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Sporting KC Throttles Toronto FC in 3-1 Road Win

March 30, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release

Sporting Kansas City (2-1-3, 9 points) earned an emphatic 3-1 road win at Toronto FC (3-2-1, 10 points) on Saturday with three second-half goals securing all three points to move the club up the Western Conference table.

Remi Walter opened the scoring with his second goal of the season before Jake Davis and Alenis Vargas each struck for the first goals of their MLS careers.

Playing without club captain Johnny Russell and Designated Player Alan Pulido against a Toronto FC defense that had conceded just twice all season - fewest in MLS - Sporting KC scored a season-high three goals to remain unbeaten in three road trips this year (1-0-2). The victory north of the border also keeps Sporting KC unbeaten in 11 straight regular season matches against Toronto (7-0-4) and in nine trips to BMO Field under Peter Vermes (5-0-4).

Meeting for the first time since 2019, the two sides wasted little time in creating chances during a lively first 10 minutes of an end-to-end first half.

Daniel Salloi squeezed between two Toronto FC defenders inside the penalty area in the eighth minute only to have the ball taken off his foot by goalkeeper Luka Gavran near the penalty spot. The loose ball fell to Willy Agada at the top of the box who first-time attempt was blocked at the edge of the six-yard box by Sigurd Rosted.

Less than a minute later, Gavran was called into action again to parry away a half volley from Nemanja Radoja who came close to scoring in back-to-back matches.

On the opposite end, Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia produced a superb save of his own in the 10th minute to deny Toronto FC playmaker Federico Bernardeschi. Matty Longstaff was poised to hammer home the rebound however his volley sailed over the bar from 10 yards out.

Robert Voloder did well to keep the match scoreless with a key block on Prince Owusu in the 32nd minute and from there, Sporting would threaten to break the deadlock on four separate occasions before the halftime intermission. Tim Leibold forced a strong save from Gavran from a tight angle in the 36th minute.

Just over a minute later, Gavran once again was at his best to keep out a header from Agada on a corner kick from Remi Walter. After scoring last week, the 24-year-old Agada nearly put his name on the scoresheet in the 41st minute with a thunderous strike that crashed into the crossbar.

Sporting Kansas City nearly found the breakthrough on the cusp of halftime with an opportunistic counter attack in the 44th minute through the team's two outside backs. Jake Davis played an early ball into the path of Leibold behind the Toronto backline only to see his chipped effort turned away by the outrushing Gavran.

After knocking on the door throughout the opening 45 minutes, Sporting Kansas City would strike for three unanswered goals in the second half on Saturday and it all began in the 57th minute. Radoja won the ball with an aerial challenge at midfield and Erik Thommy - playing in the 300th match of his professional career - carried the ball 50 yards forward before his cross was cutout by Kevin Long.

Walter settled the clearance and launched a left-footed laser into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards out to put Sporting ahead. Playing in his 100th regular season match for Sporting KC, the 28-year-old Frenchman now has nine goals in all competitions since joining the club in 2021 while Thommy earned his 16th assist in all competitions.

Sporting Kansas City would double the lead in the 64th minute with Davis -who had scored four times for Sporting KC II in his career, but never at the MLS level - capping off a nine-pass scoring sequence, featuring touches by eight different players, in sublime fashion. The 22-year-old Sporting KC Academy product rifled a right-footed blast from 30 yards out that would prove to be the eventual game-winner.

Leibold would be involved at either end of the field in a frantic five-minute span, first sliding with a timely intervention to block a point-blank shot from Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty in the 68th minute then nearly scoring in the 73rd minute if not for a kick save from Gavran to keep out the deflected cross.

The Toronto FC goalkeeper would come up clutch once more in the 82nd minute to thwart Vargas after an incisive 35-yard run forward into the area. Undeterred, the 20-year-old Honduran - who scored six goals for Sporting KC II last season and returned from his first callup to the Honduran National Team midweek - would make his mark moments later.

