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 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC Ties Houston 1-1

February 24, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release

Erik Thommy's brilliant second-half goal helped Sporting Kansas City (0-0-1, 1 point) to a hard-earned 1-1 road draw against Houston Dynamo FC (0-0-0, 1 points) to open the 2024 MLS regular season on Saturday night at Shell Energy Stadium in Houston.

Thommy opened the scoring with an impressive solo effort in the 61st minute, his ninth career tally in a Sporting uniform, before substitute Gabe Segal nodded Houston level eight minutes later. The result extends Sporting's regular season unbeaten run against the Dynamo to seven matches dating back to 2021.

Sporting will now begin preparations for their highly anticipated Children's Mercy Park home opener against the Philadelphia Union (0-0-1, 1 point) next Saturday, March 2. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at and live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.

In his 500th MLS match as Sporting's manager, Peter Vermes fielded a near-identical starting XI from Sporting's 1-0 loss at Houston in the 2023 Western Conference semifinals exactly 90 days earlier. Thommy accounted for the lone lineup change in midfield, making his 51st consecutive MLS appearance since debuting for the club in July 2022. On the opposite sideline, Houston was forced to account for several key absences as Franco Escobar (leg), Sebastian Ferreira (hamstring), Hector Herrera (knee) and Nelson Quinones (knee) missed out through injury, while Amine Bassi was unavailable after receiving his green card Saturday in France.

Sporting striker Alan Pulido entered the night with six career MLS goals against Houston-his most against any opponent-and conjured the first shot attempt of the game inside five minutes. After a searching long ball into the box was repelled to the top of the area, the 2023 MLS Comeback Player of the Year laced a low drive that dragged marginally wide of the target.

The hosts responded with a fleeting chance of their own in the 11th minute when midfielder Artur and Coco Carrasquilla played an intricate give-and-go on the right side of the penalty area, but the former's chip shot effort at a tight angle failed to test Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia.

Near the half-hour juncture, homegrown winger and freshly minted Designated Player Daniel Salloi-playing in his 57th straight MLS match since June 2022-put Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark to the test with a simmering 25-yard piledriver. The Dynamo again offered a reply as Polish midfielder Sebastian Kowalczyk slithered into the box and unleashed a strike that Dany Rosero did well to block.

Houston appeared to have surged ahead in the 42nd minute when Brad Smith planted a pinpoint header past Melia, but Carrasquilla was in an offside position during the play's buildup and the goal was correctly disallowed following a VAR intervention.

Thommy vaulted Sporting ahead superbly on the hour mark. Winning possession in the center of the park, the German midfielder embarked on a marauding diagonal run goalward and fired low from 17 yards, surrounded by a slew of Houston defenders. Thommy's strike fizzed between the legs of center back Erik Sviatchenko and nestled low across Clark and into the right corner for Sporting's first goal of 2024.

Sporting's lead didn't last long as Houston landed a counterpunch with 69 minutes on the clock. Carrasquilla's driven diagonal ball to the left side of the penalty area was headed back across goal by Ibrahim Aliyu, setting up an unmarked Segal for a close-range header that restored parity and denied Melia his bid for a shutout.

Three players earned their Sporting debuts in the late stages of a delicately poised battle between familiar foes. Midfielder Memo Rodriguez entered in the 74th minute to face his former club, left back Zorhan Bassong had a quarter-hour cameo of his own, and 20-year-old forward Alenis Vargas made his first MLS appearance in the 86th minute.

Rodriguez was active and involved in the dying embers of the contest, seeing a deflected strike loop high and wide, before Melia produced two smart saves to keep the score at 1-1. He dropped low to smother a header from Sviatchenko in the 78th minute, then thwarted Kowalczyk on 86 minutes in what was the final scoring chance of the night.


Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes

On the second half...

A really good individual play by (Erik) Thommy to take the ball coast to coast. I wasn't sure if he was going to give it to Daniel (Salloi) or not, but obviously he got in between the three guys and none of them really closed him down. I think the goalkeeper's timing was off on him even expecting him to shoot. It was a good finish, a very good finish on the side. There's no way he was getting to it. There's no way he was getting to it. There's no way he was getting to it. I had a great angle from it. On theirs, I think two things. In the second half, we tried to pay a little more attention to (Adalberto) Carrasquilla. When he got that ball, we have to get pressure out to him. He hits a good diagonal ball across. We've probably got to do a better job reading that coming across the field. And then the way we defended it, defensively on the back line we just never really paid attention quickly to where their guys were actually trying to penetrate from and then defend the ball to get goalside as quick as possible. At the same time, I think that it was a good game for us because playing away from home, obviously the percentages are usually against you in regards to points and for us to be able to walk out of here with a point tonight, it was well deserved. Credit to the guys because I thought they did a good job.

