Sporting Takes First Place in 4-0 Win over Colorado
Sporting Kansas City (10-6-3, 33 points) delivered an emphatic second-half display to surge atop the Western Conference standings on Saturday night, defeating the Colorado Rapids (5-5-4, 19 points) by a 4-0 scoreline at Children's Mercy Park.
After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, Alan Pulido, Andreu Fontas, Gadi Kinda and Gerso Fernandes all found the back of the net as part of a wire-to-wire performance in which goalkeeper Tim Melia earned his 50th regular season shutout for Sporting and moved into a tie with Tony Meola for first place on the club's all-time regular season saves chart.
Saturday's result vaults Sporting a point ahead of Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers at the top of the West with three regular season matches remaining. Manager Peter Vermes' side will look to continue their winning ways on Wednesday with a visit to Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports GO.
Facing a Colorado outfit that hadn't played since Sept. 23 due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team, Sporting Kansas City deployed a starting XI that featured three changes from last weekend's 2-2 draw at Chicago Fire FC. Pulido replaced Erik Hurtado after missing the previous four matches while on international duty with Mexico, veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza logged his 297th competitive appearance for the club by stepping in for 19-year-old Cam Duke, and Fontas partnered Roberto Puncec after Winston Reid was a late scratch with groin tightness.
The first half unfolded in one-sided manner as Sporting held Colorado to zero shots and zero corner kicks while forcing Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough into four saves. Deployed as a winger for the second straight game, 18-year-old Gianluca Busio threatened twice in the opening half hour, only to see his right-footed curlers near the top of the box bend a yard off the mark.
Pulido showcased his dazzling skill in the 16th minute, combining neatly with Jaylin Lindsey on the right channel before slicing past a pair of defenders and seeing his low effort smothered by Yarbrough. Next to threaten was captain Johnny Russell, who swiftly connected with Gadi Kinda before drawing a foul on Collen Warner just outside the penalty area. Russell's ensuing free kick packed plenty of power but lacked the direction to beat Yarbrough, who parried it aside.
Another wave of Sporting pressure in the 33rd minute allowed Pulido to exploit a pocket of space and unleash a 30-yard sledgehammer that had Yarbrough scrambling, but the keeper successfully blocked the shot and the Rapids managed to scramble clear.
The Rapids entered the night boasting a 3-1-1 road record and a single loss in their previous seven games, but the visitors were decidedly swept off the pitch in the second stanza. Pulido landed Sporting's first punch in the 54th minute, receiving a pass from Espinoza with his back to goal, turning onto his right foot and rifling a shot low into the left corner. The Mexican international has three goals in his last two MLS appearances and six on the season, tied with Russell and Kinda for the team lead.
Just past the hour mark, Pulido dashed through on a breakaway and had his attempt saved by the outstretched Yarbrough. Russell kept the ball alive, however, and fed Busio with a decadent backheel pass, but the teenager's shot was blocked near the penalty spot.
In the 67th minute, Fontas bagged his first MLS goal and his first professional strike since January 2017 when he plied his trade for Spanish club Celta Vigo. Russell's long, floating free kick into the crowded box was nodded kindly into Fontas' path by Rapids defender Danny Wilson, and the 30-year-old defender made no mistake by sweeping home at close range.
Colorado were trending to become the third team in MLS history to finish a game without a shot attempt, but those concerns were wiped away in the 76th minute when Melia collected Wilson's innocuous header.
The hosts added gloss to their dominance by striking twice in the final moments. Kinda settled a pass from Russell, powered into the box and pulled the trigger, and although his initial attempt was blocked by Wilson, the Israeli smashed his rebound effort beyond the reach of Yarbrough and into the upper left corner. Kinda, Russell and Pulido all have half a dozen goals this year, making Sporting one of only three clubs to feature a trio of players with at least six goals in 2020.
Gerso provided arguably the game's finest bit of brilliance in the 93rd minute. The diminutive winger took a pass from Hurtado at the midfield circle, swiveled past defender Auston Trusty at midfield and embarked on a lung-busting 50-yard run at goal while shrugging off a challenge from Wilson. Gerso's finish was sublime, as he chipped Yarbrough for his third goal of the campaign and the final score of a memorable night at Children's Mercy Park.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On whether the team has received enough credit this season...