Playing his first touch past Shane O'Neill before racing around the Toronto FC defender, Vargas calmly slotted his shot past Gavran with his second touch to give Sporting KC - who had scored one second-half goal entering the match -- a third goal in a 30-minute span of the second half. Davis earned the assist and now leads the team with three assists on the season.

Toronto would spoil the shutout with just 10 seconds remaining in the seven minutes of second-half stoppage time as Jonathan Osorio - the club's captain and all-time appearance leader -- latched onto a cross from Marshall-Rutty for a late consolation goal.

The victory, Sporting's first against an Eastern Conference opponent since 2022, was the 37th regular season road win of Melia's career, breaking his tie with Luis Robles for 10th most in MLS history. In his 10th season with Sporting as the club's longest tenured player, Melia also broke a tie with Sporting KC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin for sole possession of fifth place on the club's all-time regular season games played chart on Saturday with his 238th appearance.

Sporting will return home to kick off a three-match homestand that begins with a Western Conference clash against the Portland Timbers at 12:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, April 7 at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek, including the Coca-Cola Friends & Family 4-Pack and the Wild West 5-Pack. The MLS Matchday 8 finale will be free to watch on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV in addition to national television broadcasts on FOX and FOX Deportes.


Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the game..

I think the first half, we played very well, to be honest with you. I thought we created great, great chances in transition. Easily should have been 2-0 up at halftime, but the mentality to defend - because a few guys on their team came back from injury which they inserted at different times of the game which posed some challenges through the run of play, and it was like we called timeout and made some adjustments and I thought that the players within the game were very adaptable and dealt with the game really well. I'm a little bit upset with the fact that we didn't get a shutout. We deserved a shutout. But to get three goals on the road to a team that's been playing as well as they have, they were big points for us and then obviously they're bonus points because they're out of conference, so that was huge.

On bouncing back from last week...

I think the guys feel confident in the things that they're doing and, and I think they were, easily said, they were a little bit, I guess, embarrassed. We were all embarrassed with the result last week because we should have finished that game out 2-0 or even more. We know that we missed some chances and we also took our foot off the gas pedal when they scored their goal. So it was great. As I said this before, the mentality of the group is pretty good and strong and it was a tremendous result away from home, like I said, against a team that I think has been playing very well and their coach has done a good job in turning around the team in regards to their mentality and attitude.

On Alenis Vargas' performance...

It's the thing that we talked about in preseason and we've been talking with him - it was a shame that he had to go away with the national team and not really play because we could've used him here - but I think all these experiences are great for him. Today he showed what he can do against teams because if he wants to get out there and go, he can. He has a good nose for the goal as well.

On Willy Agada's performance...

I think Willy was a handful for them. I think physically, he was a monster. He's unlucky to not get a goal. What a great little action (he had) on top of the box. I was trying to tell him this the last couple of weeks that sometimes he's a little too unselfish in those situations. I told him 'when you're on top of the box, you got to be a little selfish.' He took the right opportunity, he's just unlucky not to score that, cause he tattooed it. His play was a big reason why we won the game. He kept their central guys concerned about him for the majority of the game. He was a handful. That was a big asset to the success of the game for us.

On halftime adjustments...

We talked about a couple adjustments defensively and then there wasn't really much on the change on the offensive side because we were getting the chances. It was now about us just being a little bit ruthless in front of the goal. The guys got the job done and if you look at the strikes from distance, they were tremendous. Then you look at the third goal to kind of really seal it with Alenis (Vargas) it shows that there's some real danger in that kid going forward. It's great to have that speed.

Sporting Kansas City defender Jake Davis

On his first goal for Sporting, a long-range strike in the second half...

When I saw the net ripple, that's when I knew (it was going in). I didn't have any thoughts before (shooting). I just knew it knuckled and it had a chance and then just heard my teammates cheering for me and that's what I knew. I guess it doesn't go in often, so I didn't know what it felt like for it to go in before tonight.

On bouncing back after a home loss last weekend...

