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 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC Ties RSL 2-2

July 12, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release


Wingers Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell scored first-half goals and goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh had an MLS career-high seven saves as Sporting Kansas City (6-10-8, 26 points) battled Real Salt Lake (9-7-7, 33 points) to an exciting 2-2 draw in an end-to-end battle on Wednesday night at Children's Mercy Park.

The hosts carried a two-goal lead into halftime after Salloi and Russell struck six minutes apart near the half-hour juncture, but Real Salt Lake extended its impressive road unbeaten streak to eight MLS matches and 11 games in all competitions after Danny Musovski and Anderson Julio found the back of the net in the second stanza to level terms.

Sporting will now prepare for its final MLS fixture before Leagues Cup takes center stage, with Manager Peter Vermes' side venturing south to face Austin FC in an 8:30 p.m. CT showdown on Saturday. Fans can follow the action from Q2 Stadium live on Apple TV, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

Vermes made one change to his starting XI from Saturday's 2-2 stalemate in Houston as Nemanja Radoja returned to the lineup in place of fellow midfielder Gadi Kinda, who went the full 90 minutes over the weekend for the first time since returning from knee surgery. In defense, veteran center back Andreu Fontas hit a notable milestone by earning his 100th career start in MLS competitions.

After both sides acclimated to wickedly hot, 90-degree playing conditions, the game burst to life midway through the first period. Sporting midfielder Remi Walter nearly sprung in-form striker Alan Pulido free with a pinpoint through ball in the 22nd minute, but RSL goalkeeper Gavin Beavers advanced off his line to snuff out the chance. At the opposite end, MLS debutant Nelson Palacio had a long-range piledriver cast aside by McIntosh before Bryan Oviedo rattled the woodwork with a shot of his own from distance.

Sporting drew first blood with 30 minutes on the clock. Running onto a well-weighted pass from Nemanja Radoja, Russell clipped a delicious cross to the back stick for Salloi, who still had work to do but nevertheless finished expertly inside the near post to ignite celebrations across the stadium. Salloi now has five MLS goals in 2023 and 43 regular season goals in his career, tying Austin FC coaching duo Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff for fourth most in club history.

Six minutes later, Sporting doubled their advantage as Russell turned from provider to goal scorer. Midfielder Erik Thommy settled a square pass from Jake Davis on the right edge of the penalty box and pinged a ball centrally to Russell, who secured possession, swiftly cut past a defender and hammered high into the roof of the net with his weaker right foot. Russell now has 97 combined goals (56) and assists (41) for Sporting in all competitions, tying Chris Klein for third most in club history. Thommy, meanwhile, tabbed his sixth assist since the start of May, tied for third most in MLS during that time.

Pulido had a fleeting chance to add a third on the cusp of intermission, but his off-balance effort under duress fizzed wide.

RSL were a much-improved team during the final 45 minutes, due in part to the effect of three halftime substitutions as Cristian Arango, Diego Luna and Pablo Ruiz entered the fray. Arango, making his second appearance for the club after scoring in his RSL debut on Saturday in a 4-0 home win over Orlando, had an instant impact by recording his first assist 36 seconds into the second half. The Colombian forward slipped a simple through ball to the feet of Danny Musovski, who finished high into the net for his fifth league goal of the campaign.

McIntosh thwarted Arango twice in the next few minutes, diving to block a low strike and then a header off a corner kick. Shortly thereafter, he added another save by denying Oviedo's drive from the right side of the box.

Davis very nearly had his second assist of the night in the 63rd minute, running onto a diagonal ball over the top before finding Salloi with a cutback pass on the edge of the six-yard area. Just as Salloi was about to strike, Luna flew in with a well-timed tackle to extinguish the danger.

RSL restored parity in the 72nd minute and in controversial fashion. Sporting defender Dany Rosero had the ball at his feet and was aggressively dispossessed by Julio, who clattered the center back to the ground and scooped up the loose ball prior to tucking a shot low underneath the advancing McIntosh to level the score at 2-2. Sporting fans vehemently voiced protested for a foul on Julio, but referee Rubiel Vazquez saw no transgression and Julio's goal stood.

Salloi and Walter both had speculative efforts go begging near the 80-minute mark before RSL broke on the counterattack in the final minute of normal time. Julio was clear through on goal and poised to bag his second goal of the game on the breakaway, but McIntosh produced a stunning save with his outstretched glove to keep his side alive.

Sporting went agonizingly close to grabbing all three points in the 91st minute, but Kinda's close-range header was somehow kept out by Beavers.

QUOTES

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On the two goals conceded...