I really don't pay too much mind to what people are saying about us. When you win, you get respect. When you don't, you don't. We're in first place right now. We've still got games left and we've got to keep working to try to get into the playoffs in the best position we can. That's all we're focused on.
On earning respect with a strong showing...
We just won a game tonight. At the end of the season, you need to come away with something. We're still in a dog fight here. We've still got games left. Again, I'm not really too worried about what everybody thinks right now. I'm just trying to get ready now for the next match against Cincinnati on Wednesday.
On the insertion of Andreu Fontas into the lineup...
I thought he was very good. He read the game well. He's always very good on the ball and very confident. He's one of the better players we have coming out of the back. I thought that his decisions defensively were very good. He put himself in good places on the field and he didn't give space away. He was solid.
On the return of Alan Pulido after international duty...
I think in the first half, as a team, we lacked sharpness and we were a little bit off in being alert in the game because a lot of balls were squeaking through or squeaking by. We weren't ready for them. Second half, I thought the team was totally different. He proved again why he's a goal scorer. He made that goal that he scored - probably a little bit of disappointment, a little bit of anger, a little bit of everything because he knows he should have had one in the first half - so he made that goal happen. He's a pure goal scorer. He did a lot of really good things for us in the run of play, as well. He holds the ball up. He gets us out of stuff. He's a top-class forward. We missed him, too, but the other guys did a good job while he was away.
On Colorado's form after being off for a month...
I wouldn't even say it's rustiness. It's just a lack of games for them. It's not as if we went into this game thinking this was going to be an easy game. I was a little bit cautious. I told the guys that our approach has to be one in which that we come out with everything because teams have players in their team that can change the outcome of a game with one play. You have to be ready for everything. I think defensively we were good. I think that helped us immensely. It kept us in the game. Our sharpness came back in the second half and I thought we were totally different. I think for them, obviously, they need to play some games and get into the rhythm of training. There's not a lot of time left so I'm sure it's not an easy thing for their staff and their players.
Sporting Kansas City defender Jaylin Lindsey
On the team moving into first place...
This season has been up and down. Obviously, we had (to deal with) COVID coming in, but I think throughout the season we've kind of been up and down. This win was well deserving, and we're top of the west. Now we've just got to stay there and keep doing our best.
On the confidence from tonight's win...
It's a big confidence booster. We've been wanting to have performances like this all season and we come in today with a 4-0 win and it gives us a huge boost of confidence. Being top of the west is another confidence booster as well. We've just got to build off this performance and bring it to the next couple of games and to close out the season really well and get that top spot and go into the playoffs with all the home games. We just need to build off this and just keep doing well.
On the mental approach to tonight's game...
We just wanted to go into tonight's game to play the game we want to play. We come in knowing they haven't played a game in a while but that doesn't matter. We want to come in and destroy any opponent that comes to our stadium no matter if they have played a game or not. That's just our mentality and the culture of our club. It's just our mental approach to this game was to go in here and get three points. It was an opportunity to get to the top of the west. We came in and did that job and we came with a great mental approach.
Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas
On starting as a game time decision and his goal...
We're always ready. It's not like the starters but we warm up, moving and pushing the ball. You're always ready because you know that things can happen, and we were ready for everything. Today was that case. It was unusual but it happened. It's not the best because you are in for an injured teammate. You have to be ready and we were ready, me and Besler both. They told me to go in and after the win, the goal, the shutout, not conceding goals, that is our job, I would say I am more happy for our side than my goal. The goal is what people realize the most and I'm happy. The game isn't easy, and we scored four goals and we didn't concede so I'm amazingly happy.
On the difficulty of this past year...
It's difficult to say how difficult it was this past year. Not a lot of people know what I have been through this past year. Injuries are the worst thing that can happen to a soccer player. It has been a very strange year with the virus, with stopping being able to train, being able to train at home, a lot of things. It's hard to say exactly what I've been through. Only my wife and my daughters realize how I am feeling but maybe my wife is the only one who knows exactly what I'm feeling and going through. After Dallas, being able to play 90 minutes after more than one year without playing a single game and not having any physical issues, my confidence went up a lot. This week was one of my best weeks of training, feeling great. Knowing after Dallas and after being able to play 90 minutes without pain again and today it was a last-minute decision, but we are always ready to play. The game was perfect for the team and for me scoring a goal, it's not usual as a defender, so it's been a long journey and I've put in a lot of work and maybe this is the reward that I get from this difficult year.
Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser
On the team's performance...
It's obviously always disappointing to lose, but the reality is we weren't as sharp tonight as we would like to have been. Given the time off, I can't say it's all that unexpected. The resiliency of the team was great. The fight was great. You could see it was a real struggle for us, but this is just another step in getting back to where we need to be.
On goalkeeper William Yarbrough...
Will's been very good. We just talk about his leadership and him as a person and what he brings to this team. He's a guy that speaks with great calmness and gives great instruction and direction. Just from that sense alone, he's been very good for us. In addition, he's obviously a very good goalkeeper and has made a number of good saves for us, and his distribution has also been good. Overall we've definitely been happy with him.
Colorado Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry
On being rusty after a long layoff...
There's no hiding it-it's difficult. It is a challenge not playing a game in however many weeks it was and trying to be fit and mentally sharp and all that. But we didn't want to use that as an excuse. To be fair, I think you are right, I think we were probably a little bit fitter in the first half, but at the same time, there were plenty of mistakes in the first half as well. From minute one to 90 there were things we can clean up. Yes, the scoreline in the first half was better, but I think everyone would look themselves in the mirror and say the first half could be better as well. I don't think we want to use that as an excuse. There's plenty of things we could've done even not having played in that layoff and still done better.
On taking positives from this match...
I think it almost has to be (a game they move on from quickly). The amount of games we have in such a short period of time and how important they are, we have to. We have to forget about this tonight. I think it'll be easy for us to forget about it and move on to Wednesday, start thinking about Minnesota. Positives: look how many mistakes we made in the first half and it was still a 0-0 scoreline. We have the ability to stick around in games even playing not our best. Again, that's not how the second half went but I think we can take some things away from this game. We'll clip it, we'll watch the video and look at some of the combinations, the movements, the times that we did get into good spots. There was a time in the first half that I make a play, Younes (Namli) plays me in and I can shoot. That's just one thing that pops into my mind personally but there are some things that we can take away that hopefully we can build on for Wednesday.
Sporting Kansas City is owned by Sporting Club, an entity founded by a group of local business and community leaders comprised of the Patterson Family, Cliff Illig, Pat Curran, Greg Maday and Robb Heineman. 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 opened Swope Soccer Village, Children's Mercy Park, Compass Minerals Sporting Fields and Compass Minerals National Performance Center 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).
2020 MLS Regular Season
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 41 degrees and cloudy
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (10-6-3, 33 points) 0 4 4
Colorado Rapids (5-5-4, 19 points) 0 0 0
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsey, Roberto Puncec, Winston Reid, Amadou Dia; Ilie Sanchez, Gadi Kinda (Cam Duke 90'), Roger Espinoza (Felipe Hernandez 81'); Johnny Russell (C) (Gerso Fernandes 90'), Alan Pulido (Erik Hurtado 81'), Gianluca Busio (Khiry Shelton 70')
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Matt Besler, Luis Martins
Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough; Keegan Rosenberry (Jeremy Kelly 75'), Lalas Abubakar (Auston Trusty 75'), Danny Wilson, Sam Vines; Collen Warner (Nicolas Mezquida 28'), Jack Price (C); Younes Namli (Jonathan Lewis 75'), Cole Bassett, Andre Shinyashiki (Nicolas Benezet 66'); Diego Rubio
Subs Not Used: Clint Irwin, Steven Beitashour, Drew Moor, Matthew Hundley
SKC -- Alan Pulido 6 (Roger Espinoza 2) 54'
SKC -- Andreu Fontas 1 (unassisted) 67'
SKC -- Gadi Kinda 6 (unassisted) 88'
SKC -- Gerso Fernandes 3 (Erik Hurtado 1) 90+3'
SKC -- Amadou Dia (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 11'
COL -- Collen Warner (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 23'
COL -- Lalas Abubakar (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 47'
SKC -- Khiry Shelton (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 74'
SKC -- Jaylin Lindsey (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 85'
SKC -- Gerso Fernandes (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+4'
Stat SKC COL
Shots 23 5
Shots on Goal 12 2
Saves 2 8
Fouls 12 11
Offsides 2 3
Corner Kicks 8 1
Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referee: Ian McKay
Assistant Referee: Matthew Nelson
Fourth Official: Victor Rivas
VAR: Sorin Stoica
AVAR: Tom Felice
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