It's really important. Obviously last game we didn't get the result we wanted after being up with 20 minutes left. Now we've come to Toronto, hard game, bad conditions against a good team. We found a way to get through it, went up two goals, held the lead, and then we got a third. It's a great result for us. Now we're just focused on the next game.

On Sporting's message at halftime when the score was 0-0...

What we talked about mostly was more tactical. This was not going to be a normal game for us. We were not going to dominate in possession. We were not going to be able to do the things we usually do. So I think it was important for us to communicate that we need to stick together. We're going to have to grind throughout the game and when we get our chances, we're going to have to take them. And I think that's what we did in the second half.

On SKC scoring goals from long distance...

I think that everyone on our team has always been good at shooting. And so I think that us taking shots like that more often can lead to goals, too. It's not always a 17-pass buildup to lead to goal. We have our central midfielders, our forwards and our back line. Everyone has a good strike on the ball. So I think it's something we know that we can all do. It's special.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Remi Walter

On Sporting's performance in the 3-1 win...

I think it's a good win by the team. I think it's always hard to play away, but we did a great job tonight. We were smart as a team and this is very good because last week, we had a bad result at home. We wanted to push it because we know we have the quality to be at the top. Today it was really good for us.

On Sporting's road form with one win and two ties away from home this season...

I think we have to play our game. We have to be focused on us as always. Every game will not be easy. When you play away, it's always a hard game. But we have to be smart, we have to keep pushing together, and we have to get three points when we can.

On Sporting's upcoming three-game homestand...

I think the win tonight is good for the confidence for the group and for the team. We have to have good performances at home. Now we have three games at home and we have to take the maximum of points. We are already focused on that and we know what we have to do.

On Sporting's ruthlessness in attack...

For me, I just want to be aggressive when I play on offense. I know that I score a lot of goals in training and I have to take my chances in the game. I have had two chances, one tonight and one against Philadelphia, and I have two goals. So I have to keep going like this. And when I play as an eight in the midfield, I have to help the team with my left foot and score goals like this. It's always in my mind and I keep pushing for that.

2024 MLS Regular Season | Match 6

BMO Field | Toronto, Canada

Attendance: 24,382

Weather: 43 degrees and cloudy

Score 1 2 F

Sporting Kansas City (2-1-3, 9 points) 0 3 3

Toronto FC (3-2-1, 10 points) 0 1 1

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Robert Voloder, Tim Leibold; Nemanja Radoja, Remi Walter, Memo Rodriguez (Felipe Hernandez 78'); Erik Thommy (Stephen Afrifa 90+6'), Willy Agada (Alenis Vargas 78'), Daniel Salloi (C)

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Zorhan Bassong, Robert Castellanos, Kayden Pierre, Marinos Tzionis

Toronto FC: Luka Gavran; Shane O'Neill, Kevin Long, Sigurd Rosted (Kosi Thompson 68'); Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Matty Longstaff (Deandre Kerr 68'), Alonso Coello (Deybi Flores 59'), Tyrese Spicer; Federico Bernardeschi, Jonathan Osorio (C); Prince Owusu (Ayo Akinola 86')

Subs Not Used: Aime Mabika, Cassisu Mailula, Greg Ranjitsingh, Kobe Franklin, Jordan Perruzza

Scoring Summary:

SKC - Remi Walter 2 (Erik Thommy 1) 57'

SKC - Jake Davis 1 (Willy Agada 1) 64'

SKC - Alenis Vargas 1 (Jake Davis 3) 83'

TOR - Jonathan Osorio 1 (Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty 1)

Misconduct Summary:

SKC - Jake Davis (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 44'

TOR - Alonso Coello (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 57'

SKC - Tim Leibold (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 71'

TOR - Jonathan Osorio (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 85'


Shots 17 12

Shots on Goal 10 2

Saves 1 6

Fouls 13 10

Offsides 1 5

Corner Kicks 4 5

Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.

Assistant Referee: Lyes Arfa

Assistant Referee: Walt Heatherly

Fourth Official: Pierre-Luc Lauziere

VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.

AVAR: Fabio Tovar

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