight for this club. We want to get this club back to where we feel it should be: top side of the table, challenging for things, winning silverware. That's what this club is used to. So it doesn't feel great to be part of a side right now that's not living up to those expectations and they demand that of us. It's their club. They turn up week in and week out to get behind us. So it's time that we start repaying that and show them something.

Sporting KC forward Willy Agada

On his goal...

To be honest, it's been frustrating that we couldn't win the game or score more goals. We got the first goal. I'm happy that I got to score my first goal but still it didn't go well. I feel like we deserve to win from the beginning. But after the first half, the early goal just messed things up. I think we should just go back and just keep working and that's the way forward.

On the difference between the beginning of this year and the end of last year...

To be honest, it's not like there is something different for me. I think it's all about the momentum. Sometimes you try thing and then things don't go well. I feel like everybody's putting in the effort. It's just that we need to keep the consistency, just the way we did in the first half and then we just keep going like that. But we just missed something in the second half with the early goal. When the opponent scores a goal in your home, they get more power. But I feel like we were doing good in the first half. We just need to keep the consistency and just keep playing the same way we did in the first half and then things will go well. It's okay. We will go back. It's another long week. It's okay. That's a big loss. We just go back to train and then come back strong next week.

On what he yelled after he scored...

I was like, God, God, I keep praying. I'm just waiting for this first goal. I know when this first goal comes, everything is open. So I was really hoping I can score for my team. And I always wish I can help the team score goals. And then I did so I was like, God, thank you, thank you. That was it. I couldn't even do nothing normal. That's unlike me. It's just time to say thanks. But the result didn't go well. But still, thanks to God Almighty. It's been a long, long preseason and then we start the season. Daniel scored last game and then the penalty miss. All that is in my head throughout the week. Whenever I don't score, to be honest, I don't want to lie to you, I feel like I'm hungry always. It doesn't matter how good I play. I want to score. I want to help my team. I want to score for coach. I want to score for my team. I know the mentality is different here. I'll just keep working. But for me, I like to help the team. I can help the team in a different way by running and opening the space. I'm a striker. I need to be scoring. That's it.

On if more goals will come after finding his first...

Oh, of course. It's always like this. I don't know why. Whenever I start the season, it's never come early. But I wish this will keep going like this. And then hopefully all the strikers will keep scoring and the attention will not be on one player. Everyone will score more goals.

Seattle Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer

Thoughts on the match...

It's just funny how coaching goes because we had messaged all week that coming here to Sporting, which is a tough place to play and a tough building to play in, Peter was going to have his team ready. They hadn't had good results. They were going to be desperate. They were going to come out on the front foot. We messaged that all week long. And sure enough, in the first four and a half minutes, they're on top of us and they score the first goal. So that's coaching sometimes.

I think the team settled in a little bit. We started to find some possession, but it still took us 20-30 minutes almost before we really found our footing. And again, that's credit to Sporting. But then once we got the equalizer, I could tell the team was getting a little bit more confident. Jordan (Morris) certainly has been on a tear to start the year, so credit to him. I thought Leo Chu obviously came on and provided some good play down the left wing. Nico's assists. Overall, I was very proud of the way the team responded in a tough building.

On the team's aggressiveness away from home...

We try and play the same as we do at home on the road. So I wouldn't say it was any more one way or the other. I just think today we were able to execute, again, after the first 30 minutes because I didn't think we pressed well the first 30 minutes at all. So once we found our footing, once you found the game a little bit, some of the pressing was a little bit better. But I would credit the game more for our attacking and our ability to attack Kansas City in moments. That, to me, was the difference - not necessarily where we pressed or how we pressed.

On the players making their first starts of the year...

Josh (Atencio) was great - good in midfield, covered a lot of ground. Leo Chu, obviously, we've been waiting for a performance like that for him for a long time. Credit to the kid's preseason, his renewed mentality. Kelyn Rowe, again, it's just amazing that you get a guy who's played so many MLS games with different clubs. Last year in the Champions League final, he stepped on for Nouhou and did a good job. Tonight he steps in for Nouhou and he does a great job - very pleased with him. And then the one kid that I don't want to forget was Sota Kitahara made his debut tonight, so very pleased about that.

On the play of Joao Paulo...

He's always been a good passer. He's got good vision. He pulls the strings for us in midfield in many ways, but he had a lot of help. I thought Albert (Rusnak) had a good game again. I thought Nico (Lodeiro) had a good game. Jackson (Ragen) found a few forward passes after the first 30 minutes. So I thought it was a team effort, but JP was good.

On Leo Chu's contributions and Cristian Roldan at fullback...

I'll start with the easy one. Cristian could probably play any position on the field, so that wasn't a stretch for me at all. As far as Leo Chu is concerned, he had a really good performance in attack, but there will be some things we will watch tape with him and watch film with him. He was concerned about Graham Zusi because we had told him that Graham was such a tremendous player. So he was almost man for man marking him, which we didn't want. He actually has to defend. He has to come back about 10-15 yards lower and more inside on the field. So we'll work with him on some of the tactics. But, yes, you did see some of his attacking qualities tonight for sure.

On which of Jordan Morris' goals was his favorite...

That's an interesting one because I would say the first goal was a really tremendous counterattack transition goal. Preki has been working with Jordan on his heading. He scored a lot of header goals this year. The one where Leo Chu chipped the ball to the back post and Jordan rose up and somehow banged it down towards the ground and it skipped into the goal. That one could have been my favorite, but all four of them were well-taken goals. Maybe the second goal where Leo Chu plays him in on the floor, that was another good goal. So all of them were pretty good.

On hearing Jingle Bells again...

Thank you for reminding us that we hadn't sang Jingle Bells since last year because our road record was terrible. But, yes, we did sing Jingle Bells and it was a good one.

Sporting Kansas City is owned by Sporting Club, an entity comprised of local business and community leaders. Sporting prides itself on a commitment and vision to provide high-performance experiences. Sporting Club purchased the team from the Hunt Sports Group in 2006, and under its direction has launched Swope Soccer Village, Children's Mercy Park, Compass Minerals Sporting Fields, Compass Minerals National Performance Center and Central Bank Sporting Complex while investing in the Sporting KC Academy and Sporting Kansas City II for developing local youth into homegrown talent. A charter member of Major League Soccer, Sporting are two-time MLS Cup champions (2000, 2013) and four-time winners of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017).


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