On looking ahead...

It's building blocks. You're just always putting layers on when you start a season. And today was good. We're at a home opener of another team and so they're going to put the pressure on you. And we did a good job of withstanding the pressure. We got five guys into the game as well and they all contributed. It was good for a couple of those guys to get their feet wet and then experience what that's like to have to hold on to a result and maybe steal two more points at the end if possible. So I thought it was a good overall performance.

On the substitutes...

I thought Stephen (Afrifa) did really well in preseason. I thought today coming into the game, maybe he was a little nervous. He was a little rushed where a couple of times he served the ball way too early when he probably could have went to goal or he could have at least gotten into the box. With his ability to dribble somebody or his speed, I think he could have created a little bit more. But again, I think this was a good introduction for him. I thought Willy (Agada) was good up front, getting in good positions, laying balls off. That part was excellent by him. I would also say the same for Memo (Rodriguez). I think for (Zorhan) Bassong, getting into a game with us and understanding the responsibility that he had at the end of the game to really try to close down that left side. That's important. And then finally when Alenis (Vargas) got on, again, for him to get into the game and at least get some minutes, the next time he goes in, it'll be different and it'll be different in a good way. He won't have to worry about, 'Hey, this is my first game. That is now over with. I can concentrate and go do my thing that I do well.'

On removing Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell...

I think both those guys aren't 90 minutes fit. Personally, I don't think they're there yet. And I think the other guys are in good form. I just felt it was a good change at the time to bring some freshness into the team and two guys who have been sharp here in preseason.

Sporting KC midfielder Erik Thommy

On his goal...

I would be more happy if we won the game, obviously, but of course, personally, it's always nice to score and help the team.

On his position in the midfield...

It always has a purpose why I play left or right. In this case, the coach put me on the right side. It doesn't matter where I play, I have to help the team. The connection between Johnny (Russell) and Jake (Davis) is always good and on the left side as well with Daniel (Salloi) and Tim (Leibold). Obviously, I prefer to play on the left side, but I can play on both sides. In this game, it was a good decision because I scored. But in the next game, we will see what the coach will decide at the end.

On his run to goal when he scored...

I got the ball I would say like 40-45 yards in front of the goal. Of course, I saw the space. If there's space, I go. I just had to decide if I play to Daniel (Salloi) or not. I wanted to play it first but then the gap opened and I tried it. I'm happy that I scored and I can do it if I have to do in the next games as well.

On areas for improvement by the team...

Our goal today was to stay compact. I think you could see it. It was not our possession game. Houston had the ball, but we tried to close the gaps between the lines and run a lot between the lines. That was our first goal and it's always tough to come to Houston But at the end, there is always room for improvement. We have to do a lot of things better than today. We have one more week then we have a home game. It's a different game. I think at the moment we are happy with the point, but there are a lot of things we have to improve and do better next game.

Sporting KC midfielder Memo Rodriguez

On his debut for the club...

Obviously when you come in as a sub, you want bring energy to the team. I had two shots that maybe I could have done a lot better with to hit the frame. Playing in this league, it's tough playing away. I think we have got to be better defensively whenever we're up a goal, but points are crucial in this league. So we go with the one point and we're ready to get three points at home.

On his return to Houston...

It's part of the game. They try to get into the player's skin a little bit. Really, I'm focused on the game so sometimes you zone out a little bit. I like it. It's my hometown. This is where I started my career. I try to impact our team any way possible to create an assist or a goal. And, like I said, we go home with the point.

On the home opener next week...

I am super excited. Every time we always played there against Sporting KC, it was always one of the top places where it was hard to play at. Now to be on the other side and feel the energy of the fans who push 90 minutes, who chant 90 minutes and push the team to get the result is going to be great. I'm excited. It's one of the hardest places that I've played in my career so I'm really excited to see the energetic fans at the stadium.

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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