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 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC Falls 3-2 at Austin

May 18, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release

Captain Johnny Russell and defender Jake Davis scored for Sporting Kansas City (2-6-5, 11 points) in a 3-2 road loss to Austin FC (6-4-4, 22 points) on Saturday night at Q2 Stadium.

Russell fired Sporting into an early lead, tying Dom Dwyer for second in club history with 57 career goals in the MLS regular season. Austin replied with three consecutive goals-a Jader Obrian brace and a Sebastian Driussi header-before Davis set the stage for a dramatic finish with a sublime 22-yard firecracker midway through the second half. Sporting midfielder Erik Thommy was then denied by the crossbar in the 90th minute, thwarting an admirable comeback bid and condemning SKC to a fourth straight league defeat.

Manager Peter Vermes made three changes to Sporting's lineup from a 2-1 loss to Houston Dynamo FC last weekend. Left back Zorhan Bassong earned his first MLS start since February 2022, center back Robert Castellanos logged his first league start since June 2023, and midfielder Erik Thommy returned to the squad after missing out against Houston for the birth of his first child. Between the posts, veteran goalkeeper Tim Melia notably played the 250th match of his MLS regular season career, becoming the fifth active keeper to reach the milestone.

Russell ignited a strong start for Sporting within 30 seconds of kickoff, winning a tackle near midfield and bursting goalward before dragging a breakaway shot under duress wide of the near post. Fellow forward Daniel Salloi recorded his 65th consecutive regular season appearance on Saturday-now the fourth longest streak in Sporting history-and carved out a decent look shortly thereafter, shouldering off a challenge and unleashing a low drive from the top of the box that narrowly missed the mark.

Entering the night on a four-match home winning streak, the hosts thought they had taken the lead after five minutes. In a flowing foray into the attacking third, midfield playmaker Sebastian Driussi found Zan Kolmanic on the overlap before a cutback ball deflected into the path of Dani Pereira, who pelted a first-time strike into the left corner. However, VAR prompted referee Sergii Boiko to take a second look at the play, and the goal was correctly disallowed for an offside infraction on Austin winger Jader Obrian in the buildup.

An entertaining game ebbed and flowed fervently despite temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, and Sporting were rewarded for their attacking intent in the 19th minute. Midfielder Memo Rodriguez clipped a clever ball over the top for striker Alan Pulido, who created space against his defender and laid a pass to the feet of an on-running Russell, who slotted expertly inside the near post from 12 yards for his first goal of the 2024 campaign. Pulido tallied his first assist of the year, while Rodriguez was credited with a secondary assist and extended his team-high to four assists this season.

Thommy almost doubled Sporting's advantage in the 23rd minute when his blistering blast from the edge of the area deflected marginally over the crossbar. Austin responded with a good look of their own at the opposite end, but Castellanos sprawled low and extended his foot for an outstanding block to deny Driussi at the corner of the six-yard box.

A costly Sporting giveaway allowed Austin to restore parity at 1-1 in the 28th minute. Melia's outlet passed was picked off at the top of the box by Pereira, who spread the ball right to Obrian for a lethal near-post finish. Austin's Colombian winger bagged his second goal of the match 11 minutes later, latching onto a Pereira cross from the right channel and cutting onto his left foot before finding the bottom corner to vault Austin ahead 2-1.

Sporting ended the half on the front foot with Thommy seeing an audacious volley blocked by Pereira, center back Andreu Fontas glancing a header agonizingly wide off a Rodriguez corner kick, and Salloi forcing a save from goalkeeper Brad Stuver before the whistle blew for intermission.

Austin forward Gyasi Zardes entered as a halftime substitute, replacing former Sporting striker Diego Rubio, and had an instant impact by delivering a cross from the right wing for Driussi to nod into the corner of the net for his team-leading fifth goal of the year. The 46th-minute hammer blow put Sporting in a 3-1 hole against an upstart Austin side that has scored 17 of its 19 goals at home this season.

Zardes nearly went from provider to goal scorer on the hour mark, racing onto a diagonal through ball only to see his lunging effort ping off the woodwork and allow Fontas and Melia to extinguish the danger.

Davis cut Sporting's deficit in half with a spectacular 25-yard bomb in the 63rd minute. The homegrown right back was afforded space from distance and sent a right-footed sledgehammer into the roof of the net past a helpless Stuver for his second goal of the season-both of which have come from outside the area. Sporting leads MLS with six goals from outside the box this year, accounting for 29% of the club's goal haul in 2024.

The visitors could have conceded a fourth goal in the 82nd minute when Austin won a penalty kick, but Melia dove right to repel an attempt from Driussi to keep the score at 3-2. Melia has saved 16 penalties in the regular season since becoming SKC's starting keeper in 2015, the most in MLS during that time.

Vermes' men applied significant pressure in the dying embers and went remarkably close to drawing level in the final minute of normal time, but Thommy's curler from 18 yards smacked off the crossbar and was subsequently cleared.

Sporting faces a quick turnaround by hosting USL Championship side FC Tulsa in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Tuesday. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at and a live stream on


Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the match and if he saw a response from the players...

I think for sure our effort was excellent. It was excellent because of a couple of things. One is, sure, the response, the other is - this is weather that we haven't played in this year at all. So the heat was definitely going to be a big factor, but our effort was actually incredible. Everybody's work who came in, whether they started or they came into the game, they were solid. That part was good. Unfortunately, we score early, great goal. We get up and then we have a mistake, and the mistake hurts us. I think that didn't help us at all because at that point we probably finish out the half in zeros. We've been pretty good defensively up to that point. And then going in at halftime 2-1 - the thing that really killed us though was the third goal. But the fight still was in the guys and they worked their way back and shoot, even Thommy hitting the crossbar. I know they hit the post as well. I'm just saying we had some good chances, but it definitely wasn't for a lack of effort today, just more of a couple mistakes that we made.

Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell

On the team's response in the match...

I think you can see the effort and the response is definitely there. The effort is something that should be there every week. It's not really something that you should be praised for. That should be the very little that you give. There was a definite response. I think you could see that. But ultimately, the same mistakes - individual mistakes and team mistakes and it cost us three points. On the road, it's actually a very good performance from us. We just make it hard for ourselves by individual and team errors. You can't continue to do that. At this level, you're going to get punished and we are right now. The response is there, but ultimately, we fall short again so it's another missed opportunity.

On the game-winning goal...

Conceding anytime is frustrating, but right before the half and right after the half is probably the most frustrating time to do it. The message at halftime is to continue to do the things we're doing. We made two mistakes in the first half and we get punished for it. That was all about just a little bit more energy. We were keeping the ball well. We knew in this heat that if we continue to do that, then we were going to break them down eventually. Then you go out in the second half and in the first attack you allow them to get across in the box. It's a great header. I think everyone knows the quality that the guy's got. It's an incredible header, but we shouldn't be allowing one ball over the top and then a cross into the box. That's another mistake by us. It's another team error and it costs us.

On the week ahead...

It's a huge, huge opportunity to bounce back and to try and get through in the round. We know it's a chance to go win something. We feel that way about every competition. It's such a historic competition in this country and one that we take very seriously. It's all about recovering quickly, bouncing back very quickly and it's an opportunity to get that feel good factor back in the team. To be at home, I'm sure the fans will be right behind us as they always are. Hopefully we can get a result that gets us through the competition. And then obviously shift focus back on the league in what's going to be another difficult away game against a team who is sort of floating around our position. That's a game that we have to go and win as well.

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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