Sporting KC Tops Minnesota 2-0 for Fourth Straight Win
Sporting Kansas City completed a perfect month of August with their fourth straight shutout victory on Saturday night, receiving second-half strikes from Yohan Croizet and Diego Rubio in a 2-0 win over Minnesota United FC at Children's Mercy Park.
Johnny Russell assisted on both goals as Croizet fired the hosts ahead in the 47th minute and Rubio doubled the advantage 15 minutes later. The result lifts Sporting KC within a point of first-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference and gives the club four straight shutout wins in a single regular season for the first time in club history.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia collected his MLS-leading 11th clean sheet of the year on Saturday, pushing Sporting KC's shutout streak to 376 minutes dating back to July 28. Manager Peter Vermes' men have ended the month of August with a 4-0-0 record, outscoring opponents 8-0 during the dominant stretch, and registered four consecutive MLS clean sheets for the first time since 2013.
Russell accounted for the lone change to Sporting KC's starting lineup, replacing Daniel Salloi in a three-pronged attack alongside Rubio and opposite winger Gerso Fernandes. In defense, captain Matt Besler notably made his 292nd competitive appearance for Sporting KC to pass current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin for the most in club history.
A pedestrian first half saw neither side threaten until added time, although Graham Zusi and Seth Sinovic narrowly missed the mark from long range in the 17th and 23rd minutes, respectively. Minnesota went closest to breaking the deadlock on the stroke intermission, but Melia produced a fantastic save to deny Mason Toye from close range before Rubio's defensive header extinguished the danger.
Croizet entered as a halftime substitute and scored just 94 seconds into his cameo. The active Russell settled a pass from Rubio and drove centrally, laying the ball off to Croizet at the top of the box. The Frenchman took a touch to gain separation and struck low inside the near post for his second goal of the campaign, marking the 13th time a substitute has scored for Sporting KC in 2018.
Melia, who totaled six saves over the final 45 minutes and eight in the match, smothered a blast from Angelo Rodriguez on the hour mark shortly after Toye hammered high on an open look inside the penalty area. The Loons would rue the miss moments later when Sporting KC landed their second punch.
Sinovic picked out an open Russell, who exploited space in the central channel and laid the ball off to Rubio, who cut onto his right foot and slotted low past Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for his fourth goal in as many games and his seventh MLS tally of the season. The play also gave Russell his eighth league assist and his team-best 10th in all competitions.
Minnesota entered Saturday with a league-worst 1-10-1 road record, but gave a fair account of themselves over the final half-hour. Melia made a slew of saves in the late stages, thwarting Rodriguez, Abu Danladi and Romario Ibarra in quick succession before preserving his shutout streak with an excellent stop in the 92nd minute as Danladi swiveled and shot near the penalty spot.
Riding high on momentum, Sporting KC will now prepare for a mouthwatering Western Conference matchup next Saturday against red-hot Seattle Sounders FC (10-9-5, 35 points) at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders are currently on a club-record six-game winning streak and sit two points below the playoff line in the West. Kickoff in Seattle is set for 3 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and UniMas with a live stream on Twitter at @UnivisionSports.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match...
I thought when Yohan came on, when the forward leaves the space and he's able to run in underneath it, it changed everything. And then all of a sudden, everybody started to catch fire to it and we started creating many more chances in the game. It was the difference in the game for me.
On instructions to Yohan Croizet at halftime...
I said, 'There's moments where you're conservative but you have got to be aggressive as well with penetrating runs.' He got after it right away. It was good timing on his part.
On the team's defensive showing...
I think tonight we gave up far too many chances for me. Tim was very good in between the pipes. We've been pretty good defensively. Tonight, I think we were a little bit below standard and we're going to talk about it this week. We've got to be much more clean and detail oriented. At the end of the game, we weren't aggressive enough defensively to go win balls when we could. We were a little bit lackadaisical. That piece has to change. It's good to keep the ball out of the back of the net but it really doesn't mean anything because we've got another game coming.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Yohan Croizet
Thoughts on the match...
The coach told me to play simple and fast because the first 45 minutes was difficult for our first team. After I came on, I scored with my first chance. I can just say thank you to the coach to give me a chance again.
On his goal...
It's really difficult to explain this goal because the ball came very fast. I had maybe one second to shoot on the goal. I scored so it's good for me and it's good for the team.