I haven't seen both goals in their entirety so it's hard for me to (say). I know what I saw during the game, but to talk about watching them back is different. I would concede, based on the way the calls were being called in the game, I don't know how you don't call a foul on the second goal though. That's what I would say. We could be smarter in that situation, but I don't know how you don't call a foul. It doesn't matter that the guy gets the ball. If you push him from behind, if you push him with your two hands, it's a foul. You decide what you want to call in that situation. That's why it's so difficult week after week when you talk about these things. In this one, they'll say he got the ball. The next time, they'll say, well, he pushed him first, so that's why they didn't give you the call. It's too subjective and they like it that way because they're never wrong.

And I would disagree with what you said (about it becoming a trend). It's not something that happens. It's not like this regular thing. It happened last game and it happened this game. In both games, we've played very well. We've been in control of the games, but if you want to win, you've got to have more goals than the other team and you've got to give up less goals. In these two situations, we scored two very good goals. We were in command of the game and we gave up two goals which is unfortunate, but I wouldn't say that it's a common thing now all of a sudden.

On dropping points from winning positions...

We've been in control of quite a few games now and we've given up goals and given up points. In the last two games, in my opinion, we gave up four points. We shouldn't be giving those up. We shouldn't haven given up a lot of different points at a lot of different stages. We have four things and one of them is winning mentality. You have to grind the game out at the end, and we didn't do that.

If he harps on these missed opportunities...

I harp on the fact that we gave up those two goals. That's what I harp on. Like last game playing against Houston away, getting a point on the road is a good thing in the game but we need more than that and we were in control of that game as well. I would say when you're at home or when you're away and you're scoring two goals then you need to come away with three points. In both situations, we didn't do that so I'm more disappointed and more critical of the goals that we gave up.

Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi

Thoughts on the match...

I'm disappointed. We all are. We can't let this happen, obviously. We dropped points in Houston and we dropped points here. We're going to be missing these.

On the quick turnaround to face Austin on Saturday...

We are doing our best and we are playing well. We are just not there for the whole game and we have to got to work on that part. It's going to be be very tough this weekend. I hope we can get some points there.

On the team's energy level...

It's difficult. The team is fatigued. There are a lot of games and a lot of trainings. We just have to rotate and focus more and do our best because if we keep dropping points like this then we will be out of the playoffs.

On the team's frustration...

Obviously, in the game when you're 2-0 up this should not happen, but as always 2-0 is a dangerous score. It's the way the goals happen honestly. That's what's annoying because you feel like you're controlling the game and then out of nowhere when we come out in the second half that happens. The second goal is stupid and you shouldn't concede like that so we have to be more focused on that part.

Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell

Thoughts on the game...

Again, it's so frustrating being in a winning position in back-to-back games and not being able to see out a lead. That's four points dropped in the last two games. I spoke about it last week. We can't afford to be dropping points. Looking at the standings, those four points have you like fifth, sixth in the league right now. We don't have the luxury of dropping points like that if we want to be where ultimately the goal is to be in the playoffs. Nights like tonight where you're leading and then they make the subs and we know it's going to be a more difficult game in the second half. To concede 50 seconds in to the second half, it's something we have to do so much better. It's not the first time it has happened this year. As a team, we have to be a lot more locked in starting second halves and ending halves as well. Overall, really disappointing.

On costly lapses in games...

Yeah, it is costing us. We're switching off. (There's) basic errors all over and we're allowing teams the kind of games where, no disrespect, but they shouldn't be in the games. We control it for a large majority of the game. We set out to do everything that we've worked on and then we switch off. As a team, it's very easy at times with the goals we are conceding and that's the most disappointing, frustrating part. We still have teams to play around us, which is a good thing for us, but we can't be dropping points like we have back-to-back games here. It's not good enough.

If he's feeling closer to full form...

I'm trying. It's been a frustrating year for me. I'm someone that sort of prides myself on my longevity. I'm never injured. I'm always available. To have two hamstring problems this year has been uncharacteristic. So I'm just trying to get myself back to the top of my game and help my team and my teammates. Yes, it's nice to score goals, but I think the guys have known me long enough, I'd rather not score for the rest of the season if that means we win games. Obviously at the moment it feels amazing, but after the game when you don't get the points it doesn't really mean anything to me.

On rallying for the final 10 games...

We just have to be positive. We're playing some really nice stuff at times. It's not like the start of the year where we were struggling massively. We're dominating a large majority of games and then we switch off and when we switch off, it hurts us badly. We have to obviously look at the errors, we have to put them right, but at the same point, we've got another game at the weekend. We have to make sure we're ready. Obviously you want to go into this break winning the game and getting yourself sort of back in that mix and not allowing the gap to get too great. It's going to be really tough. It's a tough place to go. We know that. We have to recover physically and mentally and be ready to go again Saturday. There's no other option. We have to go in there and win. It's a team that's just above us in the table and in points as well so it's one of those games that I was talking about with teams around us that we're going into their place, but we have to go and win it.


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