On the playoff push...
We have a lot of games ahead. The league is not finished. We need to work really hard until the end of the season.
Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic
Thoughts on the match...
I think we had a couple of quality finishes there. We were putting a lot of pressure on them in the first half. I think we'll be a little bit disappointed with how we ended the last 20 minutes. I don't think we really finished off the game that well but another three points. We've got to keep building off this.
On the team's defensive form...
Tim was big for us. We had one off the post there that we got a little bit fortunate. We didn't finish as well as we wanted to. It's something we've got to look at and make sure we shore that up for the next game.
On the play of Diego Rubio and Yohan Croizet...
It's just crazy what confidence can do for a player. Not that he's not a confident player but when the goals start going in for you it just seems like the flood gates open. He's been great. The work ethic's been great. Yohan coming off the bench and getting us going in the second half was huge.
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia
Thoughts on the match...
I thought the way we started the game was really good. After we scored, we kind of lost the plot a little bit. Our organization and the way we were on the ball wasn't good enough and we gave up a couple shots because of it but they were all shots from distance. The effort was there tonight. We're still putting goals in the back of the net and we're not getting scored on so all good things.
On the halftime adjustments...
We're always just talking about balances, what little intricate places we can be better. Where can we step guys up? Where do we have to watch where they're going to hurt us? We spoke about how they were playing with the two guys up high and then they were sitting in that low block so how we could get in behind them and create those opportunities.
On the team's defensive run...
It's important. I think we've given up a lot more goals than we've wanted. But we've shown that we're a possession-oriented team that's good defensively. If we can keep that core in place, we'll have a successful season.
On facing Seattle next...
(It will be a) really difficult game in a difficult environment against a team that's kind of got the ball rolling as they always do at the end of the year. Nothing changes for us. We're going in there. We've got to play our game.
Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath
Thoughts on the match...
They haven't had to work hard enough for the goals. That's one thing I can be disappointed. I think there are levels of performance that you accept, even when you lose games. Tonight was one of them that we've had the best chances. If you look at the game, we've had the two or three best chances. I think we've had more corners than them, more efforts at goal, their keeper had to make more saves. It's the oldest saying in football: goals change games. They scored at really important times and that was the disappointment because I don't think they had to work hard enough for their two goals.
On the team's offensive chances...
To keep the momentum for us in the game, we need to take the opportunities when they arise. Suddenly you get a goal and it's a different game, even at 2-1. We've all played in games where you're 2-0 up, you think you're cruising, you concede a goal and then before you know it you're on the back foot. We couldn't score when we had our opportunities which is a disappointment. Some of the performances I thought were quite good but it's another disappointing defeat on the road which I feel as though I'm saying the same things a lot of time. At least tonight, I feel like the players have competed from the first minute to the last minute.
On the return of Jerome Thiesson...
It's always nice to get players fit. It's been a really frustrating year for him. Obviously, he was blowing a little bit at the end. He's only had three or four days training with us. He'll be better for that and now we've got a good chance in the next two weeks to get a lot of work in, not only for him but for two or three others - the likes of Romario, the likes of Abu, the likes of Angelo and obviously Fernando Bob. We're confident that four or five of them will be available for selection against D.C., which now becomes another must win game for us.
Minnesota United FC defender Brent Kallman
Thoughts on the match...
On the first goal, I got pulled out wide. (Diego) Rubio made a run out wide and then he made a clever little pass inside so he created some space by kind of clearing me out. They get a lot of numbers really high on you. The wingers tuck in, the outside backs get really high. It's a lot of man-to-man defending around the box and they had a couple guys take clever touches and get shots away. Their movement is really good. That's the challenge of playing them, especially when you're playing them here. You've got to be focused and locked in for 90 minutes because they punish you for mistakes and that's exactly what they did.
On an improved performance on the road...
When you think about the games we've played here, you can use the word embarrassing. The performances have been. But we can hold our heads high after this one. We came in with a good plan. We stayed disciplined. We had our chances. We really just didn't take them so I think we can take some positives away from this game. We were more disciplined. We stayed more to the plan. We can take that moving forward because things don't really get any easier. We've got a lot of road games coming up still.
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Major League Soccer Stories from August 25, 2018
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- Sporting KC Tops Minnesota 2-0 for Fourth Straight Win - Sporting Kansas